Gluten free Christmas cake

Gluten free Christmas cake

I’ve had a couple of enquiries about a gluten free Christmas cake recipe. I love that because of such requests, I’m gently nudged to get on and check out things that can sometimes hang about on my to do list for far too long! Thanks for taking the time to get in touch with your requests and questions, it makes me feel that what I do is of help and value to you. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of homemade Christmas cake and feel so fortunate that for as long as I can remember, my mum would make one for us all to tuck into over the festive season. I loved my mum’s Christmas cake so much; we even had it as our wedding cake. However, as I’ve already shared a gluten free version of my mum’s Christmas pudding recipe, I thought it would be nice to ring the changes and work with a Delia Smith Christmas cake recipe. The recipe I used came from the book titled ‘book of cakes’.   

I’m so happy with how this gluten free version of Delia’s Christmas cake turned out. It’s beautifully rich, moist and all you’d expect from a traditional Christmas cake. I’ve absolutely loved testing this recipe out and it’s with sheer delight that I now get to share with you how I made it.


Fruit to be prepped in advance
450g (l lb) *currants
175g (6oz) *sultanas 
175g (6oz) *raisins
75g (3oz) *glacé cherries, rinsed in cold water, patted dry and finely chopped
50g 2oz) *mixed peel, finely chopped
3 tablespoons brandy (or freshly squeezed orange juice)

If you prefer you can simply use 850g ready mixed, dried fruit and add 75g of glacé cherries if they’re not in there already. The recipe will work with any ratio of dried fruit, providing the total weight is the same, so pick out your favourite things!

For the cake
225g (8oz) gluten free plain flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (only add ½ teaspoon if the gf flour already contains this or guar gum) 
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon *grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon *mixed spice 
50g (2oz) *ground almonds (or *almonds, blanched peeled and chopped or chopped *mixed nuts)
225g (8oz) light brown muscovado sugar (or soft brown sugar)
1 dessertspoon black treacle (or molasses)
225g (8oz) unsalted butter, softened 
4 large eggs, beaten (room temp)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

To feed the cake 
Brandy, as and when you choose (see recipe notes below)

Ingredients for gluten free Christmas cake


Place all the dried fruit into a large glass/pyrex or ceramic bowl and pour over the brandy. Mix well and cover with a clean tea towel or piece of foil. Don’t allow the foil to touch the fruit. Pop the bowl in a cool place and leave for at least 24 hours to give the brandy chance to soak into the fruit.

Mixed dried fruit in a large glass bowl

Grease and line a 7 inch square or 8 inch round deep cake tin. To prevent the cake catching in the oven, line the tin so that the greaseproof paper around the sides is double the depth of the tin. To help the paper sit better in the tin, fold the long edge of the paper over by about ½ inch and then make 1 inch snips all the way along.

Greased and lined 7inch square tin

Once in position, add an additional square or circle of paper over the top to secure the paper in place. It will also be extra protection for the cake as it bakes.  

Greased and lined 7inch square tin

Prepare the oven to accommodate the height of the cake (with its fancy collar) by removing/adjusting the racks.

Preheat the oven to 145C/275 F/Gas 1/125 C Fan.

Place the treacle in a warm place so it melts a little. 

Sieve the gf flour, xanthan gum, salt and spices into a bowl. Give it a stir or whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients. 

Gluten free flour and spices in a large bowl

Add the softened butter and sugar to a REALLY large mixing bowl (everything for the cake is going to end up in this bowl, so it needs to be big!) and then using a stand or handheld electric mixer whisk until the mixture is pale and fluffy.  

Brown sugar and butter creamed together in a large bowl

Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, whisking after each addition. Don’t worry if you find the mixture curdles slightly at this stage, mine did, but the cake still turned out great.  

Brown sugar, butter and eggs mixed together in a large bowl

Next add the sieved flour and spices, ground almonds (or chopped nuts), grated orange and lemon zest and slowly fold into the mixture. 

Some ingredients for a gluten free Christmas cake in a large bowl

Add the soaked fruit and black treacle and then using a spatula or large spoon mix well.

Ingredients for a gluten free Christmas cake in a large mixing bowl

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth down with the back a dessertspoon. Using the dessertspoon make a light dip in the centre of the cake. 

Gluten free Christmas cake prior to baking

Wrap a double sheet of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure tightly with string. I went with an extra high collar of paper (twice the height of the tin), and it really paid off, as the cake didn’t catch at all whilst it was baking.

Square tin protected by a brown paper collar

Slide the cake into the oven and bake for 3½ hours or until when a skewer is inserted into the middle of the cake and it comes out clean and you can hear no sizzling noise coming from the cake. Mind your ears and face if you choose to listen to your cake!!

Freshly baked gluten free Christmas cake

Remove the cake from the oven and then using a skewer make a few holes in the top of a cake and spoon over 2 tablespoons of brandy. Leave the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin.

Gluten free Christmas cake freshly baked and brushed with brandy

Once the cake is cold, wrap it up nice and securely in a double sheet of greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container. If you don’t have a large enough container, you can wrap the cake in a double sheet of foil after it has been wrapped in the greaseproof paper. But don’t wrap the cake directly in foil, as the acid in the fruit can cause corrosion and mould can develop.  

Gluten free Christmas cake wrapped up in greaseproof paper

Recipe notes and suggestions:

I made two Christmas cakes using Delia’s base recipe, but with a slight variation to each cake. One had the dried fruit ratio recommended (with a few additional cherries chucked in) and chopped nuts. The other I used ready mixed dried fruit, ground almonds and light brown muscovado sugar. I baked both cakes, one round and one square for the same length of time. There was barely anything between them, but me and Neil leaned towards the cake with the ground almonds rather than the one with chopped nuts as we preferred the texture. I do however feel, that the individual dried fruit quantities that Delia recommends gives the cake a more traditional Christmas cake flavour. But again, both cakes were outstanding and that’s why I’ve listed ingredient options for you to pick out whatever takes your fancy! 

Whilst I feel the cake is total perfection and oozing with flavour, for a richer more intense cake you could switch the sugar to dark muscovado instead of light. Since making the cake I’ve spotted that Delia’s recipe online does suggest dark muscovado sugar within the recipe.

Delia advises that rich fruit cakes are best made eight weeks in advance as they taste better when they are given chance to mature. I don’t doubt that she’s spot on with that. However, I can tell you that both fruit cakes I trialled tasted incredible even one week after baking. So, no need to fret, if you’re on the last-minute rustling one up. Still go for it!

The cake can be fed with brandy every one or two weeks. But it’s best not to feed it more than four times, as over feeding will make the cake soggy. It’s also good to alternate feeding the cake both top and bottom. After feeding re-wrap the cake in fresh greaseproof paper. Here’s a great article about feeding fruit cakes.

If like me, you’re a fan of decorating your Christmas cake with traditional royal icing, it’s good to marzipan your cake seven days prior to icing. This will give the marzipan chance to dry out and prevent any oil seeping through and spoiling the icing. Delia recommends that a fruit cake should be decorated with royal icing no sooner than five days before you plan to cut into it. If you’re not crazy about marzipan and icing, you could instead decorate your cake with a few whole blanched almonds. To do this, just gently lay the almonds over the top of the cake before baking.

I decided to share the Christmas/rich fruit cake recipe as a stand alone recipe and then it’s here for you to use as and when you like and for whatever celebration you wish. I plan to share in a separate post how I decorate the cakes. Of course, I will do this in plenty of time for Christmas.

It’s been a true joy sharing this gluten free Christmas cake recipe with you. I do hope I’ve covered everything, but as always give me a shout if anything is unclear.

Credit and thanks for the original recipe I used (which I adapted to make it gluten free) must go to the rather fabulous Delia Smith.

For now,
Liz x

*Check this product to ensure there are no gluten containing ingredients or gluten ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack. If in doubt leave it out. 

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