My poor old Daddums hasn’t been the luckiest guy when it comes to his health of recent years. Not that it ever lets him stop doing precisely what he wants to do. And I will be damned if his latest issue will stop him from enjoying his favourite treat – fruit cake. Yup, the poor bugger is now Coeliac and therefore has to spend the rest of his life avoiding gluten which means yours truly needs to think outside the box and come up with delicious things to eat as a treat as well as for more ordinary family eating. Let’s see where this takes me eh?…
Having done a fair bit of reading up on this gluten-free malarky and not wanting to get too weird and wonderful and spook Daddums, I thought an old favourite cake would be a good place to start. His father was Scottish and hailed from the Dundee region but he was brought up in the beautiful countryside of Dorset. His mother and one of his sisters are excellent cake makers and even had a cake shop for some time down south. Daddums kept the very last fruit cake his mother made him for years after she died and it was only more delicious as time went by. I’m quite confident nothing I will make him can compare to the memory of his mama’s baking but being a Daddums, he wouldn’t ever dream of letting it show. Luckily, he does love to try my experiments and I love to spoil him with his favourite treats.
I will get braver and more experimental with my gluten free journey as time goes by. I’ve read too many tales of woe and disappointment from GF baking to get all cocky and whip up the perfect GF loaf (does such a thing even really exist?!). This recipe is a reworking and tweaking of one I stumbled upon on Lakeland’s website, found here. Having made my favourite carrot cake with a new type of sugar and finding it a huge success, I did feel brave enough to add that in too. Coconut blossom sugar – organic and unrefined, it gives a deep caramel, almost spiced taste akin to dark muscavado sugar but less rich and treacly. It’s superb in fruit (or veg) cakes. There is a real possibility I will come up with my own blend of GF flour as I do like to try my hand at recreating raw products (so to speak) at home but for now, Doves Farm is the brand I return to for “speciality” flours. Their GF plain white flour is turning out to perform exceedingly well in my kitchen so far. I blanched my own almonds purely because none of my local village shops had them ready blanched and it’s really not that hard – soak in boiling water for 30 seconds them drain and squeeze out of their skins easily by pressing between thumb and forefinger. Try not to fire them off around the kitchen like scud missiles! I bought some GF baking powder as commonly, brands add wheat flour as a bulking agent (cue much label reading for my family!). Also, it seems the addition of a modest, and I do mean modest, amount of xantham gum really helps prevent crumbling which bakes without gluten tend to do. Just make sure you don’t have a loose wrist with your measuring spoon and you will be grand! A loose wrist on the rum bottle is wholeheartedly encouraged mind you…
The original recipe from which I’ve made these wee Dundee cakes is from Lakeland and you can find it here if you fancy a spot of reverse engineering yourself. It wasn’t GF, it makes too much batter for the mini Victoria sponge cake tin and it takes longer to bake than stated. Of course, I’ve played around so much those differences are in no small way likely to be contributory. If you don’t have the rather niche and recherché, nay fashionable sugar I have panic not – light or dark soft brown sugar, light or dark muscavado or even just golden caster sugar will more than suffice. I quite like a darker look and deeper treacly caramel tones to my fruit cakes so err towards the dark side with sugar. Do as you please. Just be sure to give the cooled cakes a good drink of rum and then resist for a good week before diving in and the flavour will have deepened considerably from that of the freshly baked version I just had to sample to be sure it was good enough for Daddums.
- 160 g soft butter
- 160 g coconut blossom sugar*
- 3 small eggs
- 200 g gluten free plain flour
- ¾ tsp xantham gum
- 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- 400 g mixed dried fruits of your choice sultanas and cranberries are my go to mix
- 50 g candied peel buy the best quality you can find & chop it yourself, chopped
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 4 tbsp dark rum plus more to dribble into the baked cakes
- 60 blanched almonds
Prepare your fruit – this can be done the day before. Pop the dried fruit in bowl with the candied peel, lemon zest, juice and rum. If using straight away, a quick blitz for 20-30 seconds in the microwave covered with cling plumps them up nicely. Set aside whilst preparing the batter.
Cream the butter and sugar (*=use light or dark soft or muscavado sugar if you don’t have or don’t want to go on a mission to source coconut blossom sugar). When fluffy beat in the eggs and ground almonds.
Sift over the flour, xantham gum, baking powder and mixed spice. I have a recipe in The Recipe File on the blog for your own Mixed Spice if you fancy it. Fold in gently followed by the fruits and all the juice in the bowl. Enjoy the vapours from the warm rum.
Grease your mini Victoria sponge tin if have one, if not a muffin tin will do. Divide the batter between the wells of your prepared tin and flatten the surface (don’t fill each more than 4/5 full) – stud each cake with 5 blanched almonds arranged like a flower.
Bake on 170ºC for 30-35 minutes. Be careful as the end approaches – the high fruit content means they can go from perfectly cooked to caught and a little burnt around the edges in an annoying heart beat. Rich fruit cakes, even wee ones, don’t rise lots but expect a little rise and for them to spring back when pressed in the middle. A skewer should come out clean too when inserted into the centre of each cake.
Cool completely in the tin.
When cold, unmould and pop them upside down on a baking rack. Dribble in a tsp or two into the bums of each little cake and leave to soak in for several hours if not over night before putting the right way up again.
For best flavour, pop into an airtight box and leave in a cool, dark cupboard for at least a week before trying to let them fully mature. A month would be magic.