Christmas cake is a winter staple. Usually made from mixed fruit, molasses, and baked in the oven until dark and heavy, it’s easy to think the regular Christmas cake recipe is the only one going. Think again. Traditionally, Christmas cake is made with a mixture of raisins, currants, cherries and mixed peel, but using more seasonal fruit and shaking up what you put in your Christmas cake could be just the spice you need to shake up your cake!
Australia has the luxury of Summer in Yuletide, however, even if you don’t have this luxury where you are in the world, you can definitely make the most of fruit and put a tropical twist on your Christmas treats. Here are some ideas to shake up your Christmas cake, and remember, making it early and feeding it a tipple of your choice is the key to a mature and moist cake.
Pineapples are rich and juicy around October, which is around the time you should be aiming to make your cake if you would like a rich, mature sponge. If using fresh pineapple, ensure you squeeze out the juice first, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy cake which may not hold together. If you like the texture of a juicy pineapple, follow a recipe for a lovely Pineapple Upside Down cake, and use the ingredients in the sponge that you would use for your Christmas cake, finishing it by layering with fresh pineapple. Alternatively, you could use dried pineapple, which is of course available all year around.
Coconuts have been heralded as the superfood of 2017 by Deliveroo, and have been used in everything from coconut water to hair products. Acai bowls have found their way into the mainstream and coconut flesh has even been featured in curries as a replacement for meat. For a lighter Christmas cake, or for a gluten free alternative, coconut flour makes a great substitution for all-purpose flour. You’ll need to increase the number of eggs in the recipe, as the coconut flour will need an extra binding agent, however the end result will be a lighter, gluten free sponge which makes for a perfectly guilt free festive indulgence!
The crunch in a Christmas cake is usually due to almonds. These can make all the difference, and mixing in your favourite candied almonds delivers a sweet twist. However, you might want to try pistachios, which will tinge your sponge with a brilliant festive green which will perfectly contrast the colour of any red cherries that you might decide to use. The sweetness and clarity of flavour of the pistachio makes it a perfect partner for the spices in your cake, and when you come to choosing the booze that you moisten your cake with, you’ll end up with a unique flavour which balances very well with rum.
Whilst quince carries with it an alternative feeling, it does not immediately strike as a Christmas cake ingredient as it is quite wet. This fragrant, plum-like fruit has a tartness which can carry very well against sweeter flavours in the bake and the richness of quince will only add to the wonderful indulgence of you festive treat. If you don’t feel like using quince in the bake, you could glaze the cake with a quince jelly before layering the marzipan and icing atop the cake.
There are plenty of seasonal Christmas cake alternatives, and if you’re feeling creative, you could make some really wacky combinations. Play around with flavour and don’t forget to feed the cake your tipple of choice to keep it moist and add an extra depth of flavour.