Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Christmas Fruit Cake: Murrambidgee Cake

I have a confession to make: I hate Christmas cake. Can't stand the stuff. The dense claggy crumb, the overly sweet marzipan and royal icing, it's just never done it for me. Not to mention all that hoopla with baking the cake a month in advance, soaking the fruit and rolling the marzipan and cutting pristine holly leaves out of ready to roll icing. It's a cake to be baked by a perfectionist baker, not an idle one.

So instead I've been searching my cookery books to find the perfect festive fruit cake, one that's quick and easy to make and scrumptious and subtle to taste. This wonderful recipe by Sophie Grigson is ideal, a family favourite created by her mother the great food writer Jane Grigson, which tastes gorgeous whether made on Christmas Eve or a week before. It's surprisingly healthy, consisting more of fruit and nut than cake. I've turned it gluten free and made a few other adaptations to use up our store cupboard glace fruit and nuts, but this is still very much the Murrambidgee cake of the Grigson family fame.

Adapted from the recipe in Sophie Grigson's book The Country Kitchen. Buy the book on Amazon here

Serves 10-12

150g walnut halves
50g whole almonds
50g whole hazelnuts
50g pistachio nuts, shelled
50g pine nuts
250g stoned halved dates, or 100g sultanas & 150g dried peach halves
175g glace cherries
100g seedless raisins
100g chopped candied peel
finely grated zest of 1 lemon or lime
100g gluten free flour mix (Dove's Farm or M&S)
half a teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon salt
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
half a tablespoon thin honey
brandy or rum

1. Turn the oven to 150C (130C fan ovens). Grease and line a round 20cm baking tin.

2. Roast the hazels, almonds and pistachios for 10 minutes in the oven, then leave to cool before rubbing the skins off the hazels.

3. Chop the nuts and dates or peaches in half.

4. In a large bowl, mix all the nuts, candied peel, lemon zest and fruit together. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt on top.

5. In a second bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla extract together.

6. Add the beaten egg and vanilla, and stir until well combined.

7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.

8. Bake in the oven for 1 and a half or 2 hours. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

9. When baked, leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before running a knife inside the edges to lever the cake carefully out onto a wire rack.

10. Place the cake on a clean cloth, before piercing a few holes with the skewer into the top of the cake, and pouring the alcohol in.

for the optional topping:

apricot jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice
60ml water
walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachio nuts
glace cherries
glace ginger
candied peel
marron glaces
anything else you fancy

11. Heat the apricot jam, lemon juice and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Boil for 10-15 minutes, before forcing through a sieve or wire strainer. Brush the liquid glaze over the top and side of the cake.

12. Place the topping fruit and nuts over the top of the cake, press down firmly before brushing with more glaze. Leave to cool and set.

13. Carefully wrap the cake in greaseproof paper, and then in cling film or kitchen foil. Store in an airtight cake tin.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs.

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