RECIPE: Luxury Vegan Christmas Cake
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This will be my first Christmas as a vegan, and the first December I won’t have eaten my body weight in cheese. I was vegetarian for five years before that, so my memories of meat have almost faded - and I always preferred the trimmings anyway - but cheese was, as I think it is for many people hesitating over veganism, the reason I waited for so long to make the change. Cheese is delicious and I’ll never believe otherwise, but it’s been months since I last tasted it and, honestly, I no longer miss it. I’m sure I’ll feel a slight pang when the late afternoon cheeseboard arrives, but when you’re doing something so vital to improving your own health and the world around you, it becomes easier and easier to compromise. Besides, there are literally a million other delicious things to eat at Christmas - including Christmas cake!
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most since ditching meat and dairy is taking some of my favourite recipes and ‘veganising’ them. One of these is our family recipe for luxury Christmas cake, existing in the form of an ancient Good Housekeeping clipping that we each have photocopies of, covered in splatters of cake batter and glitter. It’s a DELICIOUS cake, although like all handed-down recipes, I’ve made my own adjustments by removing the nuts. I do like nuts, but I prefer my Christmas cake squishy and crunch-free.
This Christmas, I decided to try and veganise our recipe so I could carry on making it for eternity - and it worked! I swapped butter for vegan butter and eggs for flax eggs, and made my own marzipan from scratch to ensure that was vegan, too. You can decorate it any way you like - I opted for stars simply to cover up the hideously unsmooth icing layer beneath them… This cake can be made anytime from October to mid-December.
I present - the luxury cruelty-free Christmas cake!
RECIPE: LUXURY VEGAN CHRISTMAS CAKE
For the cake:
225g dried apricots
175g stoned prunes
175g ground almonds
175g glacé cherries
675g combination of currants, sultanas and/or raisins
350g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
300g vegan butter + extra for greasing
300g soft dark muscovado sugar
3 tbsp ground flax seeds
4 tbsp treacle
For the marzipan:
100g caster sugar
150g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 tbsp aquafaba (the liquid drained from canned chickpeas)
4 tsp almond essence
200g ground almond
125g apricot jam
500g fondant icing (use more if you’re adding extra decoration)
1. Grate the rind from the lemon and orange and squeeze the juice. Roughly chop the apricots, prunes and cherries. Combine fruit and citrus together in a large bowl with the currants, sultanas and raisins. Add the brandy, cover and leave to macerate overnight, stirring occasionally.
2. The next day, preheat the oven to 160°C and line a 25cm round cake tin with plenty of vegan butter.
3. In a bowl, combine the flax seeds with 18 tbsp fresh water. Stir well and leave aside for 10 minutes to thicken into a flax egg.
4. Uncover the macerated fruit mixture and add the flour, spices and a pinch of salt. Stir well to combine.
5. In another bowl, cream together the vegan butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the flax egg, then stir in the treacle and fold in the flour and fruit mixture. Stir well until all fruit is distributed and the mixture is even.
6. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, level the surface, then make a slight hollow in the middle to ensure the cake rises with an even top. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 140°C and bake for a further 2-3 hours. You may need to cover with foil during this process as strong ovens will burn the top. Test the cake by inserting a skewer - if it comes out clean, it’s cooked!
7. Leave in the tin until cool, then wrap in foil and keep in an airtight container until a week before Christmas. During this time, feed the cake with brandy to keep it moist and help it develop a rich flavour. To do this, use your skewer to puncture a few holes in the surface of the cake, then drizzle a small amount of brandy over the surface so it drizzles into the cake and moistens it.
8. When ready to ice the cake, start by making the marzipan. In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, caster sugar, aquafaba and almond essence for 5-10 minutes until it forms a thickish liquid around the consistency of single cream. Stir in the ground almond and use your hands to knead the mixture into a firm paste, adding more icing sugar if the consistency is too sticky. Once firm, roll out into a circle and two strips - the same size as the top and sides of your cake. Leave these ready on the side.
9. Next, make the apricot glaze. Heat the apricot jam over a low heat with a splash of water, then use a pastry brush to cover the cake with glaze. Once glazed, lay the marzipan across the cake, using the glaze to stick it to down firmly. Try to do this as neatly as you can to avoid excess bumps in the icing (but it doesn’t matter too much). You can leave this layer to dry for 24 hours, but it’s not essential.
10. When you’re ready to ice, roll the fondant icing out onto a clean surface dusted with icing sugar. Like the marzipan, cut out a circle and two strips to cover the top and sides of the cake. Lightly brush the marzipan with water to make it slightly sticky, then carefully ice the cake, smoothing edges using a little water.
11. Use remaining icing to decorate the cake - I used edible glitter and a star cutter - or place a ribbon around the edge to cover icing edges. Et voila! The cake will last well into January if you keep cut edges wrapped in foil. Enjoy!