2 small Madeira-cake loaves (trifle sponges)
1 cup (250ml) sweet dessert wine (non-alcoholic)
45ml tepid water
20ml gelatine powder
400g cream cheese (I use full-fat cream cheese, but you could use a half-half mixture of full-fat and low fat)
250ml fruit mincemeat, from a jar
160ml slivered almonds, lightly toasted
16 Amaretti biscuits, lightly crushed
45ml brandy or whiskey
For the icing:
45ml icing sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
Grease a 24cm spring-form cake tin and line it with baking paper.
Cut out a circle for the base, and a long strip of paper that’s the same width as the height of the cake ring. Alternatively, you can align the tin with several sheets of clingfilm.
Cut the Madeira loaves horizontally (that is, with your bread knife held parallel to the chopping board) into long, 1cm thick slices. Each slice will be about as wide as the cake tin is high.
Pour the dessert wine into a shallow dish.
Quickly dip each slice into the wine and then press the slices one by one around the edges of the tin.
Use more dipped slices to line the bottom of the tin, pulling them into pieces if necessary and fitting them together like a jigsaw. Don’t worry if the sponge lining looks uneven and messy: the whole cake will be covered with whipped cream.
Reserve any leftover slices of cake for the topping.
Put the lined tin in the fridge while you make the filling.
Put the tepid water in a teacup-sized bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine powder and set aside to “sponge” for a few minutes.
Place the bowl in a pot of simmering water (the water should come halfway up the sides) and stir occasionally as the gelatine melts.
When the liquid is clear, remove the bowl and set aside to cool for a few minutes. (Alternatively, you can melt the gelatine very gently in a microwave oven).
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar, until smooth.
Stir in the mincemeat, almonds, crushed Amaretti biscuits and brandy (or whiskey).
Stir in the melted gelatine.
In a separate bowl, whisk the cream to a soft, thick peak.
Gently fold the cream into the cream-cheese filling mixture.
Pour the mixture into the cake-lined tin and smooth the top.
Dip the remaining slices of Madeira cake in the leftover wine and press them lightly over the top of the cake.
Cover the tin with clingfilm and refrigerate. An hour or two before you’re ready to serve the cake, make the icing.
Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract to a firm and voluptuous (but not stiff) peak.
Take the cake out of the fridge and gently loosen it from its mould.
Invert the cake on a serving platter and gently peel away the baking paper or clingfilm.
Spread the whipped cream evenly in a fairly thin layer all over the cake and decorate with silver balls, or chocolate shavings, or cherries, or any other festoonments of your choice. Serve cold.