Since I was the littlest of little girls, Domino-steine have been a Christmas staple in our home. Resembling petit fours more than cookies, these scrumptious cubes sing with flavour. From the marzipan that coats them, to the lovely jam nestling inside, to the delicate spiced cake layered in between, it's a marvel of baking genius. My mother, Helga, coveted these bites of holiday cheer above all else, and I make them each year in her beloved memory.
FOR THE CAKE:
2 (7-ounce / 200-g) packages almond paste (see Note)
1 cup (230 g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup (60 ml) honey
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
pinch white pepper
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon black currant purée (see page 48)
1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
FOR THE SIMPLE SYRUP:
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
FOR THE ASSEMBLY:
1 (15-ounce / 430-g) jar seedless currant (or raspberry) preserves
2 (7-ounce / 200-g) packages almond paste, rolled into a thin sheet about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick (approximately the size of the finished stacked layers)
½ batch chocolate glaze, warm
NOTE: Packaged almond paste is often dry; I know it is against store policy, but I surreptitiously squeeze the box to make sure the stuff is fresh and malleable before I buy it.
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick baking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond paste, butter, honey, and granulated sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and white pepper and mix to incorporate.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among three bowls. Leave the first bowl plain; mix the black currant purée into the second bowl; and mix the cocoa powder into the third bowl.
Transfer the batters onto the prepared pan in three sections, spreading them evenly so that each batter takes up one-third of the pan. (If you want it to be neater, you can pipe each batter from a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip.) The batters will touch while baking but we'll trim those edges. Your objective is to have three individual blocks of cake: one plain, one currant, and one cocoa.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you touch it and begins to slightly brown. Allow to cool completely.
Make the simple syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the granulated sugar with 1 cup (240 ml) water. Cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Set aside and allow to cool.
Using a sharp knife, separate the plain, currant, and cocoa cakes, trimming so the cakes have clean edges and are equal in size. Place the cocoa layer on a cake board. Using a pastry brush, gently brush a thin layer of simple syrup over the cocoa layer. Using a small offset spatula, cover the layer with one-third of the preserves. Top with the plain layer and press gently to adhere. Brush the plain layer with simple syrup, then spread another third of the preserves on top. Top with the currant layer and press gently to adhere. Brush with simple syrup and spread a very thin layer of the preserves (only a few tablespoons, less than on the other layers) over the surface to act as an adhesive.
Double check that the rolled-out almond paste is large enough to cover the top of the assembled layers. If it's too large, trim it. Place it carefully on top of the currant layer. Cover the almond paste with a thin layer of ganache about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Dip a sharp knife in a glass of very hot water and dry. Score the cake into 2-inch (5-cm) squares (I grab a ruler for this job-I can't be trusted to eyeball anything with accuracy), cleaning the knife in the hot water often and making sure to dry it completely. Then dip the knife in the hot water again, dry it off, and cut the squares, dipping and drying the knife after every cut to keep the squares looking neat and clean.
Bake It Like You Mean It, Published by Stewart Tabori & Chang, Photography by Tina Rupp, £18.99; www.amazon.co.uk