I made Christmas Cake (With the help of Delicious Alchemy‘s Christmas Fruit Cake Mix). Doesn’t it look fab?
I will be honest, I am generally one of those people who can take or leave Christmas Cake. I don’t go out of my way to make it because it always seems to be the last thing to be eaten and is hanging around the house for weeks after the big event.
Sure….. when I have a piece, I do mostly enjoy eating it, but it’s not something that I regularly bake as I would rather put my time credits into making other (chocolatey) stuff. So when Delicious Alchemy asked whether I would like to try their new, limited edition Christmas Fruit Cake Mix it looked like a ‘win-win’. It took the drama out of having to plan and source a recipe and at the end of it I would get Christmas Cake without any faff….
Before going gluten free, Christmas Cake was mostly something we got gifted in left-over slab form and usually from parents who are now of a generation that weren’t too adventurous with deviating from tradition. That meant that the cake was (without exception) slathered with hard, tooth-breaking sharp-peaks of royal icing and a sandwiched layer of slightly bitter shop-bought marzipan.
I am afraid my cake may be looked on with disappointment and scorn by the ‘elderlies’ (as Miss GF calls them)…….. ‘Red and Green fondant Icing? Really?? But that looks nothing like snow’ I can hear them mumble…..
Grumble they may….. but now I have made my cakes, I LOVE them! You will see that I say ‘them’ rather than ‘it’….. I figured that if any was left over and going to get ‘gifted’ at the end of Christmas, then it might as well be in real present form (although to be honest, this cake is so delicious, I may hog it all to myself). Either way, no offerings of slab-cake from me. I have gone for cutting one large cake into four smaller squares before decorating, to make them not only more interesting, but also to preserve freshness and make for good sharing too!
I also made my own marzipan from the simplest recipe on the planet. Originally it came from Laura at I’d Much Rather Bake Than, but I have also used it before with great success in my amazing gluten free Battenberg Cake (goodness that cake was good!).
This marzipan is way better than the slightly acrid shop-bought stuff. It is soft, sweet, perfectly almondy and very very moreish. If you make it, ensure you make plenty extra as you will want to rip off chunks to munch all on its own. I have saved a big block to cut and coat in chocolate as an extra special Christmas treat.
And the fruity sponge centrepiece? Well….. I have tried and tested many Delicious Alchemy products before now (you can see some of the recipes here, here, here and here), but this Christmas Cake (in my humble opinion) is one of their best.
I will be honest that when I read the list of ingredients, I was a little disappointed that the fruit was limited to raisins, dates and sultanas and that there weren’t any cherries in there. On the other hand, I have a predictable habit of treating packet mixes as a base to build on, so decided to take what looked like a fantastic foundation and build on it with all the extra bits I thought I might miss if they weren’t in each Christmassy bite.
A quick rummage and I found some glace cherries, Iranian pistachios and slivered almonds left over from a batch of Christmas Extra Fruity Mincemeat that I had just made……. threw in a handful of each (which did not affect the consistency of the base-mix at all) and hey presto…… Cake done!
The texture and flavour of the sponge is really really good….. This mix is a real find for us gluten-avoiders. It is rich and beautifully spiced, soft yet fruity, wonderfully moist, perfectly seasonal and very VERY easy to make.
You have the choice of feeding your cake with either alcohol or juice as with any other traditional Christmas cake and I can vouch for the fact that it matures beautifully when left for a few days…… becoming more and more succulent and delicious. Being a seasonal enjoyer of the strong stuff, I fed my cake with Calvados (apple brandy) which is one of my favourite Christmas tipples, but you can use whatever you fancy….. whisky, brandy, Cointreau….. feel free to experiment. I confess I did up the quantity of alcohol in my cakes (but kept one fed with juice only for my daughter), feeding it twice over a period of a couple of days. The sponge seemed quite happy with an extra alcoholic drenching (I think it thought Christmas and Birthday had arrived at the same time), and it did add an extra seasonal punch.
You will see that I only have three cakes in red and green icing…….. The fourth was passed to my daughter to do as she wished….. I’m well-impressed! Way better than mine…… I think she may have quite a flair on the creative cake side!
I am sharing my little Christmas cakes with the following foodie link-ups :
Alphabakes with Caroline Makes (and The More Than Occasional Baker). December’s letter is ‘N’…. Christmas cake simply wouldn’t be right without nuts in there so I threw in a handful each of Iranian Pistachios and Slivered Almonds for good measure.
Love Cake with Ness at Jibber Jabber who’s theme this month is Festive Fun.
The No Waste Food Challenge with Jen’s Food (guest hosting this month for Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary). This cake uses left-over nuts and cherries as well as the last bit of the bottle of Calvados (shucks…. I’ll have to go buy another one!).
Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.
Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.
Simply Eggcellent with the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen. Anything goes this month with his eggy themed linky-party. Eggs are one of the things you do need to add to this mix….. 2 large free range ones!
Cook Once Eat Twice with Corina at Searching For Spice. Christmas Cake is one bake you really do get your money’s worth from…. Because you only tend to eat a little slice at a time and it keeps so well, it seems to last forever (well…. almost….. although I challenge you to hang onto any of this one beyond Christmas as it is sooooo good).
The Food Year Link-Up with Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen.
Christmas Cake (with the help of a Delicious Alchemy Christmas Fruit Cake Mix) Makes 1x 7 inch/18cm or 4x 3½ inch/9 cm cakes
1 x Delicious Alchemy Christmas Fruit Cake Mix
110g unsalted butter (room temperature) or dairy free alternative
zest 1 large orange – finely grated
120 ml Calvados (or other brandy/alcohol of choice) or orange/apple juice
2 large eggs
handful glace cherries (optional)
handful chopped Iranian pistachios (optional)
handful slivered almonds (optional)
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar – sifted
1 large egg – beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
approx 3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 teaspoons Vodka or Gin (or water)
Ready to Roll fondant icing – colour of choice
- Cake : Preheat the oven to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2. Line the base and sides of a 7 inch/18 cm baking tin with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, zest and 45 ml brandy/juice.
- Whisk the eggs separately and then add to the butter with the dry cake mix, glace cherries, and nuts (if using).
- Beat together for 2½ minutes, until the mix comes together and is well-combined.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for about 1 hour 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Once cooked, leave in the tin and cool for about 20 minutes, before making a number of holes across the top with a skewer. Carefully pour over or use a syringe to insert about half of the remaining brandy/juice into the cake.
- Once absorbed, remove the cake from the tin (baking paper still intact) and wrap the whole thing in foil. Leave for 24 to 48 hours, before opening and pouring on/syringing the remaining brandy/juice into the cake. Seal in foil again and leave until ready to ice.
- When ready to decorate, make the Marzipan : In a large bowl, weigh and stir together the almonds and sifted icing sugar.
- Add the almond extract and beaten egg and stir to combine with a flat knife until the whole mix comes together to form a dough.
- Knead for a couple of minutes until completely even and then wrap in cling film until ready to use.
- Unwrap the cake and if you are making smaller cakes, use a very sharp knife to quarter the large cake ready to decorate. Place on your chosen serving boards.
- Warm the apricot jam until runny (add a little water if too thick) and then brush over the top and sides of the cakes completely.
- Quarter the marzipan (if making smaller cakes or use the whole block if making a larger cake) and roll out one piece to a size that will completely cover the cake down to the board. Carefully lay over the cake and gently ease inwards to fully and tightly cover the sponge. Trim the marzipan at the base of the cake. Repeat the process for each cake.
- Size and roll out the fondant icing by the same process. Brush the marzipan with Gin/Vodka (or water), before covering with fondant icing and smoothing down the sides with an icing smoother or palette knife. Trim at the base of the cake.
- Decorate as you wish.