Here we are, Summer past, and Autumn racing towards cold, dark, long Winter evenings. On the bright side, with the onset of Winter we also have a special festive occasion to look forward to; the season of goodwill and compassion, the season of gifts and charity, and this Christmas lets not forget our animal friends, those voiceless faithful beings who deserve our love – let’s make this a special Christmas for them too – please spare a thought for those who share this earth with us equally.
………….whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the festive season is upon us and Christmas cake and mince pies come to mind; friends, family and all things good to look forward to and brighten the long and dark winter nights.
Before I go further I have an admission……I have never, ever, baked a vegan fruit cake and even more scary I have never baked a rich fruit & nut cake with olive oil!! In fact, I am not very good at baking cakes and yet I had to make a Christmas cake this year – I had to because I retired in May and for many years I have promised myself I will do all the things I have wanted to do, but never had the time, when I retire….and here we are. Having trawled for recipes to modify to my spec, I decided nothing really appealed much – well I didn’t find many recipes for vegan fruit and nut cakes! I was also determined to use olive oil instead of vegan margarine and a little wholemeal flour to give the cake that divine yet earthy taste which of course made it more difficult to find anything to adapt!
We don’t eat much cake but when we do we don’t like it too sweet. I have used 150 grams of brown sugar which is quite enough, but you could add a little more, say another 30 grams, if you like it sweeter. I chopped the nuts but kept them quite chunky – we like nuts and I love bagging a big Brazil nut in my slice of cake.
Having soaked the fruits and nuts they patiently waited in the bowl, getting merrily tipsy, for 4 days while I shilly-shallied and eventually took the plunge – with much trepidation. A friend who bakes for angels sent me his basic fruit cake recipe which was a great help and I am grateful, however, I did make considerable changes to it and having done so, all I could do, was pop the cake in the oven and wait…….
My verdict: Moist, earthy and wholemealy, very fruity and nutty, not overly sweet and pretty boozy. If this lights your fire, then follow the recipe and you won’t go far wrong. If you prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar. Whatever you do, don’t pass it by! It is really quite simple – I was very anxious because I just didn’t know what to expect, but I think the gods were kind and the result just what I was hoping for – fortune does favour the brave……
450 grams mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins)
100 grams glace cherries, halved (save a few whole for decorating the cake!)
100 grams Brazil nuts, chopped (save a few for decorating)
100 grams walnuts,chopped = 750 grams fruit & nuts soaked in sherry
1 bottle cheap sweet Sherry
300 grams plain flour
100 grams wholemeal flour
80 grams ground almonds
1½ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder (if you don’t have cardamom powder, pound 5-6 green cardamoms in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, discard the skin and use the ground seeds)
½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons agave syrup
250-260ml coconut milk (I used 250ml of Koko – only add extra 10ml if mixture is very stiff)
100ml olive oil
- Soak the mixed fruit, cherries, Brazil nuts and walnuts in the Sherry (I used about two-thirds of the bottle). Leave to soak for 24 hours but 48 hours is preferable and plumps up the fruit nicely and soaks up the Sherry!
- Grease and line a cake tin or a loaf tin with baking parchment (I used an 8½ inch round tin)
- Pre-heat oven to 160C, 325F or gas mark 3 (these temperatures are for non-fan assisted oven)
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
- Strain the fruit and nuts and add to dry ingredients
- Add olive oil, coconut milk and agave syrup and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon beating air into the mixture
- Pour cake mixture into the lined tin and decorate with some glace cherries and Brazil nuts
- Bake for 2 hours. Check after 1.5 hours and cover with a sheet of baking parchment – this helps to keep it from getting too brown. All ovens are temperamental so be sure to check by pushing a skewer in the middle of the cake after 1 hour 45 minutes; if the skewer comes out clean the cake is ready. I baked mine for 2 hours
- OPTIONAL: Leave the cake to cool for about 15 minutes, make holes in the cake with a skewer and pour a little Port, Rum, Brandy or Cointreau (about 25ml). Remove from tin when completely cool. Rub a little more alcohol on the top and sides.
- Wrap in baking parchment and store in a tin.
Good luck and happy baking – may your kitchen be filled with the festive fragrance of fruits, nuts and Sherry of course! I am planning to warm up a slice or two and have it with cream – Oatly do a very good vegan long life cream which is excellent because you can buy a couple and have it handy when needs must.