Christmas Cake

A while back, Lisa (and several other readers) asked me to come up with a gluten-free Christmas cake.  Being Jewish, and never having sampled Christmas cake, I had no idea what it was.

Lisa was kind enough to send me this definition:

A festive cake for celebrating Christmas here in Australia. Commonly full of dried fruits (a variety) soaked in alcohol.   Flour, brown sugar, eggs cinnamon, nutmeg. It’s generally a heavy consistency and very moist.

I don’t cook with alcohol and really make a point of avoiding it since it is high in sugar and basically empty calories. So I substituted an orange for the usual brandy in this dessert and then took some other liberties from there.

It seems from this definition that Christmas cake is a type of fruitcake and can be many things to many people, though the one key element is that it is super sweet and full of dried fruit. My friend Patricia (of Scottish descent) told me that it can also have nuts. After checking in with her, I came up with this recipe.  Hope you enjoy it.

Christmas Cake

Print Pin Recipe
Servings 6



  • Wash the orange and boil it whole (peel and all) for 1½ hours, or until soft
  • Place whole orange (peel and all) in a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Process in eggs, agave, almond extract, almond flour, salt and baking soda until well blended
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in cranberries, apricots, pistachios and walnuts
  • Pour mixture into a greased, almond flour dusted 9 inch springform pan
  • If cake begins to brown on top before center is done, cover with tin foil
  • Bake at 350°F for 45-55 minutes, or until a knife stuck in the center comes out clean
  • Cool in the pan for 2 hours
  • Serve
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Tried this recipe?Mention @elanaspantry or tag #elanaspantry!

On totally separate note, I found this article by New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicolas D. Kristof to be quite inspiring.  In it he discusses changing the name “Secretary of Agriculture” (head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to “Secretary of Food.”  His persuasive point is that while less than 2% of the U.S. population farms, 100% of that same population eats food.  The article is very liberal and reformist along the lines of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma or Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

The New York Times’ Op-Ed page is a hotbed of brilliant writing lately churning with fascinating ideas regarding food, as well as environmentalism and economics.  Between Maureen Dowd (she is ironic and hilariously funny), Kristof and Friedman they’re a triple threat with some of the best and brightest columnists in the industry.

I made this cake last year and it was a hit! Everybody enjoyed it. Planning to make it this year too. Thank you for sharing the recipe!


53 responses to “Christmas Cake”

  1. I made this again – substitutions this time:
    – fresh cranberries instead of dried
    – chopped a cup of cranberries in the Vita-Mix for 8 seconds
    – reduced Agave to 1/2 cup (perfect sweetness)
    The Orange:
    – If you try this with orange juice concentrate, please blog about it here.
    – If you do try OJ concentrate, would you use no agave?
    – I always boil 2 oranges (or alternative citrus fruits) and reserve 1/2 in the freezer for the next time I make it.

  2. If say your Jewish than how often do you go to the Synagogue. (I of coarse am a Christian so I didn’t no that Jews go to Synagogues.)

  3. My Grandmother was from Madeira Island, Portugal and used to make a Christmas Cake that I didn’t like as a child. It was full of walnuts and spices and wasn’t very sweet. Now that I’m an adult I’d like to make this and continue the tradition, just GF. Thanks Elana! This will work perfectly. I’ll just substitute different nuts and fruits.

  4. Nutrition Facts
    (for those who are healthy by counting calories/carbs/fats/protein, like me)
    Serving Size – 1/16 of Cake
    Calories – 249
    Calories from fat – 50
    Total Fat – 13.5 grams
    Total Carb – 28 grams
    Dietary Fiber – 3 grams
    Sugars – 23 grams
    Protein 6.7 grams

    Doing the calcs before tasting it helped me to plan ahead – to have a small piece. I can freeze the rest or share it. It’s called Christmas “Cake” not “bread” for a reason.
    I put it in the oven at 5:30 this morning before work. Despite the 90-degree weather I’m going to find a way to bake without roasting myself.
    Thanks for the beautiful recipe, Elana. It’s like your “Orange Cake”, but graduated to have all these fabulous flavors and textures in it. Happy baking everyone!

  5. I made the Christmas Cake recipe, having never heard of Christmas Cake but was attracted to the ingredients. It was marvelous! The boiled orange (I substituted a large clementine for a little extra tang) was perfect for imparting both flavor and moisture. I cut back a little on the agave and the cake remained quite sweet. Next time I would cut back even further and rely on the natural sweetness of the dried fruits. My family kept saying it tasted “normal”, meaning not like a lot of commercially available gluten-free desserts. They loved it and so did I! Thanks, Elana, so much for this extraordinary dessert.

  6. Elana,

    Thanks so much for another wonderful recipe! I divided this into three small spring form pans, so I could give a whole small cake to my sister, as I do make her a homemade fruitcake every year.

    My boyfriend is diabetic and doesn’t always eat as he should. But I have been making more and more of your nutritious and delicious recipes for the both of us and he certainly is not complaining. He LOVED the Christmas Cake as much as when I would make fruitcake, but this was so much better for him. I think you are a life saver… literally. I love your Gluten Free cookbook. Thanks again.

  7. never heard of christmas cake… hmmm. but what you describe sounds like what my grandmother used to make – fruit cake.

    though she used to make it with “jellied fruit” not “dried fruit” and about a bottle of liquor. (bascially gluten, tons of red an green dyes. HFCS and rum) it was just plain awful (sorry Nana). this one sounds MUCH better ;)

    leave it to the jewish lady to come up with a better “christmas cake” than my southern granny lol!

  8. Hi Elana,
    The cake is in the oven right now. I am excited to see how it turns out. I made some modifications since I am on GAPS so I used honey and I separated the eggs instead of using baking soda. (then whipped the egg whites till stiff and added them into the mixture.)

    Also, I noticed that after the first two steps with the orange, you don’t talk about what to do with it. It seems reasonable you would add it to the almond flour mixture (this is what I did), but you may want to edit it to include it in the next step.

    Thanks so much,

  9. This cake was terrific – far better than any “Fruit Cake” I ever tasted! It was even better the second day! So moist and rich – thank you!

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Recipes » Desserts » Cakes and Cupcakes » Christmas Cake