Can any gluten free bakers out there help me with my christmas cakes ?

I am sorry to use this site for such a trivial question but are any of you members good bakers? I make Christmas cakes for lots of people every Christmas but this is my first year being gluten/wheat free. I have made the first batch just substituting the usual flour to gluten/wheat free flour and adding a bit more alcohol and although they taste very nice ,instead of having a slice I just have a pile of fruit and crumbs! What do I need to add to make it stick together ? All your suggestions gratefully received . Busby X

23 Replies

  • Did you use doves Farm flour? I made mine this weekend and used large eggs rather than medium, (they usually help bind my cakes and pastry,) you could try a teaspn of xanthum gum? I have tried substituting some of the flour with ground almonds in the past but found that can be quite drying. I also put in extra brandy, to make a sticky mix, and I feed my cakes brandy every weekend for a month! Very boozy my Christmas cakes, but usually delish. I did wonder last year if baking time needs to be reduced so I kept right on the time this year- the proof will be in the eating. I've also gone back this year to my tried and trusted recipe in my old cookery bible, Good Housekeeping, that I've had for years! There are some reasonable gf blogs on the net, worth looking through for tips. Good luck! L

  • Hi Lynilou,thanks for the reply. Yes I did use Doves farm but medium eggs so I will try large next time. I have six cakes to make but want to get it right as I have to prove that a GF Christmas can be just as good as being on a normal diet. The first two cakes that are very moist but very crumbly are still being enjoyed though and the dogs are drooling as soon as I take the lid off the cake tin!!!

  • Don't know if I'd class myself as a good baker, but my Christmas cake is quite tasty!! I use my mums normal receipe for cake, but do add teaspoon of xanthum gum to flour mix & it has turned out well the last few years. Hood it helps!! I'll need to make mine soon!! xx

  • Thanks Alison,I am trying to use our usual family recipe. I want to give everyone their cakes as usual and not tell them that they are GF and see what the response is ! And I just want to have a piece with them and be normal for a change instead of refusing most things when I go to their houses. Thanks for the help. X

  • I ran a test on christmas cake recipe ( the bbc one with chocolate in) using my usual flour mix I make myself, Bobs Red Mill and Doves Farm a few years ago. Link to the three month test is

    (can't sem to post it as a link but you can cut and paste) and the original full description is

    I make my flour with urid lentil flour (available for Indian suppliers, used to make papadums), tapioca (40% each) and either corn or rice 20% I have switched to rice since the tests even though it works less well for crisp pastry as I have found corn gives me a dull gut ache. At these amounts it doesn't give that revolting sandy mouth feel you get with flours like Doves Farm

    I ran blind taste tests on the recipes and did chcke for texture after the three months so I know they hold together so will be suitable as make ahead gifts.

  • My mum has taken up gluten free baking and converted her recipes. She tells me that she puts a whole extra egg in as well as a half teaspoon of xanthan gum. The recipe needs the extra moisture and binding. The result is so good that I almost can't tell the difference between the old and new versions!

  • Hi Busby,

    These are the 3 things that I used to do differently when producing gluten free christmas cakes at my bakery:

    1. Soak my fruit. In a christmas cake you can use brandy, rum or whisky (all work well!) or if you don't like alcohol freshly squeezed orange juice or black tea is good. You don't need lots of liquid, the fruit shouldn't be swimming in liquid, but enough to moisten all the fruit so it is shiny with a little residue in the bottom of the bowl. Then cover the fruit and leave for 24-72 hours before you bake with it.

    2. Use a gum, unless your flour already contains it. Some people don't like xanthan though it is very good so you can use guar gum or soak some mucilaginous seeds (ones that get a slimey sticky coating when mixed with water) and use soaked seeds and water - something like flaxseed or chia is good.

    3. Add extra liquid. All gluten free flours absorb more moisture than wheat flour, so you will that need to add extra liquid to get the same consistency of batter that you had with wheat flour. Boiling water is quite useful as it gives tha baking powder a kick, but only use it if you are going to bake the cake immediately you have made the batter. If not use orange juice for a bit of extra flavour. Trust your instincts, if you cake batter looks a lot drier than it did when baking (the same recipe) with wheat flour, then loosen the mixture until it has the same consistency. The flipside of this is that you need to monitor the baking time a bit as it may take slightly longer to bake - and resist the urge to open the oven until the 3/4 way through the baking so that the mixture is fully risen and set.

    Also, I only ever used Doves Farm rice flour for fruit cakes.

    Hope this is useful to you - or someone!


  • Great information from you, I really appreciate it. Fruit cakes are expensive to make so I don't want too many disasters , have any of you tried the Phil Vickery flour mixes ? I am not keen on the gritty texture of the ready made flour blends so was thinking about trying the Phil Vickery recipe for flour blends but would like know if any of you have tried them?

  • Hi Busby, Yes, I've used his flour mix B to make a couple of things, including an excellent dark chocolate fudge cake which my family said was just as good as the gluteny one I used to make. I haven't used Mix A because it requires flours I can't get locally and buying online really does make it a bit of a faff!

  • Oh not at all trivial, helps me as well as this is the first year I am actually making the cake, rather than just buying from the supermarket, thanks for all the advice

  • Haven't tried Phil's flour blends- seem too faffy for me!! xx

  • I use Glutafin All purpose mix got on prescription, and have had no trouble with cakes or pastries. Family and friends can't trell the difference. To my sponge mix I add 2 tsps of Xanthum Gum, and the cakes turn out so light. Hope this helps. Also use the gum in pastry

  • Hi AlisonM,they appear a bit too faffy for me too,that's what is putting me off trying them !

  • As others have said, extra egg and xanthan gum, and I would also use a 50:50 mix of golden syrup and black treacle instead of sugar. You get that lovely treacly taste and a satisfyingly aged-looking dark moist cake.

  • I definitely second using treacle (but as well as some sugar), it helps keep the cake more moist.

    If it helps I used to the the recipe from the Delia Christmas book which has treacle in.

  • learning to bake with the GF flour combinations is a bit of a trial at first, but it's easy once you remember to use something like xanthan or guar gum, or psyllium powder to act as the gluten binder replacement. I usually make light fluffy cakes quite easily now. The trick with baking cakes and other light tasties, is that you need a combination of light flours, like white rice flour, tapioca flour and a starch, I like potato starch best for cakes. Do not over mix them either when adding the wet ingredients. Just enough to combine. I have some tips and a few recipes posted on my blog: newmexicoglutenfree.blogspo...

    For desserts if you're converting from a traditional recipe, the liquids called for in the original recipe would stay the same, as do the other ingredients, except that you would add a gum or gluten replacement. Gums will help hold it together better and give you a good crumb. :D Hope that helps!

  • bobs red mill makes some awesome ready to go cake mixes. so does' kinickkinick' and there are more out there. dont know where u are but there is a great store called 'good nature health foods' in matawan nj that can tell u what brands are new and good. they can tell u how to order them. but id look on bobs red mill site for gluten free cake mix and kikickkinick. ps kikickkinick makes AWESOME gluten free bread to eat and make stuffing with. (the brand ener-g SUCKS compared to kinickkinick!!! ener-g breads dont even taste like real food.)

  • Hi Busby had great results using a recipe from Darina Allen Healthy Glutebn free Eating. Have made two one for me n one for pal found the book on Amazon. Good luck xx

  • Thanks for all the replies . One more thing ,how much xanthan gum do you use in ratio to flour? Have been reading loads of web sites and am getting a bit confused now!

  • Be careful with the xanthan gum. I find it to be a laxative, even in small amounts. I cook without it and put up with the occasional crumbling.

  • I find the gf flour needs more liquid before it has a gritty texture...I use coconut oil and I always add an extra egg....even just makin a plain Victoria sponge, i add more liquid, so it's more like a batter mix....


  • Try There are many gluten free recipes. It tried a few and they are pretty good.

  • Use my family recipe for Christmas cake from about 1850...baked this with my Gran and my very experirnced with it....and just converted it to gluten free flour. No need for Xantham gum etc.

    It used all imperial in metric it just didnt work. Am using last years tasting cake...well fed with rum since the middle of November...and may well marzipan it this weekend. Will fondant ice it about a week later. All home made...nowt out of packets...

    I am diabetic as well as Coeliac...and you really shouldnt encourage me. Will retire to naughty corner for the forseeable future...

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