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Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake

by
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Introduction

This cake tastes like Christmas pudding – a very, very good Christmas pudding – the sort the Quakers (as I’m fond of quoting) once magnificently condemned as “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon”. It’s rich, damp, treacly and so heady, it doesn’t even need the traditional alcohol in it. It also happens to be gluten- and dairy-free, and is a last-minute cake, so very useful if you haven’t got round to making that family recipe that needs to be baked ahead and fed with brandy for 6 months.

This cake tastes like Christmas pudding – a very, very good Christmas pudding – the sort the Quakers (as I’m fond of quoting) once magnificently condemned as “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon”. It’s rich, damp, treacly and so heady, it doesn’t even need the traditional alcohol in it. It also happens to be gluten- and dairy-free, and is a last-minute cake, so very useful if you haven’t got round to making that family recipe that needs to be baked ahead and fed with brandy for 6 months.

Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake
Photo by Keiko Oikawa

Ingredients

Serves: approx. 14 slices

Metric Cups
  • 250 millilitres strong black tea
  • 500 grams medjool dates
  • 150 grams natural colour glace cherries
  • 150 grams dried cranberries
  • 150 grams sultanas
  • 175 grams dark muscovado sugar
  • 175 grams coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 200 grams good-quality marmalade (plus more to brush on the cake)
  • 200 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams chopped almonds
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup strong black tea
  • 18 medjool dates
  • ¾ cup natural colour candied cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup good-quality marmalade (plus more to brush on the cake)
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • ¾ cup chopped almonds
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)

Method

You will need: 1 x 20cm/8-inch springform cake tin.

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2/300ºF. Using your springform cake tin as a template, cut out a baking parchment circle for the bottom, and then make a lining for the sides of the tin that is about 6cm/2¼ inches higher than the height of the tin itself. Do this by making a very long rectangular strip of baking parchment, then fold the long bottom edge in by about 2cm/¾inch, as if turning up a hem, then take a pair of scissors and snip into this hem at intervals as if to make a rough frill. Curl this around the inside of the tin, with the frilly edge flat on the bottom, and then sit your parchment circle on top of the frilled bit to hold it in place.
  2. Make your tea: I just pour 250ml/1 cup boiling water over a teabag, let it steep, and make sure I take out the bag before adding the tea to the pan. Remove the stones from the dates, and snip each date into 4 pieces, using scissors. Halve the glace cherries, also using scissors. Of course, you can use a knife if you prefer.
  3. Get out a saucepan that will take all the ingredients, including the tea, and put everything in it except for the almonds and eggs. Place on the heat, stirring to mix, and stir every now and again until it comes to a bubble. Then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The stirring not only helps the dates break up and "dissolve", but it also keeps the heat even and stops the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan. After 10 minutes, take the pan off the heat and let the batter stand for 30 minutes; an hour wouldn’t matter.
  4. Stir in the ground almonds and the chopped almonds, followed by the beaten eggs, and when it’s all combined – though frankly I could eat the batter just like this – pour it into the prepared tin and even out the top with a spatula, then bake for 1½–1¾ hours. The sides will be coming away from the tin, and the cake, while squidgy, should leave only a slight stickiness (rather than any actual batter) on a cake tester.
  5. Remove to a wire rack, brush with about 3 tablespoons of marmalade and let the cake cool in its tin (if your marmalade is firm, you may need to warm it a bit first to make it brushable – 20–30 seconds in the microwave, or warmed through in a small saucepan should do). Leave for a day before eating. I like to brush a little more bitter marmalade on top again, before slicing and serving. Obviously, you must feel free to decorate further and more seasonally if you wish.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: The cake can be made 1 week ahead. Wrap the cooled cake in a double layer of baking parchment of greaseproof paper and a layer of foil. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

STORE NOTE: Once cut, store the cake – still wrapped in baking parchment and foil – in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

You will need: 1 x 20cm/8-inch springform cake tin.

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2/300ºF. Using your springform cake tin as a template, cut out a baking parchment circle for the bottom, and then make a lining for the sides of the tin that is about 6cm/2¼ inches higher than the height of the tin itself. Do this by making a very long rectangular strip of baking parchment, then fold the long bottom edge in by about 2cm/¾inch, as if turning up a hem, then take a pair of scissors and snip into this hem at intervals as if to make a rough frill. Curl this around the inside of the tin, with the frilly edge flat on the bottom, and then sit your parchment circle on top of the frilled bit to hold it in place.
  2. Make your tea: I just pour 250ml/1 cup boiling water over a teabag, let it steep, and make sure I take out the bag before adding the tea to the pan. Remove the stones from the dates, and snip each date into 4 pieces, using scissors. Halve the candied cherries, also using scissors. Of course, you can use a knife if you prefer.
  3. Get out a saucepan that will take all the ingredients, including the tea, and put everything in it except for the almonds and eggs. Place on the heat, stirring to mix, and stir every now and again until it comes to a bubble. Then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The stirring not only helps the dates break up and "dissolve", but it also keeps the heat even and stops the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan. After 10 minutes, take the pan off the heat and let the batter stand for 30 minutes; an hour wouldn’t matter.
  4. Stir in the almond meal and the chopped almonds, followed by the beaten eggs, and when it’s all combined – though frankly I could eat the batter just like this – pour it into the prepared tin and even out the top with a spatula, then bake for 1½–1¾ hours. The sides will be coming away from the tin, and the cake, while squidgy, should leave only a slight stickiness (rather than any actual batter) on a cake tester.
  5. Remove to a wire rack, brush with about 3 tablespoons of marmalade and let the cake cool in its tin (if your marmalade is firm, you may need to warm it a bit first to make it brushable – 20–30 seconds in the microwave, or warmed through in a small saucepan should do). Leave for a day before eating. I like to brush a little more bitter marmalade on top again, before slicing and serving. Obviously, you must feel free to decorate further and more seasonally if you wish.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: The cake can be made 1 week ahead. Wrap the cooled cake in a double layer of baking parchment of greaseproof paper and a layer of foil. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

STORE NOTE: Once cut, store the cake – still wrapped in baking parchment and foil – in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Additional Information

You can substitute coconut oil for vegetable shortening in the cake, and if dairy isn’t an issue, butter.

You can substitute coconut oil for vegetable shortening in the cake, and if dairy isn’t an issue, butter.

Tell us what you think

What 7 Others have said

  • This cake is absolutely delicious. I was a bit wary of it at first but I now prefer this over all Christmas cakes and puddings I have ever tasted. I don't like loads of sugary icing and I don't like that burnt taste you get with most Christmas cakes. This just feels like it is doing you good - no calories at all haha! :D

    Posted by Pixietoadstool on 28th December 2017
  • Mmmm! You had me at dates!!

    Posted by RobyH on 18th December 2017
  • As a Quaker I plan to make this for the Christmas Eve service. :) It looks delicious, and we have some who are gluten intolerant.

    Posted by Fiberjoy on 18th December 2017
  • I followed the recipe but made three 4" versions of this alongside a 8" cake (3 to give as gifts and 1 as a tester for us at home). The 8" cake needed about 1.5hrs but the 4" seemed ready after about 55 mins, brown on top, coming away at the sides, sticky but not gooopey when skewered. When I went to wrap them and tried a little of the test cake I freaked when I cut into it - it's a sticky mass of fruit, definitely not a cake as you know it. Tasted ok but couldn't discern the spices and overwhelmed by the smell of coconut oil (which I'm not fond of so if I made again I would up the spices and use butter, but I needed it dairy free).

    Glad to read on here that the consistency is about right, as I was really sad at the thought I might have ruined the gifts (not a cheap cake to make after all!).

    Posted by TreaclePudding on 13th December 2017
  • On the evening of December 28 2015 I decided to try this recipe. Our baby was 3 days overdue and to be induced by day 5. I was craving Christmas cake. It's almost impossible to find a gluten free recipe for Christmas cake so finding this was a gift indeed, and it read & looked divine. After one piece it was time for bed. An hour later my waters broke and our son was born the next day. A sweet and wonderful way to arrive!

    Posted by ximun on 1st December 2017
  • It really is like Christmas pudding I was hesitant that without the flour it wouldn't bake - but somehow the eggs and dates merge - its a very wet/ moist cake - but very easy and we enjoyed it. Will make another for the Christmas period to store now.

    Posted by Gavster99 on 21st November 2015
  • It's delicious, but it's very very moist, to the point of puddingy rather than cakey.

    Posted by Katieowl on 19th November 2015
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