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‘Tis the season to eat sugar with total impunity, so treat yourself and your guests to simple but sweet treats that offer maximum joy for minimum kitchen time.

Hot chocolate with all the toppings

Serves 6

1 litre full-cream milk

2 cups cream

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

200g dark, milk or mixed chocolate, chopped

1) In a large pot, heat the milk and cream on a low to medium heat. 2) Add the vanilla, cinnamon and salt, and heat until the mix starts to bubble. Turn down the heat and add the chocolate pieces, whisking continuously until the chocolate has fully melted. 3) Serve hot with the toppings on the side for everyone to help themselves.

Spiced apple cake

Serves 6

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup pecan nuts

1 lemon, zest

3/4 cup soft brown sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

5ml vanilla essence

3 large eggs

4 granny smith apples, peeled and cubed

Icing sugar, as needed

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C. 2) Butter a 25cm cake pan and line with greaseproof paper. 3) Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, pecan nuts and lemon zest in a large bowl and set aside. 4) In another bowl add the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla essence and the eggs, and whisk until it starts to form ‘ribbons’ on top. 5) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the cubed apple, and mix well. 6) Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Ginger fig chocolate tart

Serves 6

250g ginger biscuits

150g butter

1 cup dried figs, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

225g good quality chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

White chocolate, to garnish

1) Place the ginger biscuits in a plastic bag and beat with a rolling pin until crumbled. 2) Melt the butter, then add the biscuits and mix to create the crust. 3) Pat the crust mixture into a 28cm rectangular or 25cm round pie dish, pushing the crust all the way up the sides. Place the pan in the fridge to set. 4) Place the chocolate chips in a medium glass bowl. 5) Slowly heat the cream over a medium-high heat. As soon as it starts boiling, pour it over the chocolate chips and allow it to stand for about five minutes, and then whisk to combine. Stop whisking once the mixture is smooth and shiny. 6) Remove the crust from the fridge and place the chopped figs and walnuts into the crust shell. 7) Pour the ganache over the fruit and nuts and return the whole thing to the fridge to set for about 30 minutes. 8) Garnish with white chocolate shavings before serving.

Cranberry and pecan nut chocolate bark

500g milk or dark chocolate, or a mixture

100g white chocolate

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup pecan nuts

2 tbsp sprinkles

1) Place a glass bowl over a pot of water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water as this will burn the chocolate. 2) Bring the water to a boil, add the milk or dark chocolate then turn off the heat. Let the chocolate stand in the bowl over the water to melt. 3) Using a clean bowl, repeat the process for the white chocolate. 4) Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray or flat surface. 5) Spread the melted brown chocolate out over the parchment paper. Once smooth, dollop the white chocolate on top, then use a toothpick to create a marbling effect.
6) Sprinkle over the dried cranberries, pecan nuts and sprinkles, then transfer the tray to the fridge or to a cool area to set. 7) Break up the bark and serve, or wrap bundles to give as a gift.

Christmas tree cookies

250g butter, room temperature

1 cup soft brown sugar

3/4 cup golden syrup

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp ginger powder

1 tsp allspice

1 cup icing sugar

3-4 tbsp milk

Food colouring of your choice

1) Preheat the oven to 170°C. 2) Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light , which will take around eight minutes. 3) Add the syrup, flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and allspice and mix with the electric beater until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the freezer for ten minutes. 4) Line a baking tray with baking paper. 5) Roll the dough out to about half a centimeter thick, working between two sheets of baking paper. Cut out round cookies, then use a straw to create small holes on the side of each cookie round. 6)  Place the rounds on the lined tray and return to the freezer for five to ten minutes. 7) Remove from the freezer and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Remove from the oven once cooked and set aside to cool. 8) Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then slowly add the milk, mixing well to ensure there are no lumps. Add the food colouring and mix until fully incorporated. 9) Place the icing into a piping bag. Pipe the icing onto the cookies, creating your own patterns, then set aside to dry. 10) Once the icing is completely dry and hard, push a ribbon or string through the hole in each cookie and tie the ends together to create a cookie bauble. 11) Decorate your tree.

Merry berry Christmas tree pavlovas

Serves 6

6 eggs whites at room temperature

1 cup caster sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup water

1 tsp cinnamon

2 star anise

1 orange, zest

3 cups whipped cream

300g mixed berries

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. 2) In a clean, large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the egg whites become light and fluffy and can hold a soft peak. 3) Continue beating and add the sugar a tablespoon at a time. 4) Once all the sugar is added and fully incorporated, pour the egg whites into a piping bag and pipe small nests onto the parchment paper.  If you are not comfortable using a piping bag you can also spoon the mixture out and create nests using the back of the spoon. 5) Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for one-and-a-half to two hours. 6) Meanwhile, prepare the berry sauce. Place 200g of the berries, the water, cinnamon, star anise and orange zest in a large saucepan and stir over a medium heat. 7) Simmer until the berries burst, then use the back of a fork to mash the berries into a chunky sauce. 8) Once the meringues are cooked, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool. 9) To serve, arrange the meringues in a Christmas tree shape then top each one with a couple of teaspoons of whipped cream. Divide the remaining berries between them, then drizzle with the berry sauce.