Christmas baking is my favourite kind of baking. I start planning for it several months in advance, by adding an extra bag of dried fruit to my shopping trolley each week. I buy almost any kind: sultanas, glacé cherries, currants, Ye olde mixed dried fruit, dried apricots, pitted dates. Any and all of these things can and will be used when I start Christmas baking season.
I love the traditional English Christmas flavours of dried fruit, brandy, mixed spice, and brown sugar. I make my own because we are allergic to nuts, and it is tricky finding a good fruit cake without almonds. Plus, funsies.
I always make Christmas fruit cakes. Then I decide if I am going to do mince pies, or some other Christmassy fruity thing. This year I decided to tackle traditional Christmas puddings, which are something I have never made before. These were surprisingly easy; if I had known they were that easy I would have been making them for years.
For the past couple of years I have also been making gluten free Christmas cakes as gifts for family members who are coeliac. This year I decided to also make gluten free puddings. These were just as simple as regular puddings.
I bake large cakes in traditional cake tins, and then I also use recycled large stainless steel fruit cans to make smaller cakes as gifts. I can’t recall where I picked up this idea; I have been doing it for years and the small cakes are the perfect size for gifts. I store them wrapped in foil in our cellar for a month before Christmas, and then depending on how much time I have, I either ice them with white ready-to-roll icing, or just tie them with ribbon and wrap them in cellophane and give them.
This recipe is nut-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Not vegan due to the copious butter and eggs of course. We use brandy or sherry because these are gluten-free. Some spirits such as bourbon may contain gluten. If you wanted to avoid the alcohol altogether, you could, by soaking the fruit in a couple of tablespoons of orange juice instead. We don’t actually drink alcohol, but I prefer the flavour of the brandy in the cake so I still use it. Most of it cooks out.
Gluten-free Nut-free Christmas Cake
Start the cake one week before you plan to cook it, and ideally one month before Christmas.
200 grams currants
400 grams mixed dried fruit
400 grams sultanas
1 cup brandy or sherry
Mix the fruit together. Pour over the brandy and stir. Cover tightly with cling wrap and place in a cool place for one week.
200 grams unsalted butter
200 grams brown sugar
2 tablespoons treacle or golden syrup
1 tablespoon marmalade or apricot jam
4 eggs at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
225 grams plain gluten free flour – I used ‘Well & Good’ brand because it has no chickpea flour (we have a chickpea allergy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each mixed spice and cinnamon
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the treacle or golden syrup and marmalade or apricot jam, and mix well. Add the vanilla, and begin adding the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. After each egg is added, add a small amount of flour and beat well. Continue until all the eggs are added.
Mix in the flour and spices and salt.
Fold in the fruit, scraping the bowl well to make sure you have all the brandy and fruit syrup.
Make sure the fruit and cake batter is properly mixed.
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (130 degrees fan-forced).
Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin or up to four 825 gram empty steel fruit cans (washed with the labels removed).
If using one large pan, place cake mixture in the tin, spreading so the batter sits evenly. If using the cans, divide batter evenly among the cans.
Wrap the outside of each cake tin with a double thickness of baking paper or brown paper, and secure with a metal paper clip or cooking twine.
Bake for 2.5-3 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a rack in the tin overnight. The next morning, turn out wrap in a double thickness of foil. Store in a cool place. Once a week, pour a couple of tablespoons of brandy over each cake.
Next post: puddings!