Xmas Cake (GF, DF, egg free, GAPS versions)

More Xmas recipes here.

This is a beautiful dark cake, but because it's a boiled cake, you don't need to mature it for a month. If you want to use the brandy version and store in the bottom of the fridge for a month, it will improve with maturing, but can be eaten the same day, and still be delicious.

The original recipe came from Nigella Lawson, and although I have made a gazillion changes to it, it is still moist and delicious. I like to think it still has her spirit of largesse and joy.

It can be made free of gluten, starch, dairy and/or eggs.

Gluten free version

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brandy, rum or extra water
  • Juice of one orange
  • Rind of the orange, plus rind of a lemon, finely grated
  • 170g butter or coconut oil
  • 1 cup rapadura, muscavado, shakkar or other unrefined sugar (optional)
  • 2 tsp mixed spice & 1 tsp ginger
  • 900g-1kg dried fruit. (Use a packeted mix, or choose your own mix, eg: 250g raisins, 250g sultanas, 150g prunes, 150g figs, 100g dates, 100g cherries)
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot
  • 2 tsp pectin, guar gum or xanthan gum
  • (or replace the last 4 ingredients with 2 cups of a GF Cake & Biscuit mix)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 large or 4 small eggs

Finely chop the fruit. Take a large pan, and melt together the water, brandy, orange juice, citrus rinds, butter or coconut oil, sugar and spices.

Add the fruit to the pan & simmer for 5-10 mins, stirring often, till the fruit has soaked up all the liquid. There may be some of the fat not soaked in, that’s ok. Leave to stand for 30 mins, stirring periodically, while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

The full recipe fills a 8” x 8” (20cm x 20cm) square tin. Line tin with a double layer of brown paper, which comes to about double the height of the tin. Then line with a double layer of baking paper. (You can also make a half-mix & bake in a loaf tin, or make muffin sized.)

Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. Beat up the eggs in a medium sized bowl.

When the fruit mix has cooled to lukewarm, stir the beaten egg through. Then mix in the dry ingredients. The mixture should be a thick batter and quite hard to stir. If it 's too runny, add a little more flour. Spoon the mixture into the pan, press it down firmly and bake at 150C for 1.75 - 2 hours (or 1.5 - 1.75 for the half recipe, about 45 mins for muffin sized, 30-35 mins for mini muffins).

Use the usual skewer test, or listen - when it stops sizzling, it 's ready. Cool completely before removing from tin. Wrap in some baking or greaseproof paper, then in a teatowel and store in the bottom of the fridge. It’s easiest to cut when it’s cold, straight out of the fridge, then nicest to eat at room temperature (if you can wait that long).

Starch free version

To make a cake that is compatible with the SCD or GAPS diets, make the following adjustments:

  • Replace the brandy with water
  • Omit the sugar. (Or stir in a little honey after the fruit has finished simmering, but it’s not needed.)
  • Replace the white rice flour and arrowroot with 1/2 cup coconut flour (it soaks up more liquid than other flours, so less is needed)
  • Omit the pectin / gum
  • If you’re being very strict, you can omit the baking soda, but for most people that small amount is ok

Dairy or Egg free version

  • The coconut oil option works fine for dairy free
  • If you need to leave out the eggs, it will still work, it will just be a bit heavier and more crumbly. Or try dissolving a couple of tsps of gelatin in the water and juice, before adding the fruit. It's on my list to see how this works. Here is a comprehensive description of how to use gelatin to replace eggs. Or you can try it with flax eggs and let me know how that goes too.


  • I don't usually bother with marzipan and icing. If they are already a decorative shape, they are festive looking enough.
  • When I've made a square or loaf shaped cake for Xmas with my (Std NZ diet) family, they often insist on icing. I usually just buy std marzipan and royal icing from the supermarket - it's only one day of the year, after all.
  • Or I've used pre-made cake decorations made from icing. 
  • If you prefer to make your own almond icing, there's a recipe here. Still full of sugar, but at least you know there's no other dodgy stuff in there.
  • If your family are on special diets, and are hankering for marzipan icing, here is a recipe for honey marzipan from the Paleo Mom.
  • Here is a version made with maple syrup and no egg whites. I've tried this one - it's easy, and suitable for WAPF & Paleo diets, though not GAPS.