With just a few days to go until Christmas, here are my favourite last-minute recipes for Christmas cake and mince pies. Both can be made and adapted to a gluten free diet. Although we are bombarded with sweet treats at this time of year, I always think it’s worth making the time to get out some nice china, proper napkins and sit down properly with a steaming hot cup of tea to savour the most delicious treats of the season. Both photos feature my own Christmas baking styled with my favourite china, by Sophie Conran, fabrics by Sophie Allport and Cath Kidston and Robert Welch cutlery.
First, is my last-minute Christmas cake, which is extremely easy to make and requires no maturing.
Last minute Christmas cake
Makes 1 x 20cm/8” cake which serves 16-20
For overnight soaking:
300g dried fruit – I always use sultanas, not raisins
100g candied peel, chopped – I use homemade – a mixture of half blood orange, half lemon
400g jar excellent quality mincemeat
For the cake:
150g dark brown muscovado sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp mixed spice (ensure it contains cinnamon, not cassia)
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
225g self raising flour, sifted (or use 200g gluten free self raising flour or 225g ground almonds)
3 tsp baking powder
Start by soaking the fruit overnight. You can get away with around 4 hours soaking, but overnight is best if you possibly can. Place all the ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Cover with cling film and leave.
The next day, line your cake tin well using non-stick greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 150C Fan/170C/Gas Mark 3.
Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together well. Add the eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. The mixture will be quite runny at this stage. If you have one, it’s a good idea to use a stand mixer or electric beaters here to ensure the mixture is beaten even more thoroughly than you can manage by hand.
Add the salt, spices, orange and lemon zest and the soaked fruit, including all the liquid. Beat together well. Finally, add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold in gently until evenly combined.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and neatly level off. Bake, uncovered for 90 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s cooked. It may need another 15-30 minutes covered to cook through if your oven is a little slow. Covering the cake in foil will stop it from browning too much.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the paper and allow to cool fully before wrapping and storing or decorating.
In theory, this cake can be eaten same day – it needs no maturing or feeding before being ready to enjoy.
Now, on to mince pies. I wanted to share my favourite recipes for mince pies with you – both for traditional pies and also for my gluten free version. Both are delicious.
110g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water
Place the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine sand. Add the egg yolk and salt, and2 tablespoons of water. Blitz again until it forms a stiff, firm mixture. Add the remaining water as needed – remember that too much water will make the pastry too sticky.
Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes.
Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry
275g plain flour (I use Doves Farm blend)
150g chilled butter
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Bring the mixture together into a ball. Flatten and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
Both recipes make around 12 pies. You’ll need a 12 hole shallow bun tin and a couple of appropriately sized cutters.
You’ll also need one beaten egg as your egg wash.
To make the pies…
Once the pastry is made and chilled, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/ Gas Mark 4
Roll out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper. It needs to be about 3-4 mm thick, no more. It will puff up during the cooking process. The gluten free pastry will be more sticky to work with, Don’t worry, this is normal.
Cut out discs to form the base of your pies and carefully put into the tins. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to each pastry base. Either brush the rim of the pastry base with beaten egg and add a disc to firm a lid, or alternatively place a cut out shape on top of the mincemeat. Egg wash your top or pastry shape and bake for around 18-22 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned and firm.
Remove to cool on a wire tray, although they are delicious eaten warm.