I know it’s only October but if there’s one thing you need to think ahead with, it’s a gluten free Christmas cake.
I feel like this Christmas will see a lot of people opting for homemade treats, and a gluten free Christmas cake is something that needs to be made in advance.
Traditionally, the cake is made on ‘Stir Up Sunday’, and then steeped in brandy or sherry at fortnightly intervals in the run up to Christmas week.
Here I’ll show you exactly how to make the perfect gluten free Christmas cake, from how to line a Christmas cake tin, to how to store and ‘feed’ your Christmas cake.
What is Stir Up Sunday?
Stir Up Sunday is a tradition hailing from Victorian times, and tends to be when people traditionally make their Christmas puddings.
However, it’s also a common time to make a gluten free Christmas cake, as you can then keep the cake for up to six weeks, feeding it with alcohol to keep it moist until you decorate it.
The informal name ‘Stir Up Sunday’ is the last Sunday before Advent – this year Stir Up Sunday will be November 22nd, 2020.
Traditionally families would gather to stir the Christmas pudding, with each member making a wish as they stirred.
The name comes from the opening words of the Book of Common Prayer, which is used on the last Sunday before Advent, and reads: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.”
Because my gluten free Christmas cake is best made 5-to-6-weeks in advance of decorating, Stir Up Sunday is the perfect time to make it if you’re planning to eat it during Christmas week.
How far in advance do I need to make Christmas cake?
Ideally, this cake would be made around five weeks before eating, but it can be made anything up to two months before it’s time to eat.
After baking the cake you wrap it tightly and store in an airtight container, in a cool place.
Then, every two weeks, you can unwrap and ‘feed’ the cake with extra alcohol, before wrapping it tightly back up again.
This is a great way to keep the cake moist and the alcohol will preserve it so it doesn’t go off.
Make sure you don’t feed the cake a week before decorating, and then you can unwrap it from it’s little baking paper parcel and decorate as you wish.
If you want to make this cake a lot closer to Christmas, that’s absolutely fine.
I would recommend making it no less than a week in advance – this way you can feed the cake straight from the oven, then it has a few days to rest before being decorated.
There will still be a good boozy hit from the soaked fruits, so you won’t miss out on that.
Which alcohol should I use for a gluten free Christmas cake?
For starters, all spirits are gluten free so you don’t need to worry about that.
Traditionally a Christmas cake uses brandy or sherry – I personally opted for brandy.
Before making the cake, the fruit should be soaked or 2-3 days in a mixture of brand and orange juice, stirring occasionally.
You then use the same alcohol to ‘feed’ the cake at two-weekly internals until decorating.
If you want an alcohol-free cake you can use tea or fruit juice. However, this will not work in the same way as the alcohol when it comes to feeding the cake.
You’ll want to use less liquid (maybe 1 tbsp) and feed it less often, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy cake, and nobody wants that.
How to line a Christmas Cake tin
When making a gluten free Christmas cake it’s really important to line the line properly.
I use a 20cm/8-inch round springform tin like this one and I’d recommend for best results you do the same. The springform clip makes it a lot easier to get the cake out once cooked.
Lining a Christmas cake tin the right way ensures your cake won’t get burnt – which is really important given it’s in the oven for so long!
1. Cut your baking paper
To start with, you want to cut a circle out of baking paper for the bottom of the tin; do this by drawing around the base and then cutting it out.
Next you want to take a piece of baking paper long enough to go around the whole tin. You also want this to be about twice the height of the tin itself.
This means that when the cake is cooking, the extra height of the baking paper will protect it and also prevent it from burning.
2. Line the inside of the tin
Grease the inside your tin using either butter or some spray-oil like I’ve used. I normally prefer to use butter but the spray is a lot easier and less messy.
Take the long piece of baking paper and fold over approximately 1-inch from the base. Use scissors to then diagonally snip at around 1-inch intervals, like so:
Line the inside of the tin with this piece, so the snipped edge folds along the base of the tin.
Rub the paper onto the greased tin to make it stick and use a little extra oil/butter to stick any overlaps down. It should look like this:
Once you have done this, place the round piece of baking paper onto the base of the tin and stick down onto the butter/oil, using a little extra if needed.
The base should now be lined and look like this:
3. Line the outside of the tin
For extra protection, you want to line the outside of the tin with at least a double layer of baking paper.
Take another long piece of baking paper that first around the tin, and tie it around the outside with a piece of string. Snip off the ends so they don’t catch on the flames!
Finally, if you need to create a ‘lid’ for your cake (see below tips) you can do this by cutting a circle slightly larger than the base of the tin and cut a small hole in the centre to let any steam escape.
You’re now ready to bake your gluten free Christmas cake!
If you’re using a gas oven, just be careful to ensure all that paper isn’t too close to the flames, and keep an eye on it during baking.
How do you decorate a Christmas cake?
There are several options for decorating a gluten free Christmas cake, so it really depends on what sort of finish you’re going for.
I love a naked Christmas cake, made by glazing the cake with warm apricot jam and decorating with nuts and glacé cherries.
Another option is to cover the cake in a layer of marzipan and then a layer of fondant icing.
This create a more traditional look and you can decorate it with iced figures or sprigs of holly.
Also popular is to use royal icing instead of fondant icing on top of the marzipan.
Fondant icing is more tricky as you need to be able to get it smooth, which can take a lot of time and patience.
Royal icing creates a gorgeous, snow-like effect, and it’s much more forgiving. Simply slather it on and use a palette knife to create the texture you want.
Once it’s set you’ll have a pretty sturdy cake which again can be decorated however you choose.
I opted for a naked Christmas cake design but I’d love to know how you decorate yours, so please do tag me in any photos you share of your gluten free Christmas cakes.
My gluten free Christmas cake recipe
Here we go, time to get baking with my gluten free Christmas cake recipe!
This should be made in a deep 20cm/8-inch spring form tin and can be made up two months before you want to decorate it.
And please do leave a review to let others know you loved it too! It would mean the world to me.
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- 1kg dried mixed fruit and peel
- 150ml brandy (plus 2 tbsp)
- 2 x oranges (zest and juice)
- 200g dark brown sugar
- 250g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp treacle
- 4 large eggs
- 200g plain gluten free flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 50g ground almonds
- 50g flaked almonds
For the decoration:
- 2-3 tbsp apricot jam
- Blanched almonds
- Glacé cherries
- Before making the cake you will need to soak your fruit for between 1-3 days. Add the dried fruit and peel, brandy, and the zest and juice of two oranges to a large bowl. Stir well and cover. Leave in a cool place, stirring occasionally, for up to three days before making the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 150'C / 130'C Fan / Gas Mark 2. Grease and line a 20cm/8-inch round baking tin (you will want a fairly deep tin) with a double layer of baking paper. Line the outside of the tin with another double layer of baking paper and secure with string (see blog post above for step-by-step instructions).
- Add the butter, sugar and treacle to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until combined. Add the eggs and beat again (don't worry if the mixture splits, this will be rectified when you add the dry ingredients).
- Sift in the flour and add the mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the ground almonds and flaked almonds and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is fully combined.
- Pour in the soaked fruit and stir well until it is evenly distributed in the cake batter. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin and smooth out the top. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 2 hours 30 minutes. Check the cake after an hour-or-so, if the top is a lovely dark golden colour, you can cover lightly with foil to avoid the cake catching. It's ready when a skewer placed in the centre comes out clean.
- Place the cake on a cooling rack and while it's still in the tin, prick all over with a thin cocktail stick. Pour 2 tbsp brandy over the cake and allow it to cool completely, still in the tin.
- Remove the cooled cake from the tin but do NOT peel off the lining paper from the cake, as this will help it to stay moist. Wrap tightly in baking paper and a layer of foil, and then store in a cool, dark place for up to two months before decorating.
- Every two weeks, 'feed' the cake by unwrapping it, pouring 2 tbsp of brandy over the top and then re-wrapping it before storing again. Make sure you do not feed the cake at least 7 days before decorating.
- Place the apricot jam in a bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds until warm (but do not burn it!). Brush the entire cake with the jam, then decorate with the walnuts, almonds and cherries - or nuts/fruit of your choosing! Store the finished cake in an airtight container.
- You can use sherry instead of brandy. For a non-alcoholic version opt for tea or fruit juice, but do not feed the cake as often as it may end up soggy if using a non-alcoholic liquid.
- It's important to keep the lining paper on the cake when storing otherwise the cake will dry up. The double lining of the tin also ensures the cake doesn't burn in the oven.
- If you'd prefer, you can decorate the cake with a layer of marzipan and then either a layer of fondant icing or royal icing, depending what sort of effect you're after.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 47mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 19gProtein: 4g
Need some more gluten free Christmas inspiration?
If you’re after some more gluten free Christmas classics then make sure you check out my Gluten Free Christmas ebook
From sticky toffee pudding and mince pies to bread sticks and cheese crackers, there’s something for everyone.
You can have a look at my Gluten Free Christmas ebook and purchase it here.
Want to have a go at some of the other gluten free baking recipes on the blog? Give some of these other gluten free recipes a try!
There are plenty to choose from – here are a couple to get you going:
- My sparkly gluten free prosecco cupcakes
- Gluten free chocolate yule log recipe
- Gluten free Christmas shortbread recipe
And if you have any recipe suggestions, please let me know in the comments what you’d like to see next!
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