Gluten Free Christmas Cake - suitable for diabetics! Light, apple, prune and almond scented...

In 2006 I wrote a few recipes for the You magazine supplement of the Daily Mail. I'm a Guardian reader myself, but I like to share recipes with whoever needs them and the response from readers was amazing. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was inundated with calls and emails from folks asking about the recipe and then letting me know how pleased they were with the way it turned out. Little did I think that I would still be receiving calls from people almost five years later, unfurling their tattered copy of the recipe and asking me where to find rice bran!

So I thought I'd republish the recipe, for anyone who would like a light, low GI, Gluten Free Christmas cake, that can be made 48 hours before Christmas day with no fuss what-so-ever! When I make my own this year I'll update with a picture.

This recipe is also suitable for Diabetic Coeliacs, that rare and special breed. As most of these people already realise, most of the gluten free substitutes available are packed with sugars and quick releasing grains that are totally unsuitable for Diabetics. To be honest, the rest of us could do with as little of these products as possible too to avoid developing insulin resistance in the future.

So I thought I would put it up here for those of you who would like to try it too. A couple of points first though: It is best to keep it only a few days to a week to mature - it doesn't have all the sugar, dried vine fruits and booze that would preserve most Christmas cakes long enough to leave as heirlooms. This is the type of cake that you whip up quickly (after soaking the fruit overnight), cooks in only a couple of hours and fills the house with a delicious smell of apples and spice. Don't cover it in marzipan and ice it, unless you're confident that your blood sugar levels are nice and stable - definitely not if you are Diabetic!

If you have trouble finding rice bran in your health food shop you can order it from Goodness Direct. If you would prefer not to use rice bran, you could substitute another whole grain gluten free flour (not Doves Farm Gluten free flour or a similar high GI mix). I would try one of the following; chestnut flour,  buckwheat flour or Teff flour. Alternatively try adding some cooked quinoa grains instead.

If you think it might take you longer than a few days to eat, slice it up and freeze on a parchment covered tray - lifting once during freezing to prevent it sticking. Then just take a piece out as you need and let it defrost for a couple of hours - or warm and serve with cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon (reputed to help lower blood sugar levels)....mmmmm!

Gluten Free Christmas Cake – suitable for diabetics

GL stands for glycaemic load. Those with diabetes or trying to lose weight should try to limit their GL per meal to 15 GLs maximum. Remember to include any carbohydrate that you eat within a couple of hours of eating this cake in your GL total. This will help stabilise blood sugar levels.

Made with palm sugar and cut into 8 slices = 11 GLs per slice or 10 slices 8.8 GLs per slice. It will be significantly higher made with honey or maple syrup.

170g (6oz) pitted prunes
115g (4oz) dried apple rings
115g (4oz) dried apricots
1 small apple grated
85g (3oz) palm sugar or ground up dates, (or date syrup, maple syrup or honey plus a dessert spoonful of ground almonds)
170g (6oz) soft butter
3 large eggs (4 medium)
85g(3oz) ground almonds
85g (3oz) rice bran or buckwheat flour or cooked quinoa grains
50ml (double measure) brandy
1-2 oranges
Desertspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp baking powder (or ½ tsp bicarb and 2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice)
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg or mace
2 cloves ground to a powder with a pinch of salt (or 1/2 tsp allspice or mixed spice)

The day before you intend to make the cake, chop the dried fruit roughly in a food processor – or by hand. Put into a bowl and pour over the brandy – it will not cover the fruit. Leave to soak overnight, giving it a little stir when you are passing.

Line a deep 20cm (8 inch) diameter cake tin with a double layer of brown paper, bottom and sides. Finish this with a layer of greaseproof paper. Alternatively, double line the inside of the tin with greaseproof paper and tie a few sheets of carefully folded newspaper around the outside with ovenproof string. Do not let any of the paper touch the sides of the oven though!

Set the oven to 150ºC (gas mark 2) or 160ºC if your oven is not fan assisted.

Cream the butter and sugar (or honey etc) and stir in the chopped fruit, zest from 1 orange, grated apple, vanilla and spices. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs together until they are well mixed and stir them into the mixture a bit at a time. Don’t worry if it looks a bit curdled – it will be fine!

Stir in the ground almonds, rice bran (buckwheat flour or quinoa), and baking powder until a smoothish mixture is formed. Finally, squeeze the juice from half the orange and stir into the mixture to make a soft dropping consistency (add more if it seems stiff at all – you may need up to 2 oranges). Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface lightly.

Bake for 1 ½ - 2 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with foil if it seems to be browning too much after 40 minutes. As soon as the tin is cool enough to touch, replace the piece of foil tightly over the top and leave till completely cold (this softens the top of the cake). Un-mould and wrap in greaseproof paper and a double layer of foil.

Eat immediately or keep it for up to a week in an airtight tin, in a cool place, before eating - but not longer or it will start to go off. Do not ice this cake, but instead enjoy it with some thick double cream or Greek yoghurt for an indulgent guilt free treat.