Rich and fruity, this classic gluten-free Christmas cake is packed with festive flavour but also suitable for those avoiding gluten. It's quick to make as there's no need to soak the dried fruit beforehand, and the Royal icing snow scene is easy to create yet looks gorgeous. You can omit the almonds and marzipan (or try a nut-free version) if you also want to make this cake nut-free.
- Put the dried fruit in a large saucepan and stir in the mixed spice, orange juice and zest, orange liqueur and port. Stir well and place over a low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring regularly. Allow to bubble for 3-4 mins or until the liquid is almost all absorbed, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 mins.
- Preheat the oven to gas 2, 150°C, fan 130°C. Butter and line the base and sides of a 23cm round cake tin with three layers of baking paper, greasing with a little extra butter between each layer of paper to help it stick.
- Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the butter, sugar and flours. Beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth and light. Beat in the soaked fruit and the almonds, if using. Spoon into the prepared tin and make a wide, shallow dip in the surface (this will help prevent the cake rising in the middle). Cover the cake loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs. Remove the foil and bake for a further 30-45 mins or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Check every 15 mins or so for the last half hour of cooking. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin for 20-30 mins. Carefully turn out, peel off the lining paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
- To ice the cake, first turn over so the bottom is now the top and put on a board or serving plate. Brush all over the top of the cake with warmed apricot jam – you can sieve the jam first if it is very lumpy.
- Put 2 tbsp of cold water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over 250ml of the royal icing sugar. Beat together with an electric whisk until very smooth. Add a further 225g of royal icing sugar and another 1 ½ tbsp cold water. Whisk slowly at first and then with more speed until the icing is very smooth and forms thick peaks. You may need to add a little more water or royal icing sugar, but do so sparingly as you reach the right consistency. Once you are happy, continue whisking for a further 5 mins. Set aside.
- Press the marzipan into a flat ball and roll out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until around 5mm thick. Using the 23cm cake tin as a template, cut around the marzipan and then lift carefully onto the cake and trim a little if necessary (you could make leftover marzipan into little sweets and pop into petit fours cases to serve with coffee).
- Spoon the royal icing on top of the cake and swirl with a dessert spoon to create high peaks and waves. Put aside for the icing to set for at least 3 hrs before serving.
This is perfect for a treat but maybe not for everyday!
Freezing and defrosting guidelines
Bake according to the recipe but stop before adding decoration or icing. Allow to cool completely. Wrap well in clingfilm and tin foil (to prevent freezer burn) and freeze for up to 3 months.
Loosen the tin foil and clingfilm but leave to defrost in packaging at room temperature for several hours before serving.
If you wish to add icing or decoration, add it after the baked goods have fully defrosted and are at room temperature.