Rahul Mandal’s showstopping chocolate and mint candy cane cake recipe for Christmas Day dessert 

Plus a raspberry and cream Swiss roll recipe, and an easy coloured mirror glaze 
Rahul Mandal’s showstopping chocolate and mint candy cane cake recipe for Christmas Day dessert 

Rahul Mandal's showstoppers.

When Dr Rahul Mandal rose to fame on the ninth series of The Great British Bake Off, he quickly became a firm fan favourite – for his intricate bakes and sweet, self-deprecating nature.

The research scientist from India went on to win the show, but Mandal had only just started baking a few years previously – when he moved to Rotherham, South Yorkshire, in 2015, to combat the loneliness he felt not knowing anybody there.

“I used to go to the supermarket and the staff were very friendly, I could easily spend two hours there, buying a few things, speaking to the staff,” the 35-year-old remembers. 

“Then I started bringing cakes to them, and I started to have more friends in the supermarket and the leisure centre.

“In a strange way, I became close to a lot of them – without me realising, and without them realising, how much of a big role they were playing to support me emotionally.” 

He remembers vividly a time when his parents left after visiting from India for two months. 

“I dropped them at the airport and after I came back, I felt very lonely – I couldn’t stay in the flat because suddenly, it was all empty again,” Mandal says.

So he went to the local supermarket for a couple of hours. 

“I actually felt a lot better when I came back home. I obviously missed my parents, but it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t even stay in the flat on my own. As human beings, we’re supposed to be socialised, we’re social creatures.

“Growing up, I never had a lot of friends, but I had a huge family around me. And in a strange way, the people in Rotherham kind of became part of myself.” 

It was these people who encouraged him to apply for Bake Off – and he’s still friends with them today.

Now Mandal – who works full time at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield (where he worked before GBBO) – is back with his debut cookbook, Showstopping Cakes.

The recipes are a culmination of five years of learning about cake, he says. From Bake Off favourite techniques like chocolate collars and fillings like crème diplomate, to recipes he’s made loved ones for special occasions – like the lemon and fennel fault line cake for colleague who was having a baby, and a cranberry, white chocolate and cardamon cake for a christening, as well as some bakes that would not look out of place at a wedding.

It’s taken a while, he admits, because winning the show was a “big shock” for the unassuming man from Kolkata, and it took him a long time to accept it.

“I am someone who literally came to the UK to do a PhD [in optical engineering] and after that I had a research position. 

"I just used to go to the lab or go to the office, come home and maybe go to the gym or for a swim – that’s it!” 

In India, Mandal says: “I grew up with home-cooked food, we never really went to restaurants, because my mum is a great cook and my dad used to go and get fresh vegetables and fresh fish, but we never had an oven so baking was never really a thing. 

"For me, bread meant you buy bread from shops, I never knew that you can actually make a loaf of bread. Obviously, we had chapatis and pooris – because you don’t need an oven.

“I’ve never been a sporty person, I was never into watching cricket like most of my family, but I used to like cooking programmes. I’ve loved to see my mum cook and be around when she was cooking, learning how it was happening.

“But in my house, men can’t cook. My dad can’t cook, my uncle can’t cook, and I wouldn’t say I was discouraged – my mum wouldn’t mind – but I don’t think my dad ever encouraged it, because he thought I should have concentrated more on my studies.” 

These days though, he’s keen not to typecast what a ‘baker’ looks like. 

“Let’s not put any gender stereotypes or even race stereotypes in baking – everyone loves eating right? It doesn’t matter what gender you were born, what sexuality [you are] or what race you are, most people like cake.” 

Mandal arrived in the UK to go to Loughborough University in 2010 (“We used to store stuff in the oven”, he laughs, of his shared student house). But when he joined the university’s Garden Society, “A lecturer came with [homemade] breads, biscuits and cookies and I was shocked to see you don’t have to buy bread – you can actually make bread at home!”.

For Mandal, baking has become intertwined with happiness. 

“I like to surprise people by making cakes, say for a colleague’s birthday. When you bring a cake to them and they look at the cake and it makes them happy, in a strange way that makes me happy,” he says. 

“So I think this is a kind of chain reaction of happiness – when you see someone getting happy because you did something for them, it makes you feel really warm and full. I live on those emotions – I’m a very soppy person!” 

It was his kindhearted, gentle nature that viewers fell in love with back in 2018. 

“I can’t thank Love Productions enough for letting me be who I am – you need to feel secure and safe if you’re spending so much time somewhere,” Mandal says, but without a social media account, he had no idea when Bake Off was on TV, never mind that the public had really warmed to him.

“My colleagues used to take snapshots of nice Twitter and Instagram comments and send them to me, but I got a bit terrified about people stopping me in the street.” After being papped getting off a bus, his colleagues made a rota to pick him up for work.

Paul Hollywood was terrifying in his own way too. 

“Oh my God, he never spoke to us. Even after [filming] he was very quiet. Prue [Leith] sometimes came to our benches to have a chit-chat after the challenges, but Paul always kept his distance. I was very, very intimidated by Paul.

“Paul became really nice just after the final results were announced and then suddenly very friendly. I was so surprised to see him actually laughing and chatting with all the other people who came to the final. I felt like, ‘Is this the same person who was so scary in the tent?’.” 

Still, Hollywood was mightily impressed with Mandal from the get-go – giving him the first-ever handshake for a showstopper challenge when he made a double-tier cake with a chocolate collar.

So what makes a great showstopper? 

“First it has to taste good, then it has to look good,” Mandal says. “To look good there are different ways of decorating, there are different surfaces to decorate – you have the side surface and you have the top surface. A lot of people don’t put something on the side of the cake.” 

And many of Mandal’s cakes aren’t as difficult as they look, he promises. 

“If you start doing it, you will realise not one is as hard as it seems. If I can do it at home, you will be able to do it as well.” 

  • Showstopping Cakes by Rahul Mandal is published by Kyle Books. Photography by Maja Smend. O'Mahonys, €32.50.

Chocolate, orange and mint candy cane cake

recipe by:Rahul Mandal

A showstopping dessert for Christmas day

Chocolate, orange and mint candy cane cake

Servings

8

Preparation Time

3 hours 30 mins

Cooking Time

50 mins

Total Time

4 hours 20 mins

Course

Baking

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 120ml boiling water

  • 100g cocoa powder

  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges

  • 500g caster sugar

  • 200g Greek yogurt

  • 150g salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

  • 5 medium free-range eggs

  • 300g self-raising flour

  • ½tsp baking powder

  • 3tbsp finely chopped mint leaves (or 1½tbsp dried mint)

  • 1tsp peppermint extract

  • For the peppermint buttercream:

  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature soft

  • 475g icing sugar (sifted)

  • 1–2tbsp whole milk

  • 1½tsp peppermint extract

  • 4–5 candy canes, crushed

  • For the peppermint drip:

  • 75ml double cream

  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

  • Red food colouring gel

  • ½tsp peppermint extract

  • For assembly and decoration:

  • 2–3 red-and-white spiral lollipops

  • 20–25 candy canes

Method

  1. Make the chocolate, orange and mint cake. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease three 15-centimetre cake tins with butter and line with baking paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the boiling water, cocoa and orange zest and juice using an electric whisk until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining cake ingredients, then whisk for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more and whisk for another 30 seconds.

  3. Divide the batter equally between the prepared tins and bake for 45–50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

  4. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their tins for 10–15 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

  5. Make the peppermint buttercream. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter using an electric whisk for about five to 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. The colour of the butter should transform from yellow to pale cream as you keep whisking.

  6. Sift in half of the icing sugar and mix very well for about five minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the rest of the sugar. Whisk well for another five minutes.

  7. Add one to two tablespoons of milk, depending on the consistency of the buttercream, and mix well, then add the peppermint extract and whisk to combine.

  8. Remove about a third of the buttercream and place in a separate bowl, along with the crushed candy canes. Mix to combine: this will be the filling. The other two-thirds of the peppermint buttercream will be used for coating the cake.

  9. Make the peppermint drip. Place the cream and white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power in 30-second bursts until the chocolate is melted. Add the red food colouring and peppermint extract and mix well. Pour into a piping bag and set aside until needed.

  10. To assemble and decorate – use a little of the peppermint buttercream to secure one of the sponges on a 20-centimetre cake board or cake stand and place on a cake turntable. Spread half the candy cane-filled buttercream on top, smoothing it out using a small spatula, then top with the second sponge. Spread this with the remaining candy cane-filled buttercream, then top with the third sponge.

  11. Coat the sides and top of the cake with a crumb coating of the peppermint buttercream, then chill in the fridge for about an hour.

  12. Remove the cake from the fridge and use the remaining buttercream to give it a final, smooth coating. Return the cake to the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

  13. Cut 10–15 of the candy canes into small pieces and arrange them side by side around the base of the cake, pressing them into the icing.

  14. Cut a two to three-millimetre hole in the end of the piping bag filled with the drip mixture and pipe some drips down the sides of the cake. Pour the rest of the drip mixture on top of the cake and smooth it out. Return the cake to the fridge for another 30 minutes to set.

  15. Once set, remove the cake from the fridge and decorate the top with the remaining candy canes. This can be kept in the fridge for a few days. While storing, take the candy canes off to save some space

Raspberry and cream Swiss roll

recipe by:Rahul Mandal

This classic bake is perfect with a cup of tea

Raspberry and cream Swiss roll

Servings

10

Preparation Time

1 hours 35 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

1 hours 45 mins

Course

Baking

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • For the vanilla sponge:
  • Butter, for greasing

  • 3 large free-range eggs

  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 90g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

  • 80g plain flour

  • For the raspberry jam:

  • 250g frozen raspberries

  • 180g jam sugar

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • For the cream filling:

  • 100g clotted cream

  • 200ml double cream

  • 1 1/2tsp vanilla bean paste

  • For decoration:

  • 400g fresh raspberries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5. Grease a Swiss roll tin and line with baking paper.

  2. Make the vanilla sponge. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar using an electric whisk for five to seven minutes, until tripled in volume and reached ribbon stage.

  3. Sift the flour on top, then fold it in using a spatula or metal spoon, working gently but swiftly, to avoid knocking too much air out of the batter.

  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and spread out using a spatula. Bake for nine to 10 minutes until lightly golden.

  5. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool slightly in the tin for five minutes. Lightly dampen a clean tea towel by spraying it with water. Place the tea towel on the work surface, and position a piece of baking paper slightly larger than the tin on top of the towel. Dust the baking paper with some caster sugar.

  6. Carefully flip the Swiss roll tin on top of the baking paper, then remove the tin and carefully peel the lining baking paper from the bottom of the sponge.

  7. With the help of the dampened tea towel, slowly start to roll the sponge inside the fresh sheet of baking paper, starting at the short end. Once rolled completely, let it cool.

  8. Make the jam. Place 200g of the raspberries in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sugar and cover, then bring to the boil. Once the mixture starts to boil, remove the lid.

  9. Once the temperature of the jam reaches about 105°C, boil for a further two to three minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the jam does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

  10. Take the pan off the heat and add the remaining raspberries, along with the lemon zest. Mix well.

  11. Make the cream filling. In a large bowl, whisk the clotted cream with the double cream and vanilla, using a balloon whisk until you have stiff peaks. Don’t over-whisk.

  12. Transfer half the cream to a second bowl and fold in two to three tablespoons of the cooled raspberry jam to create a rippled cream. Place both bowls of cream in the fridge until needed.

  13. Assemble and decorate. Unroll the sponge and then spread all the rippled cream over the surface. Drizzle the rest of the jam on top.

  14. With the help of the baking paper on the outside of the sponge, roll up the sponge tightly. Cover the Swiss roll with the tea towel and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour to set.

  15. Once set, remove from the fridge and remove the tea towel and baking paper. Cut both ends of the Swiss roll to reveal the spiral. Use the non-rippled cream to coat the outside of the sponge.

  16. Arrange the raspberries on the Swiss roll as shown in the photo. The roll can be kept in the fridge for about a day.

Coloured mirror glaze recipe

recipe by:Rahul Mandal

Impress your friends with this easy mirror glaze

Coloured mirror glaze recipe

Servings

10

Preparation Time

15 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

25 mins

Course

Dessert

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • 6 platinum-grade gelatine leaves
  • 75ml water

  • 150g caster sugar

  • 3tbsp glucose syrup

  • 120g condensed milk

  • 150g white chocolate

  • 2tsp flavouring extract of your choice (optional)

  • Food colouring gel (optional)

Method

  1. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for five to 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, combine the water, sugar and glucose syrup in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil.

  3. As the mixture starts to boil, add the condensed milk and whisk to combine, then take the pan off the heat.

  4. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine leaves and add them to the mixture, whisking well to fully dissolve and combine.

  5. Place the chopped white chocolate in a heatproof jug and pour the warm mixture over the top. Add any flavouring extract and/or food colouring you want to use, then blend with a stick blender to emulsify.

  6. Set aside and leave to cool to about 30°C before using, whisking from time to time to make sure it doesn’t start to set.

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