Is there such a thing as bad cake? It’s a contradiction in terms; like a bad holiday.

(Nb, if you’re very busy and important and just want a short spiel about the torte and the recipe, jump to the bottom).

I’ve been turning to the comfort of crumbs a bit in the last week. In the wake of the Sydney siege, I ate a lot of my feelings, bound up in our flourless Christmas cake. Slices of that and bottomless cups of Earl Grey helped to wade through the sadness that followed (to be brutally honest, I ate so much that I had to quickly whip up another one to cover my excess).

This year Christmas festivities have been born anew thanks to our very own tottering cherub and the innocent delight that’s reflected in his face.  Together we’ve trimmed the tree. The backyard now twinkles with fairy lights. We’ve borrowed Christmas books and CD’s from the library to help promote the general themes of good tidings and joy in the house. We’ve wrapped all the presents.We’ve picked out the necessary addition to the charity Christmas drive.

We ventured as a family into the city to gawk at the enormous Lego Christmas tree in Pitt Street Mall.

And we’ve been planning our own celebrations. This year we’ve shouldered the responsibility of hosting Christmas eve. The menu is an exercise in compromise between my European leaning, Australian born husband (hot ham, hot pork, hot seafood please, no matter that it may very well be 32 degrees C) and my very Australian, English born father (cold seafood and frosty champagne sit high on his wish list). I’m more interested in a festive colour palette and a vibrant cohort of flavours.  We’ll start with cold king prawns and smoked paprika aiolli, kale crisps, almonds and pesto arancini for my nieces and nephew. There will be champagne and presents. Main course is looking like a relaxed buffet of crispy pork belly, the whole stuffed ocean trout from the ‘Tale of Two Christmases’ in A Suitcase and a Spatula, a fennel and almond cream sauce and a salad of quinoa, sweet potato, kale and pomegranate. Rounding out the table will be a refreshing side of watermelon, feta, coconut and mint and another of steamed greens with slivered almonds and lemon. As for dessert, we’re heading towards a tropical trifle of jellies, soused coconut cake, passionfruit curd, fruit and cream. I resorted to Will’s crayons to help plot the layers.

Though if I wasn’t wedded to trifle, there’s every chance I’d be producing another rendition of this torte for pudding. This chocolate, walnut and honey delight was served to the very same segment of the family just a few weeks ago, to mark a significant birthday of my stepmother. It’s elegant, rich and the very definition of celebratory.

P1150128It’s gloriously studded with chocolate and leans on walnuts for bulk. In lieu of sugar the honey offers sweetness and a romantic complexity. It’s the perfect backdrop for sweet and mildly acidic fruits like figs and dark berries and the lightness of creme fraiche or greek yoghurt. It’s flourless, simple to pull together and bit of a showstopper.

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It’s the kind of dessert that makes you want to rustle around for extra guests to invite to your festivities, just so you can justify serving two kinds of pudding.

I’m writing this with a glass of wine to one side of me, my son sleeping two rooms away and a soundtrack of both kookaburras and the King’s Choir singing ‘Silent Night’. I don’t have enough digits to properly account for all of my blessings this year.

Wishing you the best sort of holiday to follow; filled with peace, love, books, music, embraces with family – and cake.

Chocolate Walnut and Honey Torte

Makes one torte, serves 8-10

Shopping/foraging

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200 g walnuts
4 eggs
2 tbsp coconut oil (or melted butter, or neutral tasting oil)
1/2 cup /50 g cocoa plus a little extra for dusting
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup/ 175 g honey
50 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small pebbles

figs, berries and creme fraiche to serve

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat oven to 150 C/300 F and grease and line a 22 cm cake tin with baking paper.

2) Use a food processor to blitz the walnuts in short bursts to small rubble (about the size of a peppercorn). It’s best to do this in short bursts to keep an eye on it, it can quickly turn into walnut butter if you’re not careful.

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3) Whip the eggs with electric beaters or a whisk until light and fluffy.

P1150123 4) Transfer the walnut meal into a bowl and fold in the coconut oil, honey, cocoa and cinnamon.

P11501255) Fold in the beaten eggs in two batches, using the first to loosen the mix. Then gently folding through the remainder.

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6) Roughly chop the dark chocolate and fold into the mix.

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7) Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.

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8) Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is firm and a skewer comes out clean.

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8) Allow to cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes, then remove. Serve dusted with cocoa at room temperature with fresh berries, figs and creme fraiche.