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This luxurious vegan Christmas cake is brimming with flavours of apricot, orange, and brandy, with spicy undertones of nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon.
Cutting the cakes into quarters means you’ll end up with four impressive cakes – perfect for a festive centerpiece or for giving out as gifts. Wrapping the cakes in colourful sugar paste bows is a simple way to add a wonderfully festive touch. By omitting the eggs and butter found in a traditional Christmas cake recipe (opens in new tab), these cakes are entirely suitable for those following a plant-based diet.
For the cake:
- 250g (8oz) coconut oil
- 250g (8oz) light Muscovado sugar
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds
- 200g (7oz) plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 level tsp ground ginger
- Large pinch ground nutmeg
- 8 tbsp Cointreau
- 1kg packet dried mixed fruits
- 250g packet dried, ready to- eat apricots, chopped
- 200g carton glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
- 18cm (7in) square cake tin, lined with baking parchment
For the icing:
- 8-12 tbsp apricot glaze
- 1.5-2kg (3-4lb) marzipan
- 1.5-2kg (3-4lb) pale-green sugar paste
- 150g (5oz) red sugar paste
- 150g (5oz) white sugar paste
- 2 teaspoons CMC (Tylose)
- Red edible-ink pen
4 x 13cm (5in) cake cards or small square plates
- Icing smoother or side-scraper
- Pizza wheel, optional
- Small star cutter, eg PME plunger star cutter
- Plain writing piping tube
- For the cake: Set the oven to 150°C or Gas Mark 2.
- Beat together the coconut oil and sugar until the mixture is pale in colour. Mix the chia seeds with 150ml water and set aside for five minutes.
- Gradually beat in the chia mixture, adding a little flour with each addition. Beat in the rest of the flour, salt, orange zest and spices and then beat in 4 tbsp Cointreau. Fold in the dried fruits, apricots and cherries. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin and level the surface, smoothing the top with a wet hand and hollowing it very slightly.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 3-3½ hours, or until it feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly, cover the top with a sheet of baking parchment or foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for about 10-15 mins, then spoon over the remaining 4 tbsp of Cointreau.
- When the cake is cold (if it’s not going to be decorated immediately) wrap it well in baking parchment, then foil. Store in a cool, dry place, for up to three months. The cake can also be frozen for up to three months — just wrap it in the same way as you would do for storing.
- For the icing: Use a long-bladed knife to cut the cake into quarters and place it on cake cards or plates.
- Spread the apricot glaze over the top and sides of the cakes.
- Knead a quarter of the marzipan to soften it, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar so it’s large enough to cover the top and sides of one cake. Lift over the cake and press down against the top; ease in the fullness at the corners and press against the sides. Trim away excess marzipan around the base and rub the surface of the marzipan smooth with a smoother or sidescraper. Repeat with 3 other cakes.
- Brush water over the marzipan as “glue” to hold the sugar paste in place.
- Knead a quarter of the green sugar paste to soften it, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Use to cover a cake as in step 3 for the marzipan, trimming excess away and rubbing the surface smooth. Repeat 3 times to cover all 4 cakes.
- Knead about a teaspoon of CMC into both the red and the white sugar paste to make modelling paste. Keep each colour well wrapped in a plastic bag until ready to use.
- Roll out the red sugar paste and cut narrow strips, using a pizza wheel if you have one.
- Brush a criss-cross of water on the green sugar paste and lay the strips of red sugar paste on top, trimming the ends. Repeat to decorate another cake, then put white ribbons criss-crossing on the other 2 cakes.
- Roll out sugar paste thinly and cut out stars, putting white stars on parcels with red ribbons and red stars on the parcels with white ribbons. Brush water onto the backs of the stars to stick them in place. Also cut some stars in half and stick the cut side against the ribbon, to look like the ribbon goes over the stars.
- Roll out some of the white sugar paste and cut out 4 label shapes. Use the tip of the writing piping tube to cut a small hole out of each label.
- To make the bows, cut more strips of sugar paste the same width as the ribbons over the cakes. Brush water over the ends of two strips and fold over and press in place to make loops.
- Brush a little water over the end of the loop on 2 strips and press another on top to give the bow shape. Brush some water in the centre.
- Stick another strip around the centre to form the knot of the bow and cut off any excess sugar paste at the back of the bow.
- Cut the ends of the bow into “V” shapes. Repeat steps 11-14 to make 3 more bows.
- Brush some water on the criss-cross of the ribbons, and stick the bows, then the labels in place. Roll a very thin piece of red sugar paste, and stick it into the hole in the label and under the bow to look like string. When the label is dry, write an inscription using the edible-ink pen.
Top tips for making this vegan Christmas cake
It’s easiest to use apricot glaze to stick the marzipan onto the cake. If you can’t buy the glaze, sieve some apricot jam to get a smooth purée, after removing any bits of fruit. Prefer a non-vegan cake? Simply replace the coconut oil with 250g of softened butter and the chia seeds with four eggs.
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Rosie Hopegood is a former professional chef turned journalist with a passion for veggie food. She spent several years working as a chef aboard superyachts, catering for the culinary demands of the very rich and sometimes famous. She also worked as a private chef in the Swiss Alps, the Scottish Highlands, and the Balearic Islands. Later, she spent five years looking after the food pages at Reach Plc’s magazines. Rosie lives in New York and writes for Al Jazeera, Sunday Telegraph, and The Guardian.
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