This intricate biscuit tower is made up of four flavoured shortbreads – vanilla, lemon and lavender, orange and cardamom and chocolate – built up in layers, decorated with buttercream and with an iced clock tower at the top.
Equipment and preparation: you will need a free-standing food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and a small piping bag for this recipe.
1kg/2lb 4oz salted butter, softened
400g/14oz golden caster sugar
960g/2lb 2oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling
320g/11½oz rice flour
1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large orange, zest only
½-1 tsp ground cardamom (to taste)
2 lemons, zest only
1½ tsp lavender essence
40g/1½oz cocoa powder
115g/4oz icing sugar
For the biscuits, place 500g/1lb 2oz butter and 200g/7oz caster sugar into a free-standing food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until creamy.
Mix in 500g/1lb 2oz plain flour, 160g/5¾oz rice flour and 90g/3¼oz cornflour.
Divide the mixture into two. Add the vanilla pod seeds and one teaspoon of vanilla essence to one half. Add the zest of an orange and the cardamom to the other half.
Using your hands, work each mixture to form a dough. Wrap the doughs separately in cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator.
Put another 250g/9oz butter and 100g/3½oz caster sugar into a free-standing food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until creamy. Mix in 250g/9oz plain flour, 80g/3oz rice flour and 45g/1½oz cornflour.
Add the zest of two lemons and the lavender essence. Use your hands to work the mixture together to form a dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator.
Place 250g/9oz butter and 100g/3½oz caster sugar into a free-standing food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until creamy.
Add 210g/7½oz plain flour, 40g/1½oz cocoa powder, 80g/3oz rice flour and 45g/1½oz cornflour. Use your hands to work the mixture together to form a dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator.
Flour a clean work surface. Roll out the biscuit dough, one dough at a time, into mostly fingers, about 7.5cm/3in by 2.5/1in high. Make at least 60 fingers and then make the remaining decorative pieces.
For the remaining decorative pieces, roll out and cut 14 x 4cm/1½in diameter circles (and slightly thinner than the fingers).
Cut four flat biscuits about 5mm/¼in deep measuring 10cm/4in x 11cm/4½in.
Cut two 8cm/3in x 15cm/6in rectangles for the roof.
Cut 2 x 5cm/2in diameter circles for the clock faces.
Bake all the biscuits on greased and lined baking trays in batches for about 15-20 minutes each, but take the thinner ones out earlier.
For the decoration, use the green paste to make four trees, forming cones about 8cm/3in high and snipping all around with sharp scissors to resemble the branches of a pine tree. Set side.
For the buttercream, cream the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until pale, light and fluffy.
Add a drop of vanilla extract and colour with a little brown food colouring.
For the icing, mix together the icing sugar in a bowl with enough water to make a thick icing. Ice four of the round biscuits with water icing and leave to slightly harden. Put the buttercream into a small piping bag and pipe on the clock face and numbers.
To assemble, use the biscuit fingers to build a clock tower. On a serving board, build the lower part of the tower eleven layers high. At the top of this lay the 10cm/4in x 11cm/4½in biscuits at the top of the main tower and use the 8cm/3in x 15cm/6in pieces to make a pyramid roof. Make the top of the clock tower by building another mini tower of finger biscuits under the roof and resting the clock faces against the mini tower on each side.
Make battlements by cutting the small round biscuits in half, spreading thinly with buttercream and topping with chopped nuts and placing around the edge of the large flat pieces. Finish by spreading icing on to the roof to resemble snow and dragging a few pieces over the edge to look like icicles.
Put the trees on each corner of the tower and decorate with chocolate beads and edible glitter.
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