By Edwina McNulty

AT its core, Christmas is about family and spending time together. I run a busy wedding cake business, and the traditional holidays are our peak times, with Christmas no exception. So while I adore cooking and baking, after spending all week in the kitchen, I want to relax on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and enjoy time with the family.

My own little ones love rolling up their sleeves and getting involved with cooking, and I've found that it's quite possible to combine spending time with the family and doing those last-minute preparations.

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With this in mind, I've developed the recipes below for beautiful centrepieces to your Christmas table, which can be made quickly from store-cupboard ingredients or items readily available at your local store or corner shop.

Trust me, these sanity-saving recipes are practically fail-safe. There’s no faff involved, and it’s worth the molecule of additional effort which says Merry Christmas far more sincerely than putting something ready-made from the shops onto a plate. The end result are beautiful desserts of sparkling Christmas accomplishment, made with love.

Christmas ice cream bombe

A wonderful alternative to Christmas pudding, this no-bake bombe is a quick assembly job that takes no more than 10 minutes, and uses ingredients that are easily accessible. You can modify the ingredients to your taste – try adding orange zest, or glace fruit, or even substituting the cherries for mincemeat. Place in the freezer overnight, then all you have to do the next day is add some chocolate sauce.

Ingredients

500g chocolate chip panettone

1.5 litres vanilla ice cream

300g cherry conserve

6 tablespoons of Frangelico liqueur

450g jar cherries in syrup

300ml tub cream

300g dark chocolate

(Last-minute tip: Plain sponge cake, brioche or even swiss roll could be substituted for the panettone (you could add dried fruit to the ice cream), and raspberry/apricot jam or even marmalade can be swapped for the cherry conserve. If you can't find Frangelico, use Baileys, Cointreau, Amaretto, or simply omit the liqueur.)

Method

• Remove ice cream from freezer to soften slightly.

• Triple-wrap the interior of a two-litre pudding basin with clingfilm, leaving some excess hanging over the sides. Leave a couple of slices to the side to wrap the top of the pudding when filled.

• Slice the panettone into 2cm slices, and line the bottom and sides of the basin

• Spread the liqueur over the panettone, then cover with the jam.

• Cover the panettone with the ice cream, then fill the insides with the cherries, reserving a few to decorate.

• Fill the pudding with the remaining ice cream then cover the ice cream with the reserved panettone.

• Firmly wrap the pudding with clingfilm, pressing down firmly on the top, then freeze overnight.

• 20 minutes before serving, remove the bombe from the freezer. Break the chocolate into little chunks into a microwavable bowl. Bring the cream just to the boil, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate; stir to combine. If this isn’t enough to melt the chocolate, give it a little blast in the microwave.

• Transfer the pudding to a plate, pour over the chocolate sauce and decorate with the remaining cherries.

Festive wreath pavlova

All you need to do here is pick up a pack of frozen summer fruits, and whip up the meringue the night before. On Christmas Day it’s ready when you are, to cover with cream and red fruits, a perfect centrepiece for your table! Making a curd with the leftover egg yolks sounds like a drama but it really isn’t.

Ingredients

6 large egg whites

350g caster sugar plus 250g extra for the fruits

600ml double cream

50g icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

500g frozen summer fruits

Juice of half a lemon

Mint leaves to decorate

Method

• Pre-heat oven to 140 C fan. Take a large piece of baking parchment, and draw a 13” circle with another 6” circle inside, to give you an outline of where to place the meringue.

• Whisk egg whites with an electric whisk until they form soft peaks, then gradually add the sugar while continuing to whisk. When the meringue is stiff and glossy, spoon it into the ring on the parchment. Use a spoon to form an indent in the ring so that it makes a little bed for the cream and fruit.

• Bake for about an hour, then switch off oven and leave the meringue inside overnight, with the door closed.

• Place half the frozen fruits into a saucepan and cover with the lemon juice and 250g caster sugar, and heat until the sugar melts (this part is not for children, as the mixture can reach very high temperatures and cause burns so be careful when stirring). Leave to cool.

• The next day whip up the double cream and icing sugar with the vanilla extract until stiff. Spoon into the meringue, drizzle over the fruit and sugar mixture, allowing some to trickle down the sides of the pavlova.

• Decorate with the remaining fruit and mint leaves.

Clementine curd

If you’ve never made curd, then I implore you to try this microwave version. I’ve made every variety of curd imaginable, and they have all been delicious.

Put four leftover egg yolks into a bowl with three large eggs, 150g cubed butter and 200g caster sugar. Pop it into the microwave in 30-second bursts, removing and whisking in between until it’s melted together. Add the zest and juice of six clementines and whisk thoroughly. Return to the microwave in 60-second bursts, removing and quickly whisking in between. It will very suddenly come together after around eight minutes; don’t be tempted to just pop it in for this time. You’ll find the outsides cook faster, just whisk it until it melds together. And there you have it! Perfect on toast or on yoghurt for breakfast. Or just eaten neat, with a spoon…….

Chocolate snowflake

The children will love this one. I used a salted caramel and chocolate spread, though you could easily use anything similar. I was very tempted to try this with Lotus Biscoff spread. This one is probably best eaten while still warm from the oven, where everyone can get stuck in and tear off pieces of buttery, chocolatey goodness.

Ingredients

2 x 320g sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry

6 tablespoons chocolate caramel spread (or similar)

50g cinnamon sugar (or mix 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon through ordinary caster sugar)

Method

• Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out pastry, and cut an 8” circle out on each one.

• Spread the chocolate spread on one of the circles (heat it in the microwave to soften if necessary) then place the other circle of puff pastry on top. Transfer to a lined baking tray.

• Leaving a circle of around 5cm in the centre, slice from the edge of the circle to the end of the pastry, quartering the pastry. Then slice each quarter a further two times.

• Twist each strip of pastry twice, in the opposite direction from the strip next to it. Press the end into the baking tray to seal it.

• Brush the pastry with an egg yolk, and then bake for around 20 mins until golden.

• Remove from the oven, cool for five minutes and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar

Edwina McNulty creates bespoke wedding cakes through her company Rosewood Cakes http://www.rosewoodcakes.com