This traditional but Gluten Free Christmas Cake can also be made dairy free. Make the rich fruit cake in advance so it matures beautifully in time for the festive period. It is simple to make, you can choose your tipple and I can guarantee that nobody will know that it’s gluten and dairy free!
When I wanted to make a Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas Cake for my family, I set to work adapting a James Martin Recipe for a Make & Mature Christmas Cake.
I used my Gluten Free Flour Blend in place of the relatively small amount of flour in the recipe. I also swapped out the butter for a 50/50 mix of dairy free margarine and coconut oil.
Although it is often difficult to tell the difference between my gluten free bakes and their regular gluten versions, I would defy anyone to know that this is a free from Christmas Cake!
What is Christmas Cake?
Christmas cake is a dark and rich fruit cake packed with booze soaked dried fruit and traditional spices. It is in particular an English tradition and usually made several months in advance. The cake is then “fed” with alcohol every week or two until it is decorated and eaten around Christmas time.
The Scottish version of the cake called Dundee Cake has a similar base but is fed with whisky rather than the English preference for rum and is decorated with glazed fruits and nuts.
When to Make Christmas Cake
You can make Gluten Free Christmas cake up to 3 or 4 months in advance. The longer the cake is left to mature, the deeper and richer the flavour will become. A longer maturation time will allow for more alcohol to be fed into the cake but you can just leave longer between feeds if you don’t want to go too boozy.
You could make Christmas cake in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas but I would recommend not leaving it any later than Stir Up Sunday if possible.
What is Stir Up Sunday?
Stir up Sunday is the Sunday before advent starts. This is usually in the last week or so of November. This is traditionally the day when Christmas Puddings are made but I don’t think anyone will be complaining if you stir up a cake rather than a pudding!
How to Decorate a Gluten Free Christmas Cake
You don’t actually need to decorate the cake at all if you don’t want to. Making a naked Christmas Cake really means that you can eat it year round as a tasty, moist fruit cake.
If you choose to make an Iced Christmas cake you could cover it with a layer of marzipan and then a layer of white fondant icing. Make sure to brush the cake with a layer of apricot jam so that it sticks and ensure that any shop bought icing is dairy/gluten free if required.
Alternatively you can make up a royal icing to spread over the cake top and/or sides. This is an ideal icing to make peaks that look like icicles.
You should also not feed the cake with any alcohol in the week before you intend to decorate.
As for anything you choose to add on top of that layer of icing, the sky is the limit. Think Christmas trees, snowmen, Father Christmas and reindeer. You can make decorations or buy them ready made. Or just use regular decorations which you remove before eating. Don’t forget to sterilise them first.
How to Feed a Christmas Cake?
Feeding a cake is the process of carefully spooning alcohol such as Whisky, Run, Cointreau (orange liquor) or Amaretto (almond liquor) over the cake at regular intervals.
I would suggest that you want to feed the cake 3 to 4 times so you can work out the interval depending on when you bake it.
You can make the first feed as the cake is cooling and you should make sure the last feed is at least a week before you intend to decorate/eat the cake. Each feed should involve around 2tbsp of liquid. Make sure to wrap the cake up well in between feeds.
The alcohol provides flavour and moistness to the cake as well as helping to preserve it. I chose to use Amaretto in the cake batter itself and then feed with Cointreau. But you really can choose your favourite varieties.
If you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to feed the cake at all. Or if you want to be doubly sure it is lovely and moist, you can feed with with a light sugar syrup. Simply melt together 3 parts water to 1 part sugar. You could also switch the water for orange juice for extra flavour.
How to Eat Gluten Free Christmas Cake
A nice slice with a cup of tea is simply perfect. Traditional Christmas Cake is usually served at room temperature, especially if it is iced.
In some parts of the UK, fruit cake is often eaten with slices of cheese. As this is most common in the North West of England, local cheeses such as Lancashire and Wendsleydale are common. This is obviously not a great option if you are dairy free but is otherwise worth trying!
There are many other ways to be creative with Christmas Cake. One great creative way is to slice it and gently fry it in a little butter (or dairy free alternative). This warms the spices and slightly caramelises the crust. Serve with cream (or alternative) and fruit for breakfast.
How to Line a Christmas Cake Tin
For those of you, like me, who rarely bother with the ‘faff’ of lining a tin, I can assure you that this is the time to bother. The rich stickiness of a gluten free fruit cake is not fun to try and prise from an unlined tin.
I am going to hand you over to Delia Smith for her detailed instructions on How To Line a Tin with Parchment instructions.
More Christmas Treats
Can You Show me How to Make This Cake?
Yes I can! In fact I have a whole online gluten free Christmas cooking course that you can join.
You’ll learn (via two pre-recorded workshops) how to make a huge variety of bakes from stollen to mince pies, Christmas cake and even rough puff pastry (for those all important sausage rolls!).
In addition to access to the workshops you have all the recipes in PDF format to print out along with my help and support.
If you’d like to know more then hop over to my gluten free Christmas cooking page or add to your basket below. You can also download my Christmas Made Easy eBook with instructions on how to make more Christmas Bakes.
Save my recipe for Gluten Free Dairy Free Christmas Cake For Later
The Full Recipe
Gluten Free Christmas Cake (Dairy Free)
- 500 g mixed dried fruit
- 150 g dried apricots - roughly chopped into small pieces
- 150 g dried dates - roughly chopped into small pieces
- 100 g dried prunes - roughly chopped into small pieces
- 100 g glace cherries - roughly chopped
- 150 ml amaretto - or alcohol or juice of choice
- 150 g soft brown sugar
- 125 g hard margarine like Stork - the block, rather than the tub…since the latter is not dairy-free
- 125 g coconut oil - or the Biona unflavoured one
- 1 lemon - zest and juice
- 1 orange - zest and juice
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g ground almonds
- 175 g plain Free From Fairy flour blend
- 2 tsp ground flax seeds - I do mine in my coffee grinder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 6 free range eggs - beaten
- Place the mixed fruits (you could use what you have/want) into a large bowl and cover with 150ml alcohol or juice of your choice. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours.
- Meanwhile prepare your tin.
- Line a deep 20cm round cake tin with 2 layers of baking parchment. Wrap 2 layers of baking parchment around the outside of the tin too and secure with string (see link below for how to do this).
- Once the fruit has soaked, take a huge pan (I used my pressure cooker) and melt the coconut oil and stork, along with the sugar.
- Once melted remove from the heat and add the spices, orange and lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract and soaked fruit. Stir well.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir well again.
- Finally add the beaten eggs and stir to combine.
- Place the mixture in your prepared tin and place in a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees (130degree fan), gas mark 2, for 2 hours.
- Remove from the oven, spike all over with a skewer or fork and drizzle with 2 tbsp of your alcohol or juice of choice.
- Leave to cool in the tin before wrapping in the baking parchment and storing away in an airtight container.
- I plan to ‘feed’ my cake every 2 weeks with 2tbsp cointeau. Use whatever alcohol or juice you like, but this will make sure it is lovely and moist (and boozy!!!). Remember to wrap back up and store in the container after every ‘feed’!
- Leave the cake for a week without ‘feeding’ it before icing to make sure the icing sticks.