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Nut-Free Christmas Cake

Asked by chillihaha. Answered on 5th November 2011

Full question

For several years now I've made Nigella's Chocolate Fruit Cake and everyone's loved it. This year, my daughter - who loves fruit cake - was diagnosed with a nut allergy and the doctor's recommendation is total avoidance. It would therefore be a bit mean of me to make a Christmas cake containing nuts, ground almonds or even topped with marzipan ! Can you suggest a substitute for the ground almonds or a different, equally wonderful recipe please ?

Our answer

The Chocolate Fruit Cake from Christmas (p180) is moist due to the ground almonds (almond meal) in the cake batter. The more traditional Christmas fruit cake in that book also contains ground almonds for the same reason. Unfortunately for these recipes we would not recommend substituting flour for the ground almonds as the flour will alter the proprtions of the cake mixture and the texture and moisture of the finished cakes will be affected.

Instead we would suggest looking at the Time-Honoured Christmas Cake in Feast (p96). This recipe does not contain any ground or whole nuts and it is possible to omit the almond extract or use a tablespoon of amaretto instead (the Disaronno brand is made with apricot kernels rather than almonds so we hope should be OK but we would suggest that you check with your daughter's doctor first, to be safe). As the batter doesn't contain any almonds it is a good idea to "feed" the cake well with alcohol or orange juice to make sure that it is nice and moist.

Marzipan is usually used to smooth out the bumps in a Christmas cake. There is a product called persipan which is made with apricot kernals instead of almonds but it is usually used in stollen and difficult to get outside of Germany. Instead you could use a roughed-up snowscene type icing with royal icing (see Christmas, p176) without a marzipan layer, or use a double layer of ready to roll (rolled fondant) icing instead.

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