A Gluten-Free Christmas Cake

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.

A Christmas cake decorated with holly

A Christmas cake decorated with holly

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.

Brushing the cake with lightly beaten egg white

Brushing the cake with lightly beaten egg white

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.

Rolling the marzipan over the cake

Rolling the marzipan over 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.

The cake covered in marzipan

The cake covered in marzipan

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.

A Christmas Cake surrounded with holly

A Christmas Cake surrounded with holly

Gluten-Free Christmas Cake

Serves:  Many

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.

Drawing the holly with the edible green marker pen

Drawing the holly with the edible green marker pen

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.

A Christmas Cake guarded fiercely by Santas

A Christmas Cake guarded fiercely by Santas

And that’s all there is to it!

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment or email me.

Kitchen Carnage

Kitchen Carnage

If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it!


  1. Not that much carnage 🙂

  2. Beautiful, festive and I bet it tastes great too.

  3. Beautifully decorated! I can make a great tasting cake, but my decorating skills are not up to much.

  4. You make it look so easy! I really like fruitcake but there is never any need for I us to have a Christmas cake so I never make it. In England we would just buy it but here I can’t seem to find proper dried fruit so it’s still something I don’t make. I did try once, it was quite horrible!
    Yours looks beautiful, and wonderfully festive.

  5. That’s a beautiful Christmas cake!!! 🙂 I can’t believe it’s going to be Christmas in 6 weeks I am getting so damn nervous! Will need to look into this cake and making it in advance ~

  6. This cake is stunningly beautiful.

    Thanks for the explanation about the holly. I did not know this. I learned something new today and that is good.

  7. You did such a beautiful job with this cake!! The decorating is perfectly festive.

  8. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Of course I don’t want to eat it, but it’s purdy.

  9. Oh, Charlie, I have made many Christmas fruitcakes in my life, but none so pretty as this. I wish I could buy the fondant…but I suppose I could make it. I suppose…Gorgeous cake that sounds like it will taste as good as it looks. Well done!

  10. I’m so impressed with your marzipan decorating skills! Such a great looking cake!

  11. Oh this certainly looks festive indeed Charlie- and I bet the whole house smelt divine while it was baking too! I would have to hide the fruit while it was soaking, as I know I would nibble it away until there wasn’t enough left for a cake 🙂
    BTW I hope your mum is feeling better?

  12. This is beautiful, Charlie! Love the decorations 🙂 So very festive. And the flavor sounds amazing with all those dried fruits and marzipan. yummy!!

  13. It looks so festive Charlie! I love the holly on it too. You’re a pro!

  14. With Mr Glam cake embargo, still in force, I think we won’t be having Christmas cake this year. Your looks very professional and with all that fruit I bet it’s really tasty. GG xx

  15. That’s pretty low on the carnage scale, I’d say. And you’re right that it’s hard to start one of these too early. This looks wonderful – thanks.

  16. That is an incredible christmas cake my friend, so festive and creative 😀


  17. This cake is just gorgeous and I know it’s delicious as well with all of those great ingredients and soaked fruits…plus marzipan icing…my fave!

  18. G’day! Gorgeous holiday cake, Charlie, true!
    Yes, you do make the marzipan rolled out easy as when had my first experience…was an eye opener that learned first hand all the hints and tips of not only what to do, but also what not to do! Cheers! Joanne

  19. You bring back memories of my mother’s Xmas cakes with almond icing and 3d bits hidden inside. Nowdays I make a summer solstice cake, to celebrate our seasons. I use a tin with a hole in the middle and fill it with marigolds or other yellow flowers. No more holly for me, except at winter solstice.

  20. No one I know makes christmas cakes anymore, which kills me as for me it’s a highlight of Christmas! Which clearly means I just need to make one doesn’t it.

  21. I just love Christmas cake, Charlie, and I regularly buy a small one…I’ve never made my own. I am just thrilled to have your recipe. It may be too ambitious for me this year, but I would just love to make it at some point. Part of the problem is that I’m one of the only ones in my family to really love fruit cake. It’s a lot of work to go through for myself. So please save me a piece, will you? 🙂

  22. What a gorgeous cake!! Love it! And I like that you make it gluten free 🙂

  23. Your cake looks beautiful. Theoretically, I don’t like Christmas cake at all, but I’ve never had one with dried pineapple! Perhaps I could be swayed if I gave this recipe a go.

  24. Skip the marzipan and I could enjoy this entire cake all by my piggy self.
    Fabulous recipe Charlie and well worth the effort.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  25. I love love love a good Christmas cake. Unfortunately, no one else in my family does so I never end up making it but maybe this year I should and eat it all myself!

  26. What a marvelous cake. It seems that every new cake you put on your blog looks better than the last. This one knocks my socks off. Your mother will be so pleased!

  27. Charlie, the time and care you put into this cake (not to mention the love and memories) make it look entirely worth the effort. Beautiful!

  28. Beautiful!! 🙂 xo

  29. You are the cake queen Charlie! What a gorgeous cake and a cracking recipe, I love that it is gluten free but nobody would know. I hope you get to have a slice or two with a glass of dessert wine at Christmas.

  30. What a lovely cake Charlie! And I love how Santa is guarding them-it must be hard for hungry tummies to resist this 😛

  31. Another spectacular cake!!!! Holly is one of my favorite Christmas symbols…and your marzipan holly is the perfect garnish. You’ve reminded me to check my holly bushes to see if I have any nice branches with berries…I didn’t do a great job of watering over the summer, so fingers crossed. Have a great weekend!

  32. What a gorgeous cake!! I wish I had such amazing cake decorating skills! It looks delicious.

  33. Lovely, just lovely , Charlie and I love your description. God bless you.

  34. Great looking cake there Charlie. I might make your recipe it looks lovely.

  35. Goodness me girl, I wish I had your cake decorating skills! First, love all the dried fruit soaked in booze. The cake sounds delicious, and definitely screams Christmas! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  36. My mother always made fruit cake for Christmas, but I think it might have had “a little” bit of flour in it. I love the yours doesn’t. One thing she never did was decorate it. What a cake! So pretty and I’m sure quite delicious with that icing.

  37. Beautiful Charlie! I need to try decorating with fondant! It looks professionally decorated!

  38. Good post. Using marzipan to cover the cake makes it look nice and smooth. Thanks for posting.

  39. Found it!! Wow…what a beautiful cake. I could never make mine look as beautiful as yours, but I will give it a try!!

  40. I can’t believe I missed this spectacular specimen last year. It really is a work of art. I made Christmas cake one year, many, many years ago but it was never as beautiful as your recipe.


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