December 21, 2015

Traditional Christmas Cake with Marzipan Frosting

Making a Christmas cake was always the first sign of Christmas in our home.  Long before the tree went up, stockings were hung, or any Christmas music was allowed to be played, we’d be in the kitchen chopping and soaking for (in my opinion) the best cake in the world.

Traditionally this one’s made a long time in advance, even months, and then ‘fed’ periodically with brandy leading up to Christmas until it’s lovingly saturated, then it gets a thick covering of rich almond marzipan and finally a white frosting.  We’d cut into it, with cups of tea after piling home from a post turkey dinner walk on the hills behind our house.  It’s probably my favourite Christmas day moment.  The sun would go down as we walked and we’d come down the hill seeing the twinkling lights of our little cottage, unable to feel our hands, and curl up around the fire with tea, coffee, and slice into the cake.

For this year, as my whole family descends on California to meet the baby I wanted to make a fully paleo version, and, by the amount that’s already disappeared before Christmas, I can tell you it’s good!

Having lived stateside for almost a decade, I know that fruit cake has a bad reputation with Americans but if that’s you, I’d like to wager it’s just that you haven’t had the right one yet!  That dry, sugar laden, heavy, tasteless cake you want to regift… I suggest you still regift, and keep a gooey, brandy soaked, clean one for yourself!  Here it is.


1.5 cups raisins
1 cup dates
1/2 cup figs
1/2 cup prunes
1/2 cup apricots
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
3T molasses
1tsp pumpkin spice or mixed spice
1 cup almond flour
1T arrowroot
1T coconut flour
Zest of 1 small orange and 1/2 lemon
Juice 1/2 orange
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup brandy and more to ‘feed’

For the Marzipan:

1.5 cups powered coconut sugar (blend in a food processor or coffee grinder)
1 egg white
2 tsp almond essence
1.5 cups almond meal

Start by pitting, chopping and soaking all the fruit in the brandy.  It wants to soak for at least 4 hours but I recommend covering, setting it aside and forgetting about it overnight.  I would recommend making the marzipan at this point too and setting it in the fridge overnight as well to harden up a little.
Once the fruit is well soaked, preheat your oven to 320F and prepare your cake pan.  This mixture will fill a 6” cake pan and due to the long cooking time, you want to insulate the pan well so double line it with parchment paper, and line the outside of the pan with 2 layers of brown paper secured with string. (I use a chopped up brown paper shopping bag.) Once the mixture is in and gently flattened with a spoon, cover it in two rounds of parchment paper with a small hole in the middle for steam – the goal is for the whole cake to cook evenly and not get those dry edges that give fruit cake a bad name!
Pull out a large bowl to mix your batter and start with 1/4 cup soft coconut oil, 1/4 cup honey and 3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses.  Cream those together until they are completely smooth.   (You may need to melt the coconut oil first, just make sure it’s not piping hot when you mix it in).
Next beat in the 2 eggs one at a time until fully combined, then add in the zests and juice.  Add in all the dry ingredients at once and gently fold them into the mixture to combine.  Finally, when it is just combined, fold in the pre soaked fruit and the nuts.
Transfer the batter into the pre prepared cake tin and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 320F, until it is just firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted comes out clean (or very almost clean – slightly undercooked is better than over!!) The cooking time will change depending on your oven so check it after 1.5 hours and then again at 2.  Once it’s cooked, turn it out onto a cooling rack to fully cool.
You can either frost it now, or feed it.  I recommend feeding it at least 2-3 times.  Simply take a fork and prick the cake 10-12 times on one side then spoon on 3-4 tablespoons of brandy, let it soak in, and seal the cake up.  Do this a few times a week before adding the marzipan.
Put all the ingredients for the marzipan in a food processor and blend until they come to a ball.  If it’s a little too sticky, add an extra 1/4 cup almond meal.  Turn the ball out onto plastic wrap, seal and place in the fridge.  When the time comes to cover the cake, dust a surface with powdered coconut sugar, or arrowroot starch, and roll it out.  Pick it up on the rolling pin and cover the cake pressing it down the sides gently so you have no folds or seams, then trim the excess.  You can brush the cake with a little honey before frosting if you want to help it stick on.
Finish by decorating with almonds, dried fruit, ribbon, or whatever you want!


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