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. THANK YOU ELANA! This Christmas cake was unbelievable! On Christmas Day I chanced the recipe and made it for a family gathering! The boiled orange sounded so curious to me… had to try it. Fabulous! I did hesitate with the cinnamon and clove bottles for just a second. Held them over batter trying to decide if more flavor would enhance or not. I decided… nope… Elana is the expert. Let me just make it as she describes and see how we like it (we chose the honey as sweetener). We did have to substitute dates for apricots, but other than that.. followed exactly. and WELL WELL… IF EVER ANYONE DOUBTS THAT GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREE CAN BE MOIST AND DELICIOUS, THIS LITTLE CAKE WILL BE JUST THE PROOF THEY NEED! Thank you! Divine…

  2. I baked it last week but substituted the cranberries for sultanas. My husband wanted to try it straight away, so I had to cut the cake. But I noted that it doesn’t last long like the “normal” Christmas cake full of alcohol, as it was going mouldy after a few days. I will have to bake another one a day or two before Christmas as it was a success at work as well!

  3. This cake looks fantastic, but does anyone know how well it keeps? With a “normal” Christmas cake one keeps feeding it with brandy every week, and it keeps for ages (years). I’m just wondering if I can make it now or if it would be best left as a job for Christmas Eve lest it dry out or moulder by the day itself. Thanks!

  4. Im Scottish and and make about 10 Christmas cakes, you make in October and then feed with alcohol until Christmas.

    Im going to try this recipe today!

  5. Now THIS is something I am actually going to make! Immediately. And thank you for a recipe with easily obtainable ingredients.

  6. Could you substitute xylitol for the honey/agave? In New Zealand often the Christmas cake is decorated on top with nuts and glace cherries and pineaple. But more often with marzipan icing and royal icing. Has anyone tried decorating this cake with nuts or a sugar free marzipan and did it work?

  7. Amazed by the number of people who’ve never heard of Christmas cake… Had assumed it was as common in the states as here in the UK. This looks like a great option now we’ve gone paleo. Thanks Eleanor! By the way, in the UK the tradition is to top the cake with a layer of marzipan and then top that with royal icing. Swirl the icing to look like snow, add some plastic decorations like santa’s sleigh, snowmen and Edible silver balls and then tie a red ribbon round the cake and you then had a feature. of our Christmas table circa the 1970’s.

  8. Hi Elana,

    I’ve pinned your recipe to my Gluten-Free Christmas board. For those who are not familiar with our (Irish/British) Christmas cake see The Gluten Free Foodie’s entry on my Pin board or this google images view…0.0…1ac.1.bitSowlxV20

    I’d like to try yours because I’m the only one in our household who likes our traditional Christmas cake, but any recipe or bought one is enormous and a small one that is gluten-free is ridiculously expensive.

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Recipes » Desserts » Cakes and Cupcakes » Christmas Cake