Christmas Special Recipes - Chelsea’s Un Christmas cake

Chelsea’s Un Christmas Cake with cream cheese icing & candied nuts I’ve gotta level with you – I’m not a huge fan of ‘traditional...

Christmas cake

Chelsea’s Un Christmas Cake with cream cheese icing & candied nuts

I’ve gotta level with you – I’m not a huge fan of ‘traditional’ Christmas cake. This is my modern and ‘Chelsified’ version – it’s quicker, uses everyday ingredients and it’s pretty damned good. It has a heap of grated beetroot & carrot in it to make it lovely and moist, and it has all those wonderful Christmas cake attributes like warm spices, citrus zing, tasty fruit and of course, booze – however they are present in a more delicate fashion. Cranberries and apricots instead of glace cherries (you can still use them if you must!). Subtle fresh orange and lemon rind, not great hulking pieces of peel. And a lighter, cakey texture (not a heavy brick that could double as a weapon in combat). Liqueur is used to soak the fruit, then poured over your slice at the end, so you can choose how much you end up with. The crunchy candied nuts on the top really make it!

The great thing about this cake is you can use gluten-free flour mix and it turns out just as well (the one in the photo was made with Edmonds gluten-free flour mix). Just make sure there is no raising agent in it already.

If you forgo the cream cheese icing and just go for a liberal dusting of icing sugar and/or freeze-dried fruit powder, the cake is dairy-free. It is moist enough to get away with this, especially when you drizzle the liqueur over later!


2 1/2 cups chopped dried fruit (I used apricots & cranberries)
2 cups Galliano (or liqueur of your choice. If you don’t like liqueur, soak them in orange juice warmed with 1 tbsp honey).
Zest of 2 oranges and 1/4 cup juice
Zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of juice

3 ½ cups plain flour (or use gluten-free flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp mace (optional)
Pinch of sea salt
5 free-range eggs
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup rice bran or grape seed oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp natural vanilla essence
2 cups grated beetroot
1 1/2 cups grated carrot

Cream cheese icing
250g cream cheese (not light)
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
Squeeze of lemon juice


Add the apricots and cranberries to a non-metallic bowl with the Galliano (or whatever liqueur you choose), orange juice and zest, and lemon juice and zest. All the fruit should be covered. Cover and leave at least overnight, or a couple of days in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 160c conventional bake and set a rack in the lower half of the oven. Grease and flour a 23-25cm cake tin, and line the base with baking paper. Set the rack just in the lower half of the oven.

Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into your largest mixing bowl and whisk to combine evenly.
Drain the soaked fruit through a sieve, reserving the syrupy liqueur juice in a bowl for later.

Crack the eggs into another large bowl. Add the sugars, oils and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Add the soaked fruit with a 1/3 cup of the syrupy liquid, and the grated carrot and beetroot. Fold to combine. (Note – if using gluten-free flour, add 1/2 cup of the liqueur).

Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and fold until well combined – I use a rubber spatula for this to get everything off the sides and bottom.
Scrape into the greased tin. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 40 minutes (a skewer inserted should come out clean). Cool slightly, then turn out on to a rack to cool completely. Seal in an airtight container for a few days until ready to ice.

To make the icing, beat the ingredients together until smooth. Add a little more lemon juice if necessary to thin it out or more icing sugar to thicken. Ice the cooled cake using a knife dipped in hot water.

To serve
Top with candied nuts (recipe below). Serve slices of the cake with some whipped cream or ice cream  (or both) and a drizzle of the remaining liqueur syrup.

Merry Christmas, my lovely people! xx

Candied nuts
50g butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
1 cup mixed nuts
Pinch salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150c conventional bake. Heat the butter, sugar and spices in a small saucepan to melt. Stir in the nuts and salt and pepper. Pour into an even layer in a roasting dish lined with baking paper and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes – the nuts should be golden brown but not burnt. Remove from the oven and cool. Break into pieces if they are stuck together, and garnish to top the cake.

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