Wednesday 19 December 2012

Christmas Cake

Well, here it is. My Christmas cake has received its coat of marzipan and I am now officially ready for Christmas!
No, there won't be any icing to go on top as none of us are particularly fond but a double thickness of marzipan suits us nicely. Then a ribbon and a sprig of holly will top it off just right on the day. Mind you, if this cake lasts past the 27th December it will be a miracle as we all love Christmas cake and usually eat it when those peckish intervals happen during irregular Christmas meal scheduling.

For over twenty years I have been using the same well-loved, tried and tested Christmas cake recipe from one of my favourite cookery books. Me being a 'necessity cook' rather than a 'pleasure cook' this book has always been my inspiration. Nothing fancy, just good, sensible recipes that have got me by. It became the familiar source of reference as the off-spring ventured into their own culinary worlds, so much so that the eldest requested a (my!) copy upon embarking on independent university life. Thanks to a certain on-line book retailer, I was relieved to be able to source a copy, and so mine remained safely on the kitchen shelf.

And so, as had become the tradition, the wooden spoon was once again put into action during October half-term, allowing plenty of time for the cake to mature. Over the years, I had got to know all of the ingredients off-by-heart until just over three years ago, something happened to stir everything up and it felt like the end of the world as I knew it. 

Following a number of years of problems, a series of unpleasant tests had concluded that I was in fact gluten intolerant. Not quite Celia the Celiac (coeliac) but to me it was almost as bad. Amongst other things it meant NO MORE CAKE! For that first year I battled to find products to satisfy my cravings. I battled against the tears each time I walked down the biscuit aisle of the supermarket. I battled with myself to accept the change to my lifestyle.

That first Christmas I searched for a recipe for Christmas cake that we could all enjoy and found a lovely recipe by Phil Vickery However, it was rather beyond my 'necessity cooking' style, as the flour substitute needed to be mixed specially and I found this rather a chore. By the following year, I was more in tune with coping with a gluten free diet (and more importantly, feeling so much better in many ways), that I decided to revert to my tried an trusted recipe. This time substituting the normal plain flour for Doves Farm gluten free plain flour and a spoonful of xanthan gum

It worked! Although the texture was very slightly changed, it was the cake that all the family knew and loved - and we could all eat it.

This year, as I was putting my cake into the oven for the long, slow, newspaper-collar-protected-baking, I happened to mention the fact via social media. Very soon after, a lovely lady contacted me, who also has the same intolerance, and asked me if I would like to share my recipe.

And so, thanks to Maria at Gluten Free and Gorgeous, I am here sharing my secret to a successful Christmas - a Christmas cake that makes me feel happy and normal.

The gluten free version is just as easy to make (recipe is readable in image above) by just substituting an equal quantity of GF flour (although experts may beg to differ) and adding the Xanthan gum.

It looks like the normal cake.
It is dosed with brandy and wrapped up tightly, just like the normal cake.
It matures like the normal cake.
It smells like the normal cake.

And once it has been covered in marzipan, everyone naturally thinks it is the normal cake.

My secret is out now but those who had had a slice before this revelation had always complemented me on just how good it was.
Little did they know!

So, that done, now to perfect another Christmas treat - mince pies. Gluten free pastry? Well, I have made some and the resulting mince pies were pretty tasty but boy, was it long-winded and tricky to make... therefore, I shall eat cake!

Here's to a Happy Christmas!


  1. Hi Celia
    Thanks so much for posting the recipe and for the link too. The cake looks wonderful and quite perfect too, I am v impressed! Good to know it's easy to swop regular flour for the gluten free version and it still works. I quite fancy a slice right now but will reach for a gluten free mince pie instead.
    Will put this in my recipe collection, thank you!

  2. Hi Celia. This looks amazing no doubt, can you recommend something for my niece she is 2 years old and she loves eating chocolate cakes. I want to make the best home made chocolate cake.
    Thanks for this though. I will surely try this out too.


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