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Rich Scottish Chocolate Cake

This week sees the start of the traditional Scottish Daft Days which last from Christmas Eve/ Yule Een (24th December 2002) to Uphaliday or Epiphany (6th January 2003). The highpoint for Scots is still Hogmanay and bringing in the New Year with enthusiasm. In recent years our capital city has been able to justifiably claim that Edinburgh's Hogmanay is the world's greatest New Year party. Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations were placed fourth in a league of the Top 40 world festivals for 2001, alongside giants such as the Rio Carnival and Pamplona's Fiesta de San Fermin (Running of the Bulls). This year Edinburgh is holding a four-day family festival of fun, entertainment and events for residents and visitors who want to celebrate the New Year in style. Visit www.edinburghshogmanay.org for more details.
 
Given the traditional rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Glasgow also makes a great effort to celebrate Hogmanay with a massive shindig. Each year Glasgow's Hogmanay celebrations attract a crowd of over 100.000. This year there will be five stages set around George Square and the Merchant City including the Ceilidh Stage, Party Stage, New Talent Stage and the ever-popular Main Stage, which takes over George Square. More details available at www.glasgowshogmanay.org.uk
 
But you don't have to be in one of Scotland's major cities for a taste of a real Scottish Hogmanay eg the Burgh of Stonehaven holds one of the most famous and spectacular events to herald in the New Year. At midnight on 31 December over 40 townsfolk parade through the streets of the town swinging balls of fire around their heads. For more information on the Stonehaven Fireball Festival telephone 01569 764009.
 
And if you are looking for a spot of real Scottish entertainment at the start of 2003 then the Terraces Hotel, Stirling on the 2nd January is the place to be, as top Scottish Folk duo Gaberlunzie will be performing their traditional New Year concert at 8pm. Scots Independent volunteer Alistair Walker has organised this year's event and can be contacted for tickets (7) on 01786 814523 or email peter@scotsindependent.org
 
However you celebrate the ending of one year and the start of the new, remember in Scotland that you have two opportunities to do so! The Moray town of Burghead stick with the old calendar and celebrate the change of year on 11th January with the Burning of the Clavie. Each year the 'Clavie King' and his 'Clavie Crew' parade through the streets, carrying the Clavie. This 'basket' is packed with tar-soaked sticks mixed with peat before being set alight. The parade finishes at the Doorie Hill on the ramparts of the ancient Pictish fort, from where the blazing Clavie is rolled down the hill, in the hope that good luck for the New Year will folow. For more information on the Burning of the Clavie contact Elgin Tourist Information Centre tel 01343 542666.
 
This is the time of year when we are urged to eat, drink (but don't drive) and be merry and this week's recipe is just the ticket for indulgence over the Daft Days. Rich Scottish Chocolate Cake is for those who have no fear of calories!
 
Rich Scottish Chocolate Cake
 
Ingredients :
For sponge : 175g plain flour; 50g cocoa powder; 2 x 15ml sp black treacle; 2 medium eggs; 1 x 5ml sp baking powder; 1 x 5ml sp bicarbonate of soda; 75g caster sugar; 150ml milk; 150ml vegetable oil
 
For the filling : 75g plain choclate, crumbled; 25g butter, cubed; 150ml double cream, lightly whipped; icing sugar for dusting
 
You need : 2 x 20cm cake tins; butter for greasing; flour for dusting
 
Method : Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/ 325 degrees F/ Gas Mark 3
 
Butter and flour two 20cm cake tins. Whisk the sponge ingredients together and divide between the two tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let the cake stand for 10 minutes then turn out on to wire racks until quite cool.
 
For the filling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Stir in the cubes of butter until melted. Leave to cool then spread on top of one cake layer . Top with double cream then second sponge. Dust with icing sugar.
 
Serve cool with strawberries on the side for a rich and succulent treat.

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