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Gluten free apple Christmas cake

This Christmas cake is delightful and has the added advantage of being totally gluten free. It's a very light cake that should be eaten sooner than a traditional festive cake, so get your ingredients organised and be prepared to bake it a few days before Christmas. Recipe by our gluten free expert, Naomi Devlin.


The day before you intend to make the cake, chop the dried fruit roughly in a food processor – or by hand. Put into a bowl and pour over the brandy – it will not cover the fruit. Leave to soak overnight, giving it a little stir when you are passing.

Line a deep 20cm (8 inch) diameter cake tin with a double layer of brown paper, bottom and sides. Finish this with a layer of greaseproof paper. Alternatively, double line the inside of the tin with greaseproof paper and tie a few sheets of carefully folded newspaper around the outside with ovenproof string. Do not let any of the paper touch the sides of the oven though! Set the oven to 150ºC fan assisted.

Beat butter and sugar together until soft and paler in colour. Stir in the soaked fruit, zest from 1 orange, grated apple, vanilla and spices.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs together and stir them into the mixture a bit at a time. Don’t worry if it looks a bit curdled – it will be fine!

Stir in ground almonds, buckwheat flour and baking powder until a smoothish mixture is formed. Finally, squeeze the juice from half the orange and stir into the mixture to make a soft dropping consistency (add more if it seems stiff at all – you may need up to 2 oranges). Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface lightly.

Bake for 1½-2 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with foil if it seems to be browning too much after 40 minutes. Once out of the oven, and as soon as the tin is cool enough to touch, place a piece of foil tightly over the top and leave until completely cold (this softens the top of the cake). Remove from the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and a double layer of foil.

Eat immediately or keep it for up to a week in an airtight tin, in a cool place, before eating - but not longer or it will start to go off as there is not enough sugar or dried fruit in this cake to keep it. Cover with marzipan the day before eating if you wish to do this.

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  • 170g pitted prunes
  • 115g dried apple rings
  • 115g dried apricots
  • 50ml brandy
  • 170g soft salted butter
  • 85g palm sugar, ground up dates or muscovado sugar
  • 1-2 oranges
  • 1 small apple grated
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg or mace
  • 2 cloves ground to a powder with a pinch of salt
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 85g buckwheat flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage HQ