Brimming with dried fruit, almonds and glace and cherries, this gluten-free Christmas cake is just as delicious as a traditional cake.
Ground ginger and mixed spice add a delicate festive flavour, while the addition of milk ensures the cake stays moist – all too often a problem when it comes to gluten-free bakes. Speedier than following a classic Christmas cake recipe (opens in new tab), this gluten-free version takes under two hours to bake. Remember that gluten-free cakes and biscuits tend to go stale more quickly than their regular counterparts, so it’s best to eat this one within a couple of weeks.
- 350g mixed dried fruit
- 100ml brandy or orange juice
- 150g butter, softened
- 150g soft light brown sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Zest of 1 large orange
- 50g blanched almonds, chopped
- 50g glace cherries, halved
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g gluten-free plain flour
- 1½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 100ml milk
For the icing:
- 5-6 tbsp apricot glaze or sieved apricot jam
- 750g white marzipan
- 1kg of packet white sugarpaste
- Place the dried fruit in a bowl with the brandy or orange juice and leave to soak for 2 hrs or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grease an 18cm round deep cake tin and line the base and sides with a double thickness of baking paper.
- Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture begins to curdle. Add the soaked fruit, orange zest, almonds, cherries and vanilla extract.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices and fold into the mixture with the milk. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
- Bake for 1½-1¾ hrs until golden, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Finally, ice your Christmas cake (opens in new tab) with apricot jam, white sugar paste and marzipan.
Top tip for making this gluten-free Christmas cake
Mix it up by replacing half the dried mixed fruit with finely chopped dried apricots and dates.
Why is my gluten-free Christmas cake crumbly?
Following the recipe above, you should find that this cake is not crumbly, but has a similarly moist and delicious texture to non-gluten-free recipes. This is because of the high fruit content, which keeps in moisture and acts almost like a binding agent. Do not skip the overnight soak for the fruit, which adds in even more moisture, essential to the recipe. If you still find your GF bakes come out a little on the dry side, check the flour you are using. Not all gluten-free flours are created equal. Find one that is specifically designed for cake baking. You could even use a blend of two different GF flours to get the benefits of both.
Should I ice the sides of my cake or just the top?
It's entirely up to you - icing adds a later of rampant sweetness to Christmas cake. Traditionally this counteracted some of the bitterness in the preserved fruit, but this cake is not bitter. If you prefer a slightly less sweetened cake, ice only the top - or leave the icing off completely and decorate with fruit and nuts.
Why do we put marzipan on Christmas cakes?
Traditionally marzipan seals the cake and traps the moisture inside it, leaving a dry, smooth outer finish for the icing to go on top of. The also ensures the icing does not leach the moisture out of the cake at the edges, and discolour.
Can I leave out the marzipan if I don't like it?
With this cake, you can. Traditionally Christmas cakes are made well in advance of Christmas - up to 3 months. The marzipan layer is usually added after the cake has been stored and fed for several weeks - about 14 days before Christmas. It then has time to dry and harden before the cake is iced just before Christmas. However, this gluten-free cake does not need to be made so far in advance - in fact, it's best eaten within a couple of weeks of being made. As such, you can simply ice the cake directly if you prefer. The icing will not be as smooth and you may find the icing begins to discolour a little after about a week or so, but if you dislike marzipan it's probably a fair trade-off.
You might also like...
- Mary Berry’s fruit cake (opens in new tab)
- Ways to decorate your Christmas cake (opens in new tab)
- Easy Christmas cake recipe (opens in new tab)
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