Christmas is just around the corner, and I’ve been looking for unique recipes to wow my family with. My curiosity took me to the Hilton Hotel, where I met Chef Alice Karanja, the pastry chef. She showed me how to prepare something special for Christmas.
I always admire people who are passionate about cooking and watching her prepare the delicacy heightened my interest in cookery, and I couldn’t wait to get home and shock my mum with the recipe.
Alice tells me that her mum, who was a pro in the kitchen, inspired her into gastronomy, and she went for training at Zetech College. After school, she began as a baker at Uchumi supermarket, which in it’s hey days, had bakeries in selected outlets.
The love for what she does inspires her recipes, and it warms her heart to see her guests smile and appreciate her dish. To perfect her art, Alice has a senior chef as a mentor, who she looks up to, and after her shift, she takes time to practise and watch YouTube to learn new recipes.
I never thought baking was not exactly a walk in the park, especially when it came to whisk the eggs and sugar together. I always thought it was simple to turn the mixture into cream.
She consoled me by letting me know that I’m not the only person who thinks baking is easy. “What most people don’t know is that baking is a craft that requires skill to perfect,” says the baker, regretting that children are not taught to pursue careers such as food production at a young age, and not many of them know the benefits of such professions.
Consequently, this has birthed in her a passion to inspire young children to learn and enjoy cooking. As our cake bakes in the oven, she takes out a photo of a young girl, who she tells me is her daughter, her pride and joy. When not cooking, she loves taking her on fun outings, as the little girl is a great dancer.
For the cake
85g golden caster sugar
85g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
For the filling and icing
140g dark chocolate
1 tbsp golden syrup
284ml double cream
200g icing sugar, sifted
2-3 extra strong mint, crushed (optional)
A little unsifted icing sugar
1. Heat oven to 200°C.
2. Grease and line a 23 x 32cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
3. Beat three eggs and 85g golden caster sugar together with an electric whisk for about eight minutes until thick and creamy.
4. Mix 85g plain flour, 2 tbsp cocoa powder and ½ tsp baking powder together, then sift onto the egg mixture. Fold in very carefully, then pour into the tin.
5. Now tip the tin from side to side to spread the mixture into the corners. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Lay a sheet of baking parchment on the work surface. When the cake is ready, tip it onto the parchment, peel off the lining paper, then roll the cake up from its longest edge with the paper inside. Leave to cool.
7. To make the icing, melt 50g butter and 140g dark chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Take from the heat and stir in 1 tbsp golden syrup and 5 tbsp double cream from 284ml. Beat in 200g sifted icing sugar until smooth.
8. Whisk the remaining double cream until it holds its shape.
9. Unravel the cake, spread the cream over the top, scatter over 2-3 crushed extra strong mints if using, then carefully roll up again into a log.
10. Cut a thick diagonal slice from one end of the log. Lift the log on to a plate, then arrange the slice on the side with the diagonal cut against the cake to make a branch.
11. Spread the icing over the log and branch (don’t cover the ends), then use a fork to mark the icing to give the effect of a tree bark. Scatter unsifted icing sugar to resemble snow.