I am so thrilled with this recipe. I created it for my fruit cake loving Coeliac Daddums but I’ve now fed it to plenty of non-Coeliac friends and family and they all love it. Hungry Hubby’s colleagues have put it in my “Top Three Ever” (they keep an unofficial tally of their favourites from the bakes I send in for them to test!) and if gluten-guzzlers think a cake is delicious and don’t notice it doesn’t have any, then rest assured, it’s a good recipe. Daddums himself said it is the best gluten free fruit cake I have ever made him and believe me, I have fed him plenty. I’ve had to rush out and buy extra dried fruit and Cointreau as I suspect I will be making many more of my Gluten Free Orange & Cinnamon Fruit Cake as we creep up on the festive season.
The secret with successful gluten free baking, as far as I am concerned, is not trying to replicate gluten-containing bakes exactly (unless we are talking about my Gluten Free Victoria Sponge) and instead, celebrate naturally gluten free ingredients for what they are worth. This cake success lies in how luxuriously soft and moist it is thanks to the ground almonds and plenty of liquid from both fresh orange juice and the orange liqueur Cointreau. Incidentally, the first time I trialled this recipe, I forgot the eggs and it worked out beautifully albeit there was a little crumbling when sliced as without the eggs, and in this prototype version, without the xantham gum, there were no binding agents to keep it together! If you are egg free, you can omit them but definitely add the gum to make it easy to slice – the cake is lighter in colour without the eggs but the taste is delicious still.
I designed this cake with Christmas in mind and wanted to celebrate favourite festive flavours – orange and cinnamon. Mixed spice is a beautiful thing and I love making my own to use in other Christmas bakes but I really wanted this cake to sing with these flavours alone. They are the essence of Christmas to me and I even use an orange & cinnamon oil in my room diffuser from now until New Year to evoke the spirit of Noel everyday. Like my Dad says, Christmas is a time for us all to share so I wanted to make a delicious cake our whole family can tuck into and he won’t feel left out. It’s lighter in colour than a traditional fruit cake (also referred to as Christmas cake here in the UK) as I used caster sugar deliberately so not to overpower the spice and citrus with molasses from the muscovado sugars. Doves Farm gluten free rice flour is a handy ingredient in your gluten free baking and here, it lightens up the cake as it would run the risk of being heavy with the ground almonds and did you know, incidentally, it’s great for dusting with when working with pasta or bread dough as it’s fabulously nonstick. It has, however, no structural integrity so you mustn’t leave out the xantham gum but do make sure you measure it carefully – 1 tsp is perfect here, any more and it will come out too firm. As it stands, this Gluten Free Orange & Cinnamon Fruit Cake is a perfect cut and come again style cake as it keeps fabulously well, and will please the whole family with the taste of Christmas.
- 150g soft butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 350g mixed dried fruit*
- Zest of an orange plus 60ml of juice squeezed from it
- 60ml Cointreau (or Grand Marnier if that is what you have)
- 200g ground almonds
- 50g rice flour
- 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
- 1 tsp xantham gum
- 1 tbsp (level) ground cinnamon
- Optional - 2 tbsp extra Cointreau to pour over the cooked cake
- If you haven't got time to steep the fruits in extra alcohol before using, I do recommend grating over the zest of the orange and then mixing it it's juice and the Cointreau and allowing the fruit to sit. Over night would be best but if not, a quick way to infuse the fruit is to tip it all into a sauce pan and bring to just under the boil then turn off, pour into a large bowl and cover until room temperature once again.
- Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin with baking parchment ensuring the sides are lined as well as the base. Preheat the oven to 160˚C and position a shelf so the cake is in the lower third of the oven. I highly recommend using an oven thermometer to ensure the temperature is right here.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Add in all the other ingredients (including any alcohol left in the bowl with the fruits) and mix well together. Scrape into the prepared cake tin.
- Bake for 70-75 minutes but be sure to check the cake before then and if browning too quickly, place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.
- The cake will be done when it is shrinking in from the sides a couple of millimetres and it springs back when pressed gently in the centre. A skewer should come out clean from the centre and there should be no crackling or 'singing' if you hold your ear a few inches above the cake (care not to get too close and burn yourself!).
- If adding the extra Cointreau, pour it over the hot cake now (it will sizzle and steam) then cool to room temperature on a baking rack. When cold, unmould from the tin and wrap in clean baking parchment and then foil before storing in a cake tin until needed. It lasts extremely well but I've never seen one go beyond 2 days as it is eaten, greedily and rapidly upon cooling lol!
- *= I pre-soak all my dried fruit in booze ahead of use (simply add them to a large sterilised jar and pour over your chosen spirit/liqueur and leave for a few weeks before using). Here I used Cointreau to keep the orange flavour and I still added the extra Cointreau stated in the recipe as the fruits absorb the booze they steep in.
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