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Alternative Alcohol For Traditional Christmas Cake

Asked by NonyaMulberries. Answered on 20th October 2021

Full question

I'd like to have a go at the Traditional Christmas Cake this year, but I don't have any of the alcohols mentioned (bourbon, brandy, sherry). I'm trying to avoid purchasing a bunch of extra things this year, especially as we're removing alcohol from our lives. I have Scotch whisky and green ginger wine left on the shelf. I've in the past changed out other booze in puddings for the ginger wine since we love it, and it's been fine, and I often use orange juice in other cakes instead of alcohol, but I've never made this cake before. Is it just a matter of taste, or is there an alcohol content I must be aware of?

Also, I'd like to leave out the nuts. Should I just leave them out entirely, or could I replace them with some more dried fruit?

NIGELLA CHRISTMAS UK book cover
Traditional Christmas Cake
By Nigella
  • 14
  • 2

Our answer

Nigella's Traditional Christmas Cake (from NIGELLA CHRISTMAS) steeps dried fruits in alcohol so that the fruits absorb the liquid and become plump and tender before they are added to the cake. Nigella suggests bourbon or brandy but you can use many other alternative alcohols. Bourbon is a type of whiskey, so the Scotch whisky may be the best alternative. However, the ginger wine could also be used as there is ground ginger in the cake. And you can use other alternatives such as sweet sherry, Grand Marnier or amaretto.

It is possible to use orange juice instead of alcohol to soak the fruits but we would not use it to feed the cake with after baking as fruit juice spoils more easily than alcohol. Also the cake may not keep quite as well, so we would make it no more than 4 weeks in advance and freeze an alcohol-free cake if made any further ahead than that. We would not leave the ground almonds (almond meal) out of the cake as the oil in the almonds helps to keep the cake moist. But if you don't like large pieces of nuts you can just omit the chopped pecans or walnuts.

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