Sunday 2 December 2012

Foodie Friday On A Sunday - Delia Smith's Creole Christmas Cake Made Gluten Free

Apologies that this post is a day or so later than planned but I'm still recovering from Friday's Metro Centre shopping trip which was shall we say hellish! I've been talking about the subject of this post for the last week or so on twitter and I know a lot of you are keen to see it so here it is :)

I grew up in a family that loved cooking, baking and experimenting with food. In my house my mum and dad, loved trying out new recipes and having fun with food, and from an early ages I was always encouraged to help out in the kitchen, and later I began to experiment, and create my own foodie favourites and recipes. Christmas though was a bit different - Christmas is all about tradition and in my house a lot of them are food related. Some recipes come out year after year, my dad's sage and onion stuffing, my dad's traditional Boxing Sandwich recipes and of course the Christmas cake. Over the years I can only ever remember my mum making three different Christmas cakes, and two are from the original queen of TV cookery Delia Smith. Her Last Minute Christmas Mincemeat Cake is super quick and easy to make, my mum  has even made this one on Christmas Eve, and her Creole Christmas Cake is out of this world. 

I have to say I love the traditional fruit cake but even if you don't I would recommend this cake. Delia Smith famously said about this cake that it "has more fruit in it than cake, and more alcohol in it than fruit" and she's probably right - it very rich but the flavours are amazing. Mummy Lou has made this cake for quite a few years now, but after I was diagnosed with a wheat and gluten intolerance she did stop making it for a few years now. Thankfully though with a bit of experimentation she's can now makes this cake gluten and wheat free and I have to say it's amazing. First of all I'm going to give you our version and then I'll give you some hints and tips on how you can alter it to suit your own tastes, or by what you have in your cupboard :), and of course how to make it with wheat.

Delia Smith's Creole Christmas Cake Made Gluten Free

For The Pre Soaking 

3 Tablespoons Rum
3 Tablespoons Brandy
3 Tablespoons Cherry Brandy
3 Tablespoons Port 
3 Tablespoons Water
1 ½ Teaspoons Angostura Bitters
½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Soft Brown Sugar
1lb Raisins        
8oz Currants
4oz Stoned No Soak Prunes Chopped
2oz Glace Cherries
4oz Mixed Candied Peel
2oz Mixed Chopped Nuts

For The Cake

5 Eggs
8oz Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1oz Ground Almonds
1 Teaspoon Xanthan Gum
9oz Butter (Room Temperature)
1oz Soft Brown Sugar
8oz Golden Caster Sugar 

1. One week before you want to make you cake start to pre soak your fruit. Take a large pan (we're using a pressure cooker pan here and add the alcohol, the water, the Angostura Bitters and the vanilla extract  - no vanilla essence please the extract has a much better flavour

2. Add the fruit, nuts, spices, and the salt and sugar to the pan, give it a good stir.

3. Simmer gently for around 15 minutes, giving the occasional stir till everything is warmed thorough and the house smells amazing. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan, then pop it into a large bowl, and cover with cling film. When it's completely cool pop it in the fridge or in a cool place like a porch and leave it for one week to infuse all the flavours together. You can give it the occasional stir if you like but it's fine just left as it is

4. One week later - the night before your due to make the cake - take your butter out of the fridge to make sure that it's at room temperature, it will be a nightmare if it's too hard. You can also remove the fruit from the fridge the night before too just so it's a bit easier to mix in, it can go quite syrupy and sticky.

5.Next day line a 8 inch (20cm) square cake tin with buttered greaseproof paper, double thickness on the sides. As you can see we've taken ours over the sides of the tin to protect the cake as out oven it quite hot. Later you can see that we also surrounded the tin in brown paper. We also put a square of greaseproof on the top of the cake just to make sure the top doesn't burn. After you've done that preheat your oven to Gas Mark 1 or 140° C

6. This is probably the easiest cake to make from here on it - you don't need any fancy mixers just a wooden       spoon. You can put everything in together but we put the butter in a large mixing bowl first to make sure that it's softened.

7. Then add the sugar and cream that and the butter together

8. In the meantime beat the eggs together in a small bowl or a jug

9. Slowly add the flour, ground almonds and Xanthan Gum, to the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and beat together till combined.

10. Then gradually fold in your soaked fruit till it's all integrated. At this stage it's a good idea to have a little taste of the mix, just to make sure it's go enough spice for your liking we added a little bit more cinnamon and some nutmeg. You should have a soft dropping consistency - if it's too dry add a bit of water, a bit more alcohol or even some milk, if it's too soft add a touch more flour.

11. Pop  your mix into your tin smoothing down the surface the best you can 

12. Once it's all covered and wrapped accordingly put it into the middle of the oven. Delia advises that you leave it for 3 hours before checking it, however in our experience this is a bit too long. Don't go opening the door every two minutes, but we normally we have a look after an hour and a half or when we can start to smell it - it smells amazing by the way, if it's going too brown turn the oven down a  bit, then check it again after another hour. After about 2.5 hours pop a skewer in, if it feels sticky leave it in for a bit longer, if it clean it's done. Delia recommends about 4 hours for this cake but in our experience it usually only takes about 3. I know this is a bit sketchy but you'll know yourself when it'd done, it depends really on your oven.

13. Once it's done, leave it too cool in the tin, Mummy Lou tends to leave it in the oven with the door slightly ajar usually overnight if it's been cooked on an afternoon or evening. After it's cooled completely pop it out of the tin, as you can see it should a lovely golden brown colour.

14. Obviously you can serve the cake and decorate it straight away, but we normally make it a few weeks before Christmas because the taste only improves over time. You can feed the cake with alcohol if you like, but it already has quite a bit in there to start with but Mummy Lou popped a tablespoon or two of Brandy over this one before wrapping it securely in cling film :)

and a clean tea towel - simply pop into a cool dry place until it's time to eat it or to decorate it :)

Making It With Wheat and Gluten

This recipe can be made very easily with or without gluten containing ingredients simply replace these ingredients 

8oz Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1oz Ground Almonds
1 Teaspoon Xanthan Gum

with this one to take it pretty much back to Queen Delia's original recipe 

9oz Self Raising Flour

Simples :)

Hints And Tips

The fruit and nut combination is just a guide, we tend to use what we have, I'm not a huge fan of mixed peel or cherries so we put less of those in and more of other things. Sometimes we use a speciality dried fruit mix which contains pieces of pineapple and papaya which is really nice and adds to the tropical theme of the cake. Use what you have or what you like.

The same applies to the nuts, If your allergic you can leave these out altogether. I love the slightly crunchy texture that they give to the soft, rich cake. We used a combination of chopped almonds and pecans.

The alcohol mix in the original recipe is probably the best one, but again use what you have. this year we didn't have any Port so we added an extra tablespoon of everything else :)

The sugar is also variable in this recipe, we've used a mixture of soft brown sugar and golden caster sugar which produces a lighter coloured cake. If you want a richer cake you can use a dark molasses or demerara sugar.

Now I very much doubt that you have some Angostura Bitters in your cupboard but this makes such a difference to the recipe that I would definitely recommend it. It's predominantly used in the UK for cocktails such as Manhattans and Pink Gin but it really brings out the flavours of the fruit in this cake. You can pick it up from most supermarkets now. You can read a bit more about it here.

This is an amazing cake whether it's made gluten free or not. It's rich, sweet and moist. It lasts incredibly well, probably down to the alcohol content, and it even freezes if perchance you have some left over! I very much doubt you will though, it smells and tastes exactly like Christmas :) You can see Delia's original recipe on her website here, and you can also find it in her amazing book Delia Smith's Christmas, which is one of the best Christmas recipe books out there, mmm Chocolate Truffle Torte. It's also worth having a look out for Good Food Channel or Food Network UK, at this time of year because they also often show the tv series that accompanied the book. Do you like Christmas Cake? and have you tried any of Delia's recipes? let me know in the comments xx

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