Last year I made two Christmas puddings, one of which was consumed and after consultation the other was kept for this Christmas. The consultation wasn't very wide; it extended as far as asking one of my close colleagues whether she thought a homemade Christmas pudding could be saved for an entire year. Chance would have it that she was the very best person to have asked - it turned out that her mother deliberately used to make a Christmas pudding a whole year in advance of it being eaten because she believed figgy puds were all the better for a year's storage. That was good enough for me, so store away I did. Half way through the year I got cold feet about the whole year-long thing (who wants a Christmas ergot outbreak in their house after all, although it should be noted that there is no rye in Delia's Christmas pudding recipe - see here for my pudding blog post last year) and stuck it in the freezer for extra peace of mind.
So that's the Christmas pudding accounted for. With all the time saved by not having to make a Christmas pudding for this year I decided I could either make a Christmas pudding for next year or bake a Christmas cake instead. Until I'm convinced that the longlife Christmas pudding has been a success however, I'm reserving judgment, so plumped for the cake option instead.
Not everyone in the family appreciates rich fruity puddings and cakes, so I wanted a light option and also a recipe that wouldn't break the bank with a list of ingredients as long as your arm. I'm hoping that the recipe goes some way to fitting the bill. (It helps that we have hens to provide the eggs and I already had all the spices). This cake has the advantage of being gluten free so will be suitable for the Coeliac in our family.
It comes from Harry Eastwood's book Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache (which I still have on loan from the aforementioned colleague and love it so much I don't want to give it back!) It's actually Harry's Christmas cupcake recipe and the amount doesn't make for a very tall cake (ours must be about 6cm, which will be plenty for us). If you wanted a bigger cake you could double the ingredients.
The gluten free Christmas Cake
80g sultanas or raisins
120g candied peel (which nobody here likes so I used papaya and crystallised ginger instead. They don't like ginger either but I love it so I'm hoping they won't notice!)
60g glace cherries
60g chopped pecans
4 tbsp brandy (you could dispense with this ingredient; the cheapest brandy we've found round here is in Sainsbury's)
100g dark brown sugar
200g finely grated carrot (it MUST be finely grated for lightness)
zest of 2 lemons (I used one)
100g rice flour ) You could substitute rice flour and almonds with plain flour if
50g ground almonds ) gluten is not an issue.
2tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
15 scratches nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180 deg c, 350 deg f, gas mark 4.
Line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseprrof paper.
Soak the sultanas and peel (read papaya/ginger) in the brandy (if using - could replace with fruit juice if not).
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light coffee coloured and fluffy. Add the grated carrot and lemon zest and whisk until combined.
Fold in the flour, almonds, baking powder and spices along with the cherries and pecans, until they are all mixed. Finally, add the soaked sultanas and peel.
Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. It will be very runny when it goes into the oven and you might doubt that it will ever firm up, but it does.
The recipe was not designed as long lasting Christmas cake and as it has a high moisture content due to the carrots, like my Christmas pudding, I have erred on the side of caution and popped it in the freezer. I will ice it just before Christmas.