Time to get in the festive spirit with this lovely gluten free Christmas cake recipe. Packed with brandy-infused fruit and flavoured with warming spices, orange zest and vanilla, it’s a delicious cake to eat.
Plus, it’s surprisingly easy to make. You just need a little time for the various stages, but not much work is required at each point. Perhaps bake yourself some gluten free mince pies to keep you well fuelled along the way :).
This traditional British Christmas cake can be made 2-3 months before Christmas, then “fed” (with alcohol) every fortnight.
You then add a layer of marzipan and fondant icing (or royal icing) to your gluten free Christmas cake, in the days before Christmas. Plus you can have some fun decorating it with holly sprigs, fondant snowflakes or festive figurines.
Do I Have to Make it So Far in Advance?
No, you can make your cake closer to Christmas day too, for more of a fruity and light cake (well…as light as Christmas cake can be :), there’s a lot of dried fruit in there!).
If you want a more matured cake, you need at least 6 weeks of feeding time, to really help those flavours develop.
What Dried Fruit Do You Use?
The cake pictured in this post is a classic gluten free Christmas cake using mixed fruit with peel (like this mix, which you can find in most supermarkets in the UK).
However, if you want to make your own mixture from scratch you can add lots of lovely extras. Dried dates, figs, glace cherries, candied peel, nuts and flaked almonds are all great additions to your raisin/sultana/currant base.
In my recipe I’ve given details of the combination I used for my own Christmas cake. Which is currently maturing nicely in its tin! I like flaked almonds for some added texture, and adding extra peel, cherries and figs for variety. As pictured below.
What Makes This Version Gluten Free?
It’s a fairly traditional Christmas cake recipe (thank you Delia Smith for the starting point – she is my Christmas cake guru), with a gluten free twist. In place of standard flour, we are using gluten free self raising flour, ground almonds and xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is a very handy binding ingredient, which mimics gluten in bakes. Without it, your cake will be more prone to crumbling, but will still taste good.
The ground almonds also help with the final crumb structure, plus they retain moisture in the crumb. Helping to give us a cake that is wonderful to eat.
I used the FREEE by Doves Farm gluten free self raising flour or the M&S gf self raising flour for my cakes. However, any self raising blend should work nicely.
Can I Use Plain Gluten Free Flour Instead?
Yes. To replace self raising flour with plain, please use 180g plain flour plus 2 extra tsp baking powder. So a total of 3 tsp baking powder in this cake batter.
Any Sneaky Gluten I Should Look Out For When Buying Ingredients?
As always, check the label on everything. Most dried fruit should be fine, although some ground almonds (notably the Lidl ones) have a may contain warning. I buy the Sainsburys, Tesco or Morrsions ones, which are all fine.
Marzipan sometimes contains wheat starch. I used the Tesco ready-rolled marzipan sheet, which at the time of writing was gluten free (whereas the Waitrose one was not).
Why Does the Baking Tin Need to Be Lined So Much?
As this gluten free Christmas cake spends 3 hours in the oven, the double lining on the base and extra outer layer help to stop the outside from cooking too quickly.
Do not skip the lining method, as otherwise your cake may end up too dry at the sides and bottom.
I also chose to use the Delia Smith method of adding a little “hat” of baking paper to the top of the lining set up. This will prevent the top of to cake from overbaking or becoming too brown.
What Size Baking Tin Do I Need?
I would recommend using a non-stick deep cake tin, 20cm wide. I used a springform tin, so if you have one of those they are ideal. Alternatively, a loose-bottom tin will also work.
Gluten Free Christmas Cake Recipe
Okay lovely people, let’s get to the recipe! This recipe is for a 20cm gluten free Christmas cake, which will yield 12-16 portions. The cake keeps really well, due to the high fruit content, so there’s no rush to eat it.
You can make this cake up to 3 months in advance, or about 6 weeks before Christmas for a matured cake. If you need to make it closer to the day that’s fine too, your cake will be slightly lighter in flavour and less boozy.
You will find LOADS of step by step photos underneath the recipe, to give you a visual guide. For any other help along the way or if you have questions, please do message me on social media (@myglutenfreeguide) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really hope you enjoy this gluten free Christmas cake. If you do, please leave a review on the recipe card below, it makes a world of difference to me :). And you can also share photos of your home creations in my Cooking Club on Facebook.
Thanks so much! Laura xxx
A classic British Christmas cake, made gluten free. Rich, boozy fruit cake covered with marzipan and fondant icing. Make up to 3 months in advance.
- 160ml brandy (plus extra for feeding the cake, you'll need 1 tbsp per fortnight)
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 0.5 tsp ground nutmeg
- 0.5 tsp ground ginger (or you can sub with extra mixed spice)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 900g mixed fruit with candied peel (OR try my fruity mix from scratch: 250g raisins, 250g currants, 200g sultanas, 100g mixed peel, 70g glace cherries chopped, 50g dried figs chopped)
- Zest of two large oranges
- 75g ground almonds
- 200g gluten free self raising flour
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 175g dark brown sugar
- 200g unsalted butter (at room temp so slightly soft)
- 4 large eggs
- Big pinch of salt
- 50g flaked almonds (optional)
- 400g ready rolled marzipan (or you can roll it out yourself if you prefer)
- 60g apricot jam (blackcurrant or damson also work nicely)
- 450g ready rolled fondant icing (or you can roll it out yourself if you prefer)
- Finishing touches - I used a ribbon, some red and green fondant icing to make holly decorations, fondant cut offs to make snowballs and a snowman Christmas decoration.
Christmas cake is surprisingly easy to make, there are just various stages to work through and a three hour bake time. A perfect weekend baking project.
The night before baking:
- Pour the brandy into a small saucepan, along with the orange zest and vanilla essence. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer.
- Stir in the mixed spice, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Then add the mixed fruit (all the fruit and candied peel) to the pan.
- Mix well and cook over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Then take off the heat, tip into a tupperware box with lid (large bowl also fine, simply cover well with cling film) and leave overnight. The mixed fruit will infuse with brandy and spices, giving a wonderful base for your cake.
Baking day - prepare the cake tin:
Christmas cake tins need to be lined really well before baking, to stop the outside of the cake from baking too quickly. Follow these steps to ensure you don't have a dry outside edge on your cake, and it is protected from the heat.
- Take a 20cm springform or loose bottom cake tin, with sides at least 7cm tall.
- Using non-stick baking paper, cut two circles to fit the bottom of the tin. Also a length long enough to wrap completely around the inside of your tin, 15cm deep.
- Make 2cm deep cuts along one of the long sides of the length of baking paper (the one to line the sides of the tin), to create little tabs. Then line the inside sides of the tin, with the little tabs folded onto the base of the tin (see image below). Then place the two circles of baking paper on the base of the tin (grease a little between the layers to stop the top one slipping around).
- Measure a length of brown paper or newspaper (thick baking paper is also fine) double the height of your tin and long enough to wrap around it completely (with a little overlap). Fold it in half lengthways (to give you a double layer of wrapping, then wrap it around the outside of the tin and secure in place with string (see image below).
- Finally, cut a square of baking paper a little larger than the top of your cake tin. Cut a hole in the centre, about an inch wide. This will sit on top during baking, to protect the top from getting too brown. The hole is to allow steam to escape during cooking. Set this aside for now.
Your tin is now ready :D.
Make & Bake the Cake:
- Preheat your oven to 130C (fan).
- Add the ground almonds, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, sugar, eggs, butter and salt to your stand mixer bowl. Mix for a few minutes until you have a smooth, thick cake batter. [if you don't have a stand mixer, you can do this buy hand - start with the butter and sugar, mix until smooth, then add the other ingredients and mix again].
- Now tip the tub of infused mixed fruit (and any liquid, although most will have been soaked up by the fruit) into the cake batter. Along with the flaked almonds. Use a wooden spoon to fold these through the batter, until you have a thick, dense cake mixture.
- Spoon all of the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Take care to push it down into the base of the tin, to eliminate any air pockets.
- Smooth the top of the cake so that it is fairly level. Then place the square piece of baking paper on top of the tin (it should sit on the baking paper sides above the cake, not the cake itself).
- Place the cake into the oven on the lower shelf and bake for 3 hours.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and use a skewer to poke a few small holes in the top of the cake. Then pour 1 tbsp brandy over the warm cake, so it drizzles into the holes.
- Allow to cool in the tin for an hour, before removing the cake from the tin and lining papers and cooling on a wire rack.
Storing & Feeding the Cake:
- Once fully cooled, wrap the cake first in a large piece of non-stick baking paper, then two layers of tin foil. Ensure it is tightly wrapped, then place into a cake tin or large tupperware.
- The cake can be left to mature for up to 3 months, being "fed" every two weeks with 1-2 tbsp of brandy.
- To feed it, simply unwrap the cake to expose the top only, then drizzle the brandy over the top, before rewrapping and placing back in its tin.
Icing & Decorating the Cake (in the week running up to Christmas - takes 2 days):
- Unwrap the cake and place on your chosen serving board.
- Warm the apricot jam in the microwave for 20 seconds to loosen it, then brush it all over the top and sides of the cake with a pastry brush.
- Unroll the marzipan and lay it over your cake. Smooth the top and then smooth down the sides. Use a sharp knife to cut off any excess marzipan at the folds and base (leave a couple mm skirt around the base). Use a fondant smoother or your hand to smooth and even out the marzipan layer as much as possible.
- Use the blunt edge of a knife to tuck the marzipan at the base under the cake, to seal it against the board. Then cover the cake with a clean tea towel and leave the marzipan to dry out. This normally takes 1-2 days, when the marzipan has lost its oily sheen.
- Finally add the fondant icing, using a similar smoothing, cutting and tucking technique to the marzipan layer. Smooth it well and add any decorations. If making fondant shapes to add to the cake, use a little water to help them stick to the cake.
- Once decorated, store in a container or serve straight away. Enjoy and Happy Christmas!
Lining the Cake Tin
Preparing the Fruit
Baking the Gluten Free Christmas Cake
Storing the Cake
Icing & Decorating Your Gluten Free Christmas Cake
For more Christmas bakes, why not try some of my other gluten free festive recipes:
Happy baking! Laura xxx