I’ve always enjoyed Christmas pudding piping hot and swimming in cold cream. However, I can appreciate that after a month of mince pies, many of you have had enough of spiced raisins. This is an alternative for those of you seeking new inspiration: a delicate hazelnut mousse within a layer of port-soaked cherries, chocolate sponge, rich ganache and twinkling strands of spun sugar.

With several different components to make, this isn’t the quickest of recipes, but it will be a favourite, especially for those who normally disappear at the mention of Christmas pudding.

An alternative Christmas pudding

Spun sugar will readily absorb water from the air and melt away, so store it in an airtight container if you’re making ahead of time or, better still, make it just before serving.

Prep 1 hr 30 min, plus chilling
Cook 1 hr
Serves 8

For the sponge
Vegetable oil or butter, to grease
3 large eggs
100g caster sugar
20g cocoa powder
55g plain flour

For the praline
120g blanched hazelnuts
100g caster or granulated sugar

For the stewed cherries
200g dried cherries (sour cherries, if you can find them)
50g apple juice
50g port
2-3 tsp lemon juice
40g caster or granulated sugar
1 stick cinnamon (about 15g)

For the hazelnut cream
200g whole milk
3 large egg yolks
220g hazelnut praline paste
3 pinches table salt
2 leaves gelatin, soaked in a bowl of cold water
150g double cream

For the ganache
100g double cream
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

For the spun sugar
200g granulated sugar

Line the base of a 20cm x 30cm tin with greaseproof paper and grease the sides with a little fat. Whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for a few minutes until pale, frothy and thick enough that a drizzle of foam leaves a ribbon on the surface for a second or two before sinking in. Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/gas 6.

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Sift the cocoa and flour into a bowl, then fold into the eggs. Pour the mix into the prepared tin, bake for 12 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To make the praline, roast the hazelnuts at 220C (200C fan)/gas 7 for six to seven minutes. While the hazelnuts are roasting, make the caramel. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in a few tablespoons of warm water, then boil until the sugar syrup turns hazelnut brown. Pour into a roasting tin lined with foil and, once completely cool, break into shards and blend in a food processor with the nuts until you have a paste.

For the stewed cherries, tip all the ingredients into a small saucepan, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the fruit is plump and softened.

To assemble the pudding, line the inside of a two-pint/one-litre pudding bowl with clingfilm. Cut a ring of sponge 3cm smaller in diameter than the top of the bowl, then tear off pieces of the remaining sponge and use to line the bowl. Use a pastry brush to paint the sponge with the syrup from the cherries, then stick the cherries along the base and sides of the sponge.

Make the hazelnut cream: warm the milk, yolks, praline paste and salt in a pan over a medium heat for five minutes, until the mix starts to thicken. Stir through the gelatin until dissolved, then set aside to cool. When the mix is no longer hot to the touch, whisk the cream until foamy but still liquid, just before it forms peaks – if you overshoot, stir through a little extra cream. Fold it into the custard, pour the mix into the pudding basin, top with the circle of sponge and leave to set in the fridge – ideally overnight, but for at least four hours.

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To make the ganache, warm the cream in a saucepan or microwave, then add the chocolate and stir until melted and glossy. Leave to cool enough to be thick and spreadable. When the pudding has set, remove from the fridge and turn out on to a serving plate, then use a palette knife to spread the ganache over the top and sides.

Before serving, make the spun sugar by making a caramel with the sugar as you did before. Prepare a work station by weighing down two long wooden spoons with their handles hanging over the floor: put lots of newspaper below them. When the caramel has cooled enough that it is as thick as honey, dip a fork in and flick the strands of syrup between your two spoon handles to give thin threads of sugar. Once you have enough, gather the strands in a nest around the pudding and serve.

Fiona Beckett’s drinks match

This spectacular pudding includes port, but I wouldn’t drink port with it: it needs something lighter and, given the chocolate, something red, rather than white. Cue recioto della valpolicella, valpol’s sweet little cousin: Bertani does a classy one (13%) for £24.50 for 50cl from Great Western Wine. Or, given how glamorous the dessert is, a bottle of Moët et Chandon Rosé Ice Imperial (£46.95 The Whisky Exchange, 12%), a sweet, sparkling rosé champagne that you do indeed serve over ice. FB

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