I mentioned in my November In My Kitchen Post that I had dried fruits, glace fruits and nuts soaking in brandy and orange juice in preparation for making two Christmas cakes. Here is one of the cakes and this one if gluten-free but if you don’t need to have a gluten-free cake all you need to do is substitute the gluten-free flour for plain flour.
I like this fruit cake because it contains a great variety of dried fruits, glace fruits and nuts providing wonderful flavour, plenty of colour and great texture. I always add red and green cherries as these colours are so synonymous with Christmas.
To ice the cake I firstly trimmed the top to make it level and I put the cake on its side and used a metal tape measure and a knife to mark a height of 8cms (3.14 inches) around the cake. I trimmed the cake to this height and turned the cake upside down so the most level surface became the top of the cake.
I covered the cake in rolled icing then decorated it with holly. There are a few reasons for using holly. Firstly, holly is synonymous with Christmas as the leaves are a reminder of the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear when he was crucified and the berries represent His shed blood. Then when I was growing up we had a neighbour who had a large holly bush and every Christmas I would take some cuttings of her holly and we would use the holly to decorate our dining table. Unfortunately, being the height of summer, the holly never had the red berries as these are only on the holly in winter – never mind, we made do. And lastly, the cake is for my mother and she used to make a Christmas cake every year and she would cover it in royal icing then stick plastic holly in the corners. (The only holly available ‘in the day’). I thought this would be a lovely reminder of the good ol’ days.
If you would like to make Christmas cake, now’s a good time to get started. There is quite a bit of work involved and this isn’t a project you can knock off in an afternoon – there are a few stages! But it’s definitely worth it and there really isn’t anything more festive than a lovely homemade cake.
Gluten-Free Christmas Cake
Degree of Difficulty: 4/5
Cost: There’s nothing else I can say except, ‘expensive’.
To Make the Cake:
- 2 1/2 cups sultanas
- 1 cup mixed peel
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped raisins
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped seeded fresh dates
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped seeded prunes
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped glace apricots
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped glace pineapple
- 1/2 cup glace green cherries, halved
- 1/2 cup glace red cherries, halved
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- finely grated rind of 1 orange
- juice of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 250g butter, softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 2 cups GF plain flour (or use plain flour if you don’t need a GF cake)
- 2 tbspns brandy, extra
Combine fruit, nuts, rind, orange juice and brandy in a large bowl and mix well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a cool, dark place for 1 week, stirring every day.
Preheat oven to 140C (275F).
Line base and sides of a 22cm round cake tin (not springform as this won’t give you a good shape), with 1 thickness of brown paper and 2 thicknesses of baking paper, extending papers 5cm above the edge of the cake tin.
Beat butter and brown sugar in a small bowl with electric mixer until just combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until just combined between additions. Stir butter mixture into fruit mixture. Mix in flour. Mix, mix and mix to make sure all flour is well combined. Spread mixture into prepared cake tin. I get the cake tin and bang it several times on the bench to remove any air pockets so you don’t end up with holes in your cake! Level cake mixture with a wet spatula.
Bake cake in oven for 3 1/2 hours. Remove cake from oven and brush with extra brandy. Cover hot cake with foil and leave overnight. Next day unwrap cake then wrap in two layers of cling wrap and store in a cool, dry place until ready to decorate.
To Decorate the Cake:
- 35cm (13.77 inches) round cake board
- 3 x packets of marzipan (750gms in total)
- 2 x packets white icing (1 kg in total)
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- green and red food dye
- rolling pin, edible glue, edible markers, pins, sharp paring knife
Take a little marzipan and smear it on the centre of the board. Place the cake upside down on the board. (The marzipan will help the cake adhere to the board and not move around). Use a tape measure to make sure the cake is centred.
Cover the cake in lightly beaten egg white (if you con’t want to use raw egg you can substitute jam). This will help the marzipan stick to the cake.
Roll out marzipan until it’s around 5mm in thickness. Pick marzipan up off bench using a rolling pin then roll over the cake. Work the marzipan around the cake using hands dusted with icing sugar. This can take some time. Trim and tidy edges. Keep leftover marzipan.
Roll white icing until around 5mm in thickness. Lift icing off bench using a rolling pin then roll over the cake. Work the icing around the cake using hands dusted with icing sugar. Trim and tidy edges. Keep leftover icing.
Take some of the remaining icing and roll out 2 thin tubes. Carefully twist the tubes into a plait while they are lying on the bench (if you pick them up they’ll break). Dip the paint brush in edible glue then brush around the edge of the cake. Carefully lift plait and secure it around the base of the cake.
Dye remaining marzipan green. Roll out on a bench dusted with icing sugar. Use a green edible marker to draw holly leaves. Take paring knife and carefully cut out leaves – this has to be done slowly or the icing will drag and move causing the leaf shape to become indiscernible. I cut out three leaves for the top of the cake (slightly larger than the leaves for the sides) and cut 16 for the sides of the cake. It takes some time! Brush the back of the leaves with edible glue and stick onto the top and sides of the cake.
Take remaining white icing and dye it red. Take small amounts and roll into red balls. You’ll need 27 red balls. Brush a tiny amount of edible glue onto one side of the balls and stick onto the base of the leaves. When sticking the balls onto the sides you may need to secure each ball with a sewing pin. When the glue dries you can remove the pin.
And that’s all there is to it!
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment or email me.
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