Layered Semifreddo Christmas Cake with Berry Sauce & Nuts

Pre-Christmas dinners and catch-ups of a casual nature can pose a quandary in matters of dessert. It’s far too much effort required to make an all-out steamed pudding for a late lunch for four friends. And yet, you want to acknowledge that Christmas is around the corner (two days in this case) and step into festive mode.

I wanted to make a selection of mini flavoured semifreddos (Strawberry & Hazelnut Meringue, Passion Fruit, Dried fig & Saffron, Raspberry Nougat) which along with panna cotta of all sorts remain my quick reflex action dessert options in summer, especially when the rest of the menu is pretty intense.

I came about this picture of an ice cream tower by lovely Jane-Anne of Scrumptious blog and the image sat with me. Instead of making traditional semifreddo or my non-traditional semifreddo (as done with the Strawberry & Hazelnut Meringue above), I combined vanilla ice cream, mascarpone and fresh cream along with Christmassy pudding, roasted nuts topped with a thick berry sauce.

Adapt the layers as you see fit, adding dark chocolate and rum instead of the white chocolate, other nuts and different berries.

If I knew I would have had a moment to take a picture of this dessert and even write about it, I would have been more diligent about demarcating the layers – perhaps by adding a bit of cocoa or a little coffee to the pudding layer.

A word of advice – a silicone mould is a life saver. After leaving the semifreddo out for a minute, all I had to do was tip it over and peel the mould off – no bits were left stuck to it. Note I did spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray.

For the semifreddo

1 litre good quality vanilla ice cream, left out to melt.

2 tubs (25o ml each) whipping cream

1 tub (25o ml) marscapone cheese

1/2 small Christmas fruit and nut loaf, crumbled (store bakeries make these by the dozen)

80 g hazelnuts, roasted

30 ml brandy

80 g white chocolate, chopped

1 t vanilla extract

3 T roasted coconut flakes , chopped (optional)


For the sauce

125 ml caster sugar

125 ml water

16 cherry bombs (cherries soaked in brandy or 16 fresh cherries left in 60 ml brandy)

125 g raspberries (leave 1/3 aside)


Spray inside of mould (average cake size) with non-stick cooking spray.

Whip cream till stiff and set aside.

Beat mascarpone, till loose, adding a little cream in to help the process.

Using a handheld electric whisk or processor, whip mascarpone and remaining fresh cream till mixed. Do not over mix.

Add the melted ice cream and beat till smooth on low-medium speed. (Ice cream is sufficiently sweet, no need to add more sugar I feel)

Divide mixture between two bowls.

In one bowl add the cake, hazelnuts and the brandy and mix well. Pour into the mould and let set in the freezer (I used the power freeze mode and it took around 25 minutes to firm up a bit)

In other bowl, mix through the chocolate, vanilla extract and roasted coconut. Leave bowl in fridge till ready to use.

Once the bottom layer is slightly set and you can pour the next layer over, without the two mixing, do so.

Cover with cling film and leave to set for a few hours or overnight.

Remove a few minutes before you need to serve.

In a pan on medium heat add the water and sugar and heat till all of the sugar is dissolved.

Add the boozy cherries, a little of the liquid or brandy (discard remaining brandy, or drink if you must) and the raspberries.

Cook till the sauce thickens. Set aside and allow to cool.

Drizzle sauce over the semifreddo Christmas cake and serve with remaining raspberries. Scatter around roasted pecans and mini- meringues if preferred.

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