Amazing Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Fruit Cake

 Gluten free dark chocolate fig fruit cake Wedding Christmas Birthday Anniversary Christening, Naomi Madelin

With rich figs. succulent prunes and chunks of dark chocolate, this makes the perfect cake for any celebration

Go on then – in for a penny and all that.  I may as well share this rather luxurious recipe I’ve adapted from a non- GF one. It’s just too good to keep to myself!  This is my third year of making it and I’ve almost got it just right. I think.

My husband isn’t all that ‘into’ Christmas cake. But he LOVES this. It’s a perfect cake for birthdays, Christmas and other Holiday celebrations, Christenings, weddings, anniversaries – or just because you feel like it.


500g dried figs, cut in quarters or even a bit smaller (I quite like the big bits)

200g prunes, cut in quarters

200g raisins (I used mixed fruit this time round for more Christmassyness!)

300g soft brown sugar

300g butter

1Tbsp black treacle

5 large free range eggs

Grated zest of two tasty oranges (choose thick-skinned ones if you can), and the juice

Brandy or similar  for soaking fruit plus a couple more tablespoonsful (for an alcohol-free version just add some extra juice. Perhaps use Cranberry or something tangy and flavourful like that.)

200g almond meal / ground almonds  

150g gluten-free plain flour

(if nut allergic, substitute almond meal for ordinary flour, making the recipe 350g gluten-free plain flour in total)

1tsp salt

2tsp gluten-free baking powder

1/2 to 1 tsp Xantham Gum (optional – helps bind and prevent crumbliness)

1tsp mixed spice

1tsp ground cinnamon

600g (or thereabouts) dark chocolate smashed into little bits


Day 1

Grate the rind off the oranges then squeeze out the juice. Cut up the dried fruit.  Stir dried fruit in with orange rind, juice and brandy (I’ve used Kirsch this year instead…).  Cover and leave in the ‘fridge for 24 hours or more (I left mine for three days and it was fine – just stir occasionally and add a little more liquid if it looks dry).

Day 2

When you’re ready to make, preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F, Gas 3).  If you want a single large cake, choose a tin around 28cm diameter. For two cakes, this mixture makes a 22cm round and a small loaf.  (I like this as you get a pre-Xmas cake, and an Xmas cake – or one for a friend / school do etc) Grease and line the tins.

Traditional Method (food processor method follows)

1/ Cream the butter, sugar and treacle. Whisk the eggs and brandy or rum together and stir into the creamed mixture.  An electric hand mixer can be helpful for creaming, and for adding the egg mix to avoid curdling.

2/ Sieve the dry ingredients and stir in (you can lightly mix with an electric hand mixer).

3/ Drain the prepared fruit (save the extra liquid for a little cook’s tipple when the cake is done!) and stir that into the mixture.Gluten free dark chocolate fig fruit celebration cake Wedding Christening Birthday Anniversary

4/ I love this bit! Smash the crap out of your chocolate. Seriously.  The best way!  To do this, I take the whole packet of chocolate, put it on a mat or cloth on the floor and systematically hit it with a rolling pin.  Since you need a good few packs of chocolate you should be feeling totally cleansed by the end of the smashing process. If there are still some larger chunks when you open it up, carefully cut with a good, large kitchen knife.

NB:  If the batter looks too thick, whizz in a splash of milk so that it’s ‘drop off the spoon’ consistency.  It should hang onto a spoon but drop when you give it a bit of a shake.

5/ Pour into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 90 minutes, then turn it down to 150C and cook for at least another 60-90 minutes. Test by plunging a skewer into the middle in the usual fashion. Keep an eye on it – it may be done sooner. Cover the top with a piece of baking paper or foil if it looks to be getting too dark.

6/ Let it cool completely in the tin, then turn out and wrap in greaseproof paper and store somewhere cool and dark until the big day. You can feed it with more booze if you like.

Gluten free dark chocolate fig fruit cake celebration Christmas Birthday Anniversary Wedding ChristeningFood Processor Method

1/ Put the butter, sugar and treacle into the bowl.  Process for a few seconds until it start to mix well, stop and scrape down the sides, reapeat.  With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time (you may want to stop to scrape down between eggs) then pour in a couple of tablespoons of brandy if you’re using it.

2/ Weigh out the dry ingredients, add and whizz.  I don’t bother with sieving – with a food processor it just seems like overkill!

3/ Next step is to add the fruit BUT DON’T DO THIS PART IN YOUR FOOD PROCESSOR.  Unless you use a blunt blade, such as a plastic one.  You don’t want to chop all the fruit up with a double-bladed knife.  I put the drained fruit into a large mixing bowl then tip the cake mixture on top. (Save the extra liquid from the fruit for a little cook’s tipple when the cake is done!)

4/ As above, and continue!


I’m not a fan of fondant style icings, but I do LOVE marzipan.  Having lived in New Zealand for ten years until last year, I’ve been making my own, because it was almost impossible to buy.  (There’s a penchant for cheap there, and you can get “almond flavour cake covering” which is just fondant icing with almond flavouring – pointless!) It’s incredibly easy and delicious, and in fact now that I’m back in the UK where I CAN buy marzipan, I don’t like the shop stuff.  Too sweet, too smooth.

So I often just cover my cakes with white marzipan, cut some shapes, brush a little egg white over the top and singe delicately with a kitchen blow torch.  Which is a great excuse for having fun with flames 🙂  I’ll try to dig out some pics of previous years’ cakes and pop them here.

Otherwise I do have a completely amazing recipe for a killer, foolproof chocolate icing that’s to die for, which I’ll post soon, but maybe not in time for Christmas 2013!

Use your imagination, or just a sprinkle of icing sugar.

Be well,




Christmas Mincemeat (no fat)

This makes a ton of mincemeat … not literally.  But you will need lots of large, sterilised jars before you start. Or save jam jars and give them as gifts – even if you give a jar on Christmas day it’s a great gift, because it’s even better next year!

I don’t really have a secret ingredient, but I do have a ‘secret’ method!


350g (12oz) soft brown sugar

450g (1lb) cooking apples (Bramleys are my favourite, and if you can’t get cookers, then hard eaters such as Granny Smiths work fine) – peeled, cored and finely chopped or grated

1.5 kgs dried, mixed fruit  (either buy ready-mixed or make your own – guidelines below)

1tsp Ground Allspice

1tsp Ground Nutmeg

1tsp Ground Cinnamon

2 Lemons, including the grated zest and juice

Chopped almonds if desired – about a cup, or to taste.


170ml (6fl oz) alcohol e.g. brandy.  (I use whatever liqueur or spirit is in the cupboard or needs using up. Cointreau one year was very nice, I’ve used rum, kirsch and once even a freebie mini bottle of Jaegermeister!)


170ml extra of apple or other fruit juice


Place all ingredients, including the alcohol in a large bowl, mix well to combine.

Cover well and allow to stand overnight.

My Secret Method: Using a traditional mincer, or a food processor, lightly mince the mixture.  USE CAUTION!

I use a Magimix with the double blade in. Process in 3-5 second blasts, stirring the mixture in between so as to ensure an even ‘mincing’ action.  You don’t want mush, just slightly chopped fruit.

Why mince? I just like it that way, and I get comments about my mincemeat every year. I swear it’s this simple addition to the method that a) helps to meld the flavours b)means that the mince sits better in the pies and c)the whole pie holds together better – no fallen sultanas!

Pack mixture into sterilised jars, ensuring you leave a couple of centimetres of space at the top of each jar for the mixture to expand. I learnt this the hard way – oozing jars at the back of the cupboard in April!

Close jars tightly (though if you are planning on using it all up this year, a tupperware container is fine – you might want to put it in the ‘fridge if you’re in a hot country).

Ideally you leave the mixture in the refridgerator for 4 to 6 weeks to settle and mingle before using, but I’ve used it straight from the bowl.  I guess it just gets even better with age.

Stir well before using.

Tip for stored mincemeat

If you’ve got mincemeat from last year, a week or sobefore you want to use it open the jar and give it a good stir. If it loks a bit dry, dribble over a bit more juice or alcohol and stir it in. Reseal the jar and it’ll be good as gold when you’re ready to bake

Mix-your-own-fruit guidelines

680g (1lb 8oz) Dried Currants

340g (12oz) Sultanas

340g (12oz) Raisins

170g (6oz) Mixed Peel, chopped

The Best Gluten Free Christmas Mince Pies !

Without any preamble, if you’re gluten intolerant and love mince pies, this is the recipe for you!

The Mincemeat

See my recipe for easy suet-free, tangy Christmas mincemeat.

Or buy some. Better to bake with bought mincemeat than not to bake at all.

The Pastry

I’ve always thought that the only pastry worth using for mince pies is Paté Sucrée. This gluten-free version suits everyone – it’s sweet, bakes to a beautiful crisp and doesn’t crumble  – what more could you ask for?


2 cups gluten-free baking mix  (recipe and links for other options below)

90g (6 tbsps) room temperature butter (if salted you can exclude the extra salt below)

1 cup icing sugar (that’s confectioners sugar or powdered sugar )in some countries

1 large whole free range egg

1/4 tsp salt

A little cold water

Method – traditional (see food processor method below if you’re using one)

1/ Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

2/ Add egg and salt if you’re using it and mix.

3/ Sieve the gluten-free baking mix in and mix until it starts to clump.  Stop mixing!

4/ Flour a work surface and  tip the clumpy mixture out onto it.

5/ Start to gently pull the dough together into a ball. It may be too dry – don’t try too hard!  If dry, sprinkle with a little water and keep working it very gently.  When it’s almost, but not quite, right, I find the best way is to simply handle it with wet hands until it comes together.

Gluten free sweet pastry for Christmas mince pies by Naomi Madelin

Tip the mixture out when it starts to clump – do the last stage of mixing by hand

6/ Knead very lightly to form a pliable ball.

5/ Pop in a covered bowl or a reusable container for an hour or two (I hate using cling film / plastic wrap unless I have to – and you don’t need to here).  I’ve left my pastry overnight before – it works just fine.

Method – Food Processor

1/ Put flour, salt and sugar in the bowl and process for a few seconds.

2/ Cut butter into the bowl. Process briefly.

3/ Add the egg, process until the mixture starts to clump, then STOP!

4/ Proceed as from 4/ above.

This recipe does seem to go pretty hard in the ‘fridge. Panic not! Either leave it to return to room temperature before rolling and/or handle with slightly wet hands if it seems to be crumbly. It WILL return to its beautiful elastic state.

Roll as per any other pastry. For mince pies my preference is not to go too thin. This pastry is so good that you want a reasonable thickness to enjoy!

Bake your mince pies at 190°c t0 200°c, that’s about 375 – 400°f or gas mark 5/6.  You know your oven best – so set at an appropriate level. They should take about 20 minutes.

Pour a glass of mulled wine and enjoy!

Photo of gluten free mince pies with gluten free pate sucree sweet pastry by Naomi Madelin

Yummy scrummy – no need to miss out this Christmas!

Gluten-Free Baking Mix

A mix of flours works best for pastry. You can buy some off-the-shelf baking mixes, or stir up a few of your favourite flours to make your own.

My off-the-shelf gluten free plain flour is rice flour, potato starch, tapioca and maize flour – it works pretty well.

You can try 2 cups brown rice flour (brown is way better than white), 2/3 cup potato starch flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour and 2 ½ teaspoons (max) xanthan gum. Stir up really well, sieving is good.  If you have a food processor, chuck it all in there and whizz it together.

The wonderful Gluten Free Goddess has some great tips on flour choices and substitution.