Snow-Topped Festive Tiffin – A No-Bake Christmas Cake!
I’m going to jump right in here and declare my new-found love of tiffin.
I always thought this traybake treat was something other people made – people who couldn’t bake maybe – and was of the opinion that it was a bit rubbish as every shop-bought experience of tiffin has been something along the lines of dire, slightly stale disappointment. Well, the last laugh is on me as I decided to give it a whirl on a whim a couple of weeks back and now I can’t stop making it!
Tiffin is the best, most satisfying mouthful of crunchy, chewy, chocolatey bliss imaginable and THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS. Tiffin is also called fridge cake – you simply melt stuff together then chill until solid – so there is no baking involved. This festive-inspired version will hopefully be music to your ears as you battle to find space in the oven between endless batches of mince pies and an emergency Christmas cake. In fact, tiffin takes about ten minutes to make (including several minutes of bashing biscuits to kingdom come – the ultimate festive stress-buster) plus some chill time – which you can speed up by putting it into the freezer for ten minutes first if you’re in a hurry.
One of the best things about tiffin is that it’s so adaptable; you can unleash your creativity and put virtually anything into the mix. Leftover biscuits, any dried fruits or sweets. Get the weights about right and it’s all going to work because it’s covered in a chocolatey mixture that sets all fudge-like and can therefore never be wrong. And it’s so simple you can whip it up with a dog under one arm and a small child pulling your sleeve demanding to know when a slice will be available. Tiffin also has the royal seal of approval; apparently it’s the Queen’s favourite afternoon treat “by far”, and Prince William loves it so much he had one made as an extra wedding cake alongside the main, traditional one. I bet I know which one vanished first!
The recipe below is the result of three experimental batches in the space of a week. All in the name of research, obviously. Personally I prefer to keep it very retro by not melting chocolate into the main mixture; I use plenty of vegan butter and cocoa powder and save the chocolate for melting on top. I love it so much I decided to adapt it for a cake tin to be eaten on my birthday – and I’m not remotely embarrassed to say it’s one of the best birthday cakes I ever made. This tiffin is loaded with ginger biscuits – a crunchy, festively warming twist on the traditionally-used rich tea biscuits – plus cranberries and brazil nuts. These are Christmas nuts to me – I still remember my grandad shelling them by hand every Christmas Eve and me instantly gobbling them up!
The tiffin-cake is finished with a a layer of marzipan (stop whining, you can leave it out if you don’t like it) and a thick coating of dairy-free white chocolate, hence the snow-topped bit. I hope you’ll love this as much as we do!
For the ‘cake’ shown in these pictures, I used an 8-inch round cake tin. If you want super-deep wedges, double the main recipe (the toppings would be the same). Otherwise, you can make this in any tin or dish you like, it will just be thicker or thinner depending on size. An 8 x 8 inch brownie tin is ideal though as it’ll result in just the right thickness and it’s easy to cut into bite-size squares.
You will need:
225g ginger nut biscuits (usually vegan but do check. I like the 24p ones from Lidl!) Lotus biscuits are excellent for this too
75g chopped brazil nuts
A handful of mini marshmallows (vegan ones available in Holland & Barrett and probably elsewhere too. If you can’t get hold of them just leave them out)
160g vegan butter (I like foil-wrapped Stork, but use coconut oil if you prefer, plus a pinch of salt)
80g golden syrup (maple syrup would be fine)
40g cocoa powder
For the topping:
200g marzipan (don’t cry, it’s optional)
150g dairy-free white chocolate, melted (Sainsbury’s do a good, large bar)
Plus: Your choice of vegan-friendly sweeties; I used Jelly Tots and a few more mini marshmallows
Break up the biscuits into smallish pieces (I break them by hand then bash with a rolling pin for a bit) and add the chopped nuts, cranberries and marshmallows. Set aside. In a large pan, melt the butter, cocoa powder and golden syrup over a low heat, stirring until you have a chocolatey mixture. Add the broken biscuits, nuts, cranberries and marshmallows. Stir until everything is completely coated.
Transfer the mixture into your lined tin and press it firmly – really firmly – into place. I use a potato masher for this; you could use a spatula, the back of a spoon or the palms of your hands. Pop it in the fridge and leave it for a few hours until completely firm (you can speed this up but putting it into the freezer if you’re in a hurry).
Now you can decorate as you please – for this Christmassy version, I topped it with a disc of marzipan first (roll it out to about the thickness of a £1 coin and just lay it on top) then poured melted white chocolate on top (break up the bar and melt in very short bursts in the microwave). I finished with a handful of Jelly Tots (damn right they’re vegan) and marshmallows (from Holland and Barrett, and probably elsewhere too). Serve in thin slices – it’s very, very rich – or tiny squares if you’re making it in a brownie tin.
You’ll need to store it in the fridge, but at this time of the year it remains very stable for a couple of hours out of the fridge.