Christmas Bake-Off with Libertà : Bake Yummy Treats

Christmas is a time to bake…

flour covered hands ready to bake

Image by Lisa Kreutzer from Pixabay

…and here’s Liz’s twist on the traditional mince pies to bake at home.

First the mincemeat. This is a recipe to make your own without the dreaded palm oil, although you can, of course, use your favourite out of a jar.

The mincemeat


  • Painting of Cook with Red Apron, by Léon Bonvin500g each of currants, raisins and sultanas (= 1500g in all)
  • 500g cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped fairly small
  • 2x250g boxes shredded beef suet (you can use vegetable suet)
  • 100g whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 350g demerara sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  •  rounded tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 rounded tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 large, juicy lemon
  • 250g whole mixed peel, chopped into small dice
  • 125ml dark rum (The alcohol is optional. You could maybe use some good apple juice as an alternative.)
  • 125ml Disaronno
  • 175ml French brandy


Homemade mincemeat

  1. Wash the dried fruit thoroughly in a colander under the cold tap. Tip the fruit on to clean tea towels and dry by patting in the cloths
  2. Put the dried fruit in a very large bowl with the apples, suet, almonds, sugars and spices. Grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl, then squeeze in the juice. Add the peel and the alcohol or apple juice.
  3. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. It’s easiest to do this with your (very clean) hands.
  4. Cover and leave to stand for 24 hours. At this point the family can join in by giving it a good stir (with a spoon!) whenever they pass by.
  5. Pack the mincemeat into sterilised or dishwasher-clean jars (Kilner jars are ideal) and top with greaseproof paper jam covers. Seal the jars tightly and store in a cool place.

The mincemeat will last from one year to the next, if it’s soaked in alcohol though not if you use apple juice instead. But who are we kidding, it’s not going to be around that long.

Bake Liz’s mince pie muffins


cartoon of female chef with cake

Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

  • 300g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 115g/4oz caster sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 175ml/6 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau (we didn’t have either and used a splash of rum but orange juice is an alternative)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 115g/4oz butter melted
  • Finely grated zest of lemon
  • Homemade or luxury mincemeat


  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas6/400ºF
    Grease or line 12-hole muffin tin (or use paper muffin cases)
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, caster sugar, ginger and nutmeg and sift into large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl or jug combine the milk, Grand Marnier, egg, butter and lemon zest. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined. Don’t overmix.
  4. a wonderful bake! mince pie muffins ready to eatHalf fill each muffin cup with the mixture, top with a dollop of mincemeat—this isn’t a scientific measure; the recipe suggested a heaped teaspoon but it wasn’t enough!—nestling it down into the mixture, then top with more muffin mixture to cover.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with holly leaf and edible glitter.

Bake Joanna’s Spiced Apple Cake

This cake/pudding isn’t only for Christmas. We eat it all year round in our house. But the warmth of the cinnamon makes it smell wonderfully festive and it’s a doddle to make using the all-in-one method. It also freezes very well if you can stop your family from eating it first.
I often make two and put one in the freezer for emergencies 😉

Ingredients for cake

eggs, whisk, ready to bake

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

  • 100g/3oz self-raising flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g/3oz soft margarine or spread
  • 100g/3oz caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk

9 inch/22 cm sandwich tin, greased and base-lined with baking parchment. A loose-bottomed tin works well. You can also use an 8 inch/20 cm tin, but you’ll need to leave the cake in the oven for an extra 5-10 minutes because the deeper mixture takes longer to cook through.

Ingredients for crunchy toppingspiced apple cake awaiting melted butter almost ready to bake

  • 50g/2oz demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 very large cooking apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (You could use eating apples instead but I find Bramleys work best in this recipe)
  • 25g/1oz butter, melted

spiced apple cake ready to bake


The pictures right show the cake before and after I added the melted butter.
Then it goes straight into the oven—
see method, below.


  1. Set oven to 180ºC/160º Fan/350º F/Gas mark 4
  2. Put all the cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well blended and very fluffy. Scrape mixture into prepared sandwich tin and level.
  3. For topping, mix demerara sugar and cinnamon together thoroughly so all the sugar is coated. Sprinkle half mixture evenly over the top of the cake.
  4. Arrange apple slices in a wheel around the edge of the cake, overlapping them to fit.
  5. Sprinkle rest of sugar/cinnamon topping over apple slices.
  6. Dribble the melted butter evenly in a ring over the middle of the apple slices.
  7. Bake in centre of preheated oven for about 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Test by pressing a finger lightly in middle of cake. If it springs back, it’s done. If you’re planning to freeze the cake, don’t let it get too brown as you’ll be putting it back in the oven to reheat before you serve it.
  8. Serve very warm with ice cream or cream (or both). Serves 4-6 depending on greed.

Variations, and freezing

  • If serving from the freezer, allow cake to defrost completely, then reheat in 160º fan oven for 5-10 minutes. Topping won’t be quite as crunchy if cake has been frozen. You could always sprinkle more demerara sugar on the hot cake when you take it out of the oven and press it into the top with your (clean) fingers.
  • If preparing the cake for a crowd, you can make double quantities in a deeper tart tin, 12 inches/30 cms across. Method as above but test the larger cake after about 50 minutes because it can cook more quickly than the small one. Depends on size of tin and your oven.

spiced apples cake baked

The baked spiced apple cake looks like the one above—and smells enticing—though you can see that I spilled some of the melted butter on the centre, hence the sugary splodge. The sponge mixture rises to (mostly) cover the cinnamon apples so you don’t get the “apple wheel” look of a pastry apple tart, but the taste is scrummy. Try it and see what you think.


We both hope you enjoy making—and more importantly—eating our goodies.

Happy Christmas from Liz and Joanna
and the rest of the Libertà hive

15 thoughts on “Christmas Bake-Off with Libertà : Bake Yummy Treats

    1. Joanna

      Your muffins, too, Liz. I was going to bake them yesterday, along with the spiced apple cakes — yes, I did bake an emergency one yesterday 😉 — but I ran out of time. Couldn’t bake them all together because the oven temps were so different. However my muffin tins with paper cases are sitting ready in the kitchen so today will be the day. Muffins for breakfast anyone?

    1. Joanna

      That was the intention, Liz. Understand that you don’t bake, but do you eat cake? If so, you could always suggest our recipes to a friend who would be bound, wouldn’t she, to let you taste the results? OTOH, if eating cake isn’t your thing — and I could undersand that, given your slim figure — well, you’re missing out on scrummy treats 😉

  1. sarahmromance

    Oooh, I could be tempted to get into the kitchen to make both of these…. thank you, ladies!

    1. Liz Fielding

      Worth a try, Sarah. I’ve pretty much given up baking since I have no willpower to resist eating the results, but I’m hoping that there will be more of the muffins at Christmas, and I’ll be directing Amy to the cake recipe. Fingers crossed!

  2. Sophie

    Mince pie muffins sound wonderful. Definitely one for pre and post Christmas coffee breaks.

    And I’ve had your Dutch apple cake, Joanna, and it’s to die for. The topping alone is worth the calorie intake!

    1. Joanna

      Well, there were mince pie muffins for breakfast today 😉 I made half quantities — and half an egg was fun! — and as you’ll see from the pic, one was already gone by the time I got the camera out. I also went for the craggy cracked look which is how I like muffins. I think the (bought) mincemeat I used was a bit too bland so, next time, I’ll put more spice in the muffins themselves and more lemon zest. Possibly even more Grand Marnier though I don’t want to make the mix too runny. An alternative might be to stir the mincemeat through the muffin mix before baking rather than layering it.
      What do you think, Liz? Have you ever done that?
      baked mincemeat muffins by Joanna

      1. Liz Fielding

        Er… I leave the baking to Amy. The recipe called for a teaspoon of mincemeat but she thought it needed more, which is why I used the lovely “dollop” word. I think it does need a seriously tasty mincemeat, though.

    2. Joanna

      Forgot to say, Sophie, thank you for the kind words about my spiced apple cake (also called Dutch apple cake in our house). I can’t take much credit as it’s so easy to do. It originated in a magazine advert for Dutch butter (hence the alternative name) but I modified the recipe to use the all-in-one method because I am, ahem, a very lazy cook.

  3. Kate Johnson

    Ooh! I’ve just made those muffins, Liz, and they’re delicious! They won’t last long in my house, and I might make some for a friend for Christmas too. Thanks for the recipe!

    I’ve been making a version of Joanna’s apple cake all autumn, since we had a glut of apples and got a bit tired of crumble. It’s SO nice, and so moist it doesn’t dry out (not that it lasts long enough, usually). I have a dim recollection of first making it from a German recipe from a school open day, which I lost many years ago, so I had to Google for this one but they’re quite similar. Very moreish!

    1. Joanna

      Glad you enjoyed the recipes, Kate, even if not precisely my version. Know exactly what you mean about moreish! I gave the recipe to a mate and she made the double twelve-inch version for lunch with friends. She reported, with pride, that some of them had thirds!

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