It’s that time of year again, (in fact it’s a little past it) but now is a good time to start planning your Christmas baking! Primarily the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding. These actually get better with age and the longer they have to mature, the better. So hop to it!
The Christmas pudding isn’t traditionally made until Stir Up Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the month before Advent starts in December. So Christmas Cake is the place to start first.
Each year I love planning my Christmas cake. I always bake my own and the base is always the same, but I like to tweak it to be a little bit different/special each year. This year I decided to use a combination of orange juice and rum to soak my fruit mixture in. I’ve always used brandy before but have recently got really into the flavour of rum. I love how the fruit absorbs the soaking liquid, becoming all plump, moist and glossy.
To complement the rum I added a different mix of spices than usual, and more of them - mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. I also upped the quantity of black treacle a little. The resulting cake smelt heavenly, the scent wafting through my flat, the essence of Christmas warmth and spice. It took a lot of restraint to resist cutting off a sliver and tasting it straight away. I know it will get better the longer it has to mature and a few more ‘feeding’ sessions with extra rum will only improve it further. As the saying goes ‘good things come to those who wait.’
I’ve also included the decorating instructions below, but its best to do this a few days before Christmas itself, but I thought it best to include them now, so that the instructions are all in one place.
Do you bake your own Christmas cake? Do you try different recipes each year or do you have a traditional family recipe you bake every year? I’d love to know. Feel free to adapt the fruits, spices and alcohol used in the recipe. As long as the average weights are the same, you are free to make it your own.
Gluten Free Spiced Christmas Fruit Cake with Rum
Ingredients – Soaking Mix
50g dried apricots
50g glace cherries (check they are gluten free)
50g dried cranberries
50ml orange juice
Ingredients – Cake Mix
160g gluten free plain flour
20g ground almonds
120g dark soft brown sugar
120g unsalted butter
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
40g black treacle
Zest of ½ orange
(pre soaked fruit mix – above)
Soaking the Fruit
Place the raisins, sultanas and cranberries into a bowl. Chop the cherries into quarters and add to the bowl. Chop the apricots into pieces, about the size of the sultanas and add to the bowl.
Drizzle over the orange juice and stir to coat. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, and heat for a further 30 seconds until just warm. (This makes the fruit softer and more susceptible to absorbing the soaking liquid).
Stir in the rum and then cover the bowl with cling film. 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 rum and orange juice. I left mine for 5 days and stirred it twice in this time.
Bake the Cake
Lightly grease a 6.5inch deep round spring form tin. Line the base and side 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, creating a dip in the middle to allow for doming in the oven. Press down gently.
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 rum. 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.
Makes 1 x 6.5ch cake.
When ready to decorate
Ingredients - Decoration
500g fondant icing
2 tsp Brandy or rum
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 or rum 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 and 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)