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Tom Hetherington’s Christmas Chocolate Orange Ganache Cake

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Tom Hetherington, Great British Bake-Off contestant and architect with Richard Murphy Architects, cooks up a seasonal recipe for the AJ 


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Tom Hetherington

Photo courtesy of Channel Four

I find myself buying copious amounts of orange-flavoured chocolate around Christmas, usually under the pretext that I’ll use it as stocking fillers, or as small gifts. The reality is that most of it doesn’t last longer than a few days before I snaffle it.

This recipe is an ode to the gifts that never were – a gift to those who never got theirs. This is a great cake to make if you are planning ahead, as the marmalade and orange liqueur stop the cake from drying out and it will last for about three days, if stored in an airtight container. I enjoy it with a splash of double cream. But it is equally moreish eaten with coffee. I have been known to pop a slice in the microwave on a wintry night to warm it through and enjoy with a little ice cream, too.  



100ml boiling water
50g cocoa powder
100g salted butter, softened
2 tbsp milk
Juice and zest of an orange
1 tsp baking powder
175g self-raising flour
150g soft light-brown sugar
150g golden granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature 

200g good-quality dark chocolate
(at least 72 per cent cocoa solids)
200ml double cream

50g unsalted butter, softened
20g cocoa powder
100g icing sugar

For assembly
50g marmalade
50ml Cointreau or other orange liqueur (optional)
Two 20cm cake tins, greased and lined



1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / gas mark 4. Grease and line the cake tins.

2. Mix together the water and the cocoa powder to make a paste. This ensures the cocoa is properly incorporated.

3. Mix the butter and the milk into the cocoa paste.

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4. Zest and juice the orange and add this in.

5. Add the remaining cake ingredients and beat until fully incorporated, but try not to overwork the mixture.

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6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 22-25 minutes, until they spring back lightly when touched. Remove from tins and cool. 

7. For the ganache, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl. Heat the cream in a milk pan until steaming. 

8. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir continuously until smooth. Pour one third of this into a  microwavable jug, and cool the remaining two-thirds. 

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9. To make the icing, beat the butter with the cocoa powder and the icing sugar until it begins to become lighter in colour. Add the remaining two-thirds of the ganache and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.



1. If using the orange liqueur, pour equal amounts (25ml each) over each cake. 

2. Place one cake on a presentation board or dish and cover the top with the marmalade. 

3. Spread a 5mm-thick layer of the icing on top of the marmalade.

4. Place the second cake on top. Apply a crumb coat of icing over the top and sides of the cake. (A crumb coat is a thin layer of icing which stops small crumbs lifting off the cake into the final coat of icing.) Place the cake in a fridge to chill for about 10 minutes.

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5. Take cake out of the fridge and spread the rest of the icing around the sides and top of the cake. Spinning the board, use a large spatula or scraper to provide a smooth edge, first to the sides of the cake then the top.

6. Put the cake into the fridge (for about 10 minutes) or freezer (about five minutes), until the icing is chilled.

7. Once the icing is chilled, microwave the remaining ganache in 10-second increments until it has a loose, custard-like consistency. 

8. Starting with a small ring on the outer edges of the cake, apply drip edges with the ganache to the perimeter.  I pour a 15mm band of the liquid ganache around the top of the cake and use the tip of a knife to push drips over the edge where I want them. I do this is in three segments – the ganache will set on the chilled icing, which stops it all running straight off the cake, so best not to try to do the whole cake at once. Aim to use around a third of the ganache.

9. Pour the rest of the ganache onto the centre of the cake from a height. This should spread itself to a level top.

10. Decorate with some physalis berries or grated chocolate, and serve.


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