Each year I try and give the cake a bit of a different twist. Last year I replaced the brandy with rum and use some ground cardamom in the spices, this year I decided to give it a warming twist of ginger. I stirred a generous amount of crystallised ginger into the fruit mix and upped the ground ginger in the cakes spice mix. I also used satsuma zest and juice in place of my standard orange and replaced sultanas with dates. Ginger itself adds a peppery warming heat, which I felt would work well in a Christmas cake. I can’t wait to taste it on Christmas day and find out if it comes through.
I left my fruits soaking for a whole week, preparing them one weekend and baking the cake the next. During this time they soaked up the booze and fruit juice and became wonderfully plump and glossy. The zest, fruits and brandy created quite a heady aroma that I was half tempted to forgo the cake and eat spoonfuls of the fruit mix on its own but I managed to resist.
My cake is now snugly tucked away and awaiting its first feed of brandy in a few days time. Nearer Christmas I have the fun challenge of decorating it. I was stuck for ideas this year, but my grandmother has suggested a penguin which I think it a lovely idea. I’ve not planned a design yet, you’ll have to wait until nearer the time to find out if I managed it.
Do you bake your own Christmas cake? Are there any special family traditions you MUST do around this time of year to get into the festive feeling?
Gluten Free Ginger Christmas Fruit Cake
Ingredients – Soaking Mix
65g dried apricots
50g crystallised ginger
50g dried cranberries
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 satsuma (or ½ orange)
40ml satsuma or orange juice
Ingredients – Cake Mix
140g gluten free plain flour
15g tapioca starch
20g ground almonds
120g dark soft brown sugar
120g unsalted butter
1½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
40g black treacle
(pre soaked fruit mix – above)
30ml brandy once baked & additional for feeding
Soak the Fruit
Place the raisins and cranberries into a bowl. Chop the dates and apricots into pieces the same size as the cranberries and slice the crystallised ginger into small cubes.
Grate over the zest of the lemon and Satsuma. Squeeze the juice from the satsuma and add to the brandy. Pour the liquid over the fruits and stir to coat.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the fruit to soak for at least 24hours and up to 1 week, in a cool place to allow the fruit to plump up and absorb the brandy and fruit juice. I left mine for 5 days and stirred it twice in this time.
Bake the Cake
Lightly grease a 6.5inch/15-16cm deep round spring form tin. Line the base and sides with greaseproof paper, letting the paper rise about 1 inch above the rim of the tin. Preheat the oven to 140C or 120C fan.
Weigh all the cake ingredients, expect the pre soaked fruit, into a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.
Add the pre soaked fruit, including any remaining juices and fold together using a spatula.
Spread the mix into the tin, pressing down gently. Create a small dip in the middle of the cake to allow the mixture to rise into a flat, level surface on baking.
Bake in the oven for 2hours 10minutes until browned and quite firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before pricking the surface of the cake and drizzling over 30ml more brandy. Cover the cake and leave to cool in the tin before unmolding. Leave the greaseproof paper round the cake and wrap it tightly in clingfilm. The longer the cake has to mature the more developed in flavour it will be.
Every 1-2 weeks carefully remove the clingfilm from the cake and drizzle over a little more brandy. This is known as ‘feeding the cake’ and will ensure a richer and moister flavour and texture to the cake. (This is non essential though)
Makes 1 x 6.5ch cake
When Ready to Decorate
Ingredients - Decoration
500g fondant icing
2 tsp brandy
Food dye to decorate
Trimming and Decorating the Cake
When ready to decorate, peel away the greaseproof paper and carefully level the surface of a cake using a bread knife. Fill in any tiny holes with fruit taken from the off cuts of cake.
Place the cake on a 7-8inch cake board that has a few dobs of royal icing on it, to keep the cake in place.
Roll out the marzipan and use the base of the tin to cut out a large circle. Brush the top of the cake with a little brandy and smooth the marzipan over the top of the cake.
Roll out the fondant icing so that it is 2 inches bigger in diameter than the base of the cake. Brush the cake with brandy before covering with the fondant. Smooth the edges and top with your hands or cake smoother if you have one. Cut off the excess fondant from around the base.
Gather up the off cuts of fondant and dye as appropriate for decorations. Decorate the cake as desired and secure a ribbon around the bottom edge of the cake.
(I don’t have any photos of my finished cake yet, as its still in the ‘feeding’ stage)