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Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding – the BEST Christmas pudding ever!

I’ve always loved Christmas pudding, even as a kid and this is the BEST I’ve ever had; think traditional Christmas pud crossed with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (in a good way, naturally). Because the boozy back notes are being provided by liqueurs rather than brandy or rum, the chocolaty, fruitiness is amplified to delicious effect. If you’re not concerned about making this recipe gluten-free, you can simply use regular breadcrumbs and flour.

Making this is actually dead simple, but the cooking requires some knowledge of how to properly steam a pudding so this post is a bit longer than usual with extra pictures that will hopefully be helpful; whilst I already knew how to steam a pudding, I was banging on about making my pud over on Twitter and the friendly folk from Mason Cash sent me this video which you might find useful if you’ve never done it before.

A few things to bear in mind before embarking on making this pudding: creme de cacao isn’t the easiest liqueur to get hold of, but there are online retailers that sell it, or you could see if you can buy a couple of shots from your local cocktail bar (I got my bottle of the stuff whilst on holiday), or if you can find another chocolate liqueur (not cream based) then use that; you’ll need to be at home for eight hours while your pudding steams in order to make sure that the pan doesn’t boil dry, so plan ahead when you’re going to do this and steep your fruit the day/night before; you’ll need a 1.5 litre pudding bowl, either plastic or a heat proof glass bowl (Pyrex or similar); you’ll also need a large enough saucepan for the pudding bowl to fit in, with a little extra room so you can rest it on a trivet or jam jar (to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan) and still get a lid on it; so yes, you also need a small metal trivet or a jam jar too; to cover your pudding bowl you’ll need greaseproof paper and foil, and some string to secure it to the bowl.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 150g glace cherries, chopped
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g sultanas
  • 20g dried, mixed peel (if you happen to have it, don’t buy it especially for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur (I used Cointreau, but Grand Marnier or similar is fine)
  • 4 tbsp creme de cacao
  • 2 oranges
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 200g dark chocolate, chips or chopped into small chunks
  • 50g chopped almonds

The day or night before you’re going to steam your pudding, put the cherries, apricots, sultanas, peel (if using), finely grated zest and juice of both oranges and the liqueurs in a bowl. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

On the day of pudding making, put the butter and sugars in a large bowl and cream together. Then beat in the eggs, followed by the breadcrumbs, flour and remaining ingredients, mixing together until well combined. Add the boozy fruit to the bowl and give a final mix. Your raw pudding mixture is now ready for steaming.

Preparing to steam – you’ll need:

  • 1.5 litre (or larger) heat proof pudding bowl
  • a little butter or oil
  • greaseproof paper
  • tin foil
  • string
  • scissors
  • a small metal trivet or clean jam jar lid
  • large saucepan with lid

Lightly grease the inside of your pudding bowl and put a small disc of greaseproof paper in the bottom – this will help the pudding to come out of the bowl when it’s cooked.

Greaseproof paper in the pudding bowl

Greaseproof paper in the pudding bowl makes it easier to get the pudding out when cooked

Pour and scrape your pudding mixture into the bowl, smoothing it out as much as possible. Take a large sheet of greaseproof (big enough to comfortably cover the top of your pudding bowl with an over-hang all around) and a sheet of tin foil around the same size. Lay the foil over the greaseproof and make a pleat down the centre of both – this is to allow room for expansion as the pudding steams (see the video for a demonstration of how to do this). Place the paper/foil over the top of the bowl and secure tightly with the string. Trim any excess paper and foil.

Place your trivet or jam jar lid in the centre of the bottom of the saucepan – this is to keep the bowl off the bottom of the saucepan. Tear off a long strip of tin foil, long enough to go under your pudding bowl with over-hang – you’re going to use this a bit like a sling to lift the pudding out of the saucepan eventually. Fold the foil lengthways several times to make it stronger and lay it in the saucepan across the centre so it rests on top of the trivet or jam jar lid.

Saucepan prepared for pudding steaming

Saucepan prepared for pudding steaming; a jam jar lid or trivet to keep the bowl off the base of the pan and a strip of foil to lift the bowl out once the pudding is cooked

Carefully place the pudding bowl in the saucepan, on top of the lid and foil. Fold the edges of the foil sling over the top of the pudding bowl so that you’ll be able to get the lid on the saucepan. Boil a kettle full of water and pour the hot water into your saucepan so it comes to around two thirds up the pudding bowl, turn the heat on under the saucepan and put the lid on, bringing the water to a boil again.

Pudding in the saucepan

Pudding in the saucepan, boiling water in and lid on and it’s ready to steam for 8 hours!

Your pudding is now steaming! Steam for 8 hours, regularly topping up with more boiling water so that it never boils dry (aim to keep the water level between a quarter and two thirds up the bowl, not less or more – I topped up around every 45 minutes).  After the eight hours steaming are up, you can remove the pudding from the saucepan using the foil sling. Allow to cool completely before removing the greaseproof/foil lid.

To store your pudding, cover with clean, dry greaseproof or foil and secure tightly with string. Leave in a cool, dark place (it doesn’t need to be refrigerated) until you need it.

To reheat, you can: steam again, following the same instructions as before, for around three hours, or; remove it from the pudding bowl, put it in an oven proof tray, loosely covered with foil and heat in moderate oven (around 150C) for about an hour, or; remove from the pudding bowl, place on a microwavable plate, cover with cling film with a couple of holes pierced in and heat on medium, in bursts of 2-3 minutes until piping hot all the way through (don’t just whack it on high or leave it in for ages, it could burn easily as it has such a high sugar content).  However you choose to reheat it, always ensure it’s hot all the way through before serving and never reheat more than twice.

I know this sounds like hard work, but it isn’t really. The most complicated bit is the greaseproof/foil lid and that’s hardly rocket science. The rest is just being around to keep an eye on things. This pudding is so much nicer than even the most luxury of puddings we’ve had from supermarkets and I think making it yourself for such a special occasion is incredibly rewarding. But if you think it’s just a little too much work, check out some of my other Christmas recipes and give one of those a go.

The making of the Christmas Pudding!

The making of the Christmas Pudding!

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Spiced Plum Cake

Spiced Plum Cake

Spiced Plum Cake – moist and loaded with seasonal fruit

I bought lots of plums at the supermarket today, thinking I’d make a crumble at the weekend. I probably still will (and the recipe will probably end up here!), but I just couldn’t stop myself making a cake this evening. Everything I bake at the moment seems to be spiced – clearly the time of year for warming flavours – whilst the seasonal plums help this cake stay deliciously moist and soft.

Spiced Plum Cake

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 75g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 5 plums

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line an 8″ spring form cake tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then add the remaining dry ingredients (if you have a stand mixer, you can make this as an all-in-one cake and just mix the whole lot together, scraping down the sides with a spatula half way through to ensure everything is well incorporated). Chop the plums into small chunks, discarding the stones, and stir through the stiff cake batter with a spatula. Scrape into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-55 minutes. The cake is done when it’s a deep, golden brown, firm to the touch and coming away from the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Dust with a little icing sugar to serve.

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake, perfect for a rainy autumn day

I was over at my parent’s place this weekend because I was looking after all the sick people there. Mostly this just involved feeding people, something I rather enjoy. I knocked up this simple little cake because there were lots of apples to be eaten or used, and a slice of comforting apple cake on an autumnal day is surely good medicine even if you’re not feeling poorly.

Apple and Raisin Loaf Cake

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eating apples (I used Pink Lady), cored and chopped into small chunks
  • generous handful raisins

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat, then add about half the flour and mix to incorporate, then mix in the second egg followed by the remaining flour, baking powder and cinnamon (if you’re a big cinnamon fan, I’d say chuck in an extra half teaspoon). Mix well, then stir in the apple chunks and raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour. It’s done when golden and it springs back when pressed with a fingertip. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about half an hour before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

There’s absolutely nothing new or fancy about these, just my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, but they’re a great basic to have up your sleeve (not literally, they’re better in your belly).  They’re always popular and the jam filling gives them a bit of a Victoria Sponge quality. The recipe makes 12 generously sized cupcakes, so be sure to use muffin cases rather than standard cupcake cases.

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Raspberry Jam filling

For the cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C and prep a 12 hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in an egg then some of the flour, then another egg and more flour, followed by the last egg and what’s left of the flour and the baking powder, mixing until everything is incorporated. Finally add the milk and give the cake batter a final mix. Divide the mix evenly between the 12 muffin cases (an ice cream scoop is really helpful if you have one – makes it easy to get the same amount in each case) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, a skewer comes out clean or they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; it’s important to quickly take them out of the muffin tray to cool as otherwise the paper cases can peel away from the cakes.

For the filling/icing:

  • about 12 tsp raspberry jam (about 120g but it all depends on how big you make the holes)
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes are cool, hollow out centre so you’re left with a hole that goes to about half way down the cake. You can easily do this with a teaspoon, or there are cupcake ‘corers’ on the market (I have one, but only because my mum bought me one, I was quite happy with the teaspoon method so don’t rush out to buy one). Fill the holes with the jam – I find this easiest with two teaspoons, using one to scrape the jam from the other and guide it into the hole.

Put the softened butter in a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. I’m not normally a stickler for sifting, but it does help with icing sugar as it can get a but lumpy. You need to mix the butter and icing sugar until creamy, but I wouldn’t suggest using an electric hand mixer until you’ve given them a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon first – otherwise you and your kitchen are likely to look like you’ve had an accident in a cocaine plant. Once you’ve got the butter and sugar basically combined, add the vanilla and have at it with the electric whisk. My best tip for making brilliant buttercream icing is to whisk it for longer than you think you need to. When you think it’s done, keep going for a few more minutes. If you keep whisking it becomes light, fluffy and whipped like the kind of icing you’d get in a top notch bakery or cake shop. Use a palatte knife to generously ice your cupcakes; put a big dollop on top of the jam filling and then spread it out to cover the whole of the top of the cake. Or if your any good with a piping bag you can do it that way. There are loads of tutorials online about how to ice cakes, they all explain it far better than I can here; the only way to get good at it is to practice and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a ‘rustic’ looking cupcake. I like to add a bit of edible glitter, but you might want to go for some sprinkles or just leave plain.

You could use this recipe to make smaller cupcakes if you don’t have a muffin pan or muffin cases, but be sure to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.

Vanilla Cupcakes, filled with Raspberry Jam

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with raspberry jam, prior to being topped with buttercream icing

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Moist and sticky Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

One of my favourite things in the world is salted caramel. If you haven’t tried it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. It’s like normal caramel but the salt intensifies the flavour and makes it less sickly sweet. Whenever I’m shopping I’m constantly on the look out for all things salted caramel flavoured, or just caramel products that I can add salt to. Waitrose came up trumps in the caramel stakes recently, where I bought Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel (caramel spread that I have to use every ounce of will power to not eat straight from the jar) and Vahine Nappage Caramel (a liquid caramel sauce), both of which I’ve used in this recipe. If you can’t find caramel syrup, substitute golden syrup; you can easily replace the caramel spread with Carnation Caramel which is widely available.

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Ingredients:

  • 150g butter
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp liquid caramel or golden syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 large eating apples (I used Pink Lady)
  • 3 heaped tbsp caramel
  • couple of large pinches sea salt

Heat oven to 170C and grease and line the base of a 9″ loose bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter, sugars, liquid caramel or golden syrup and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg, followed by half the flour then the second egg and the remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon and one large pinch of salt. Add the milk and give it another mix until smooth. Grate one of the apples into the mix, stirring until everything is well combined.

Finely slice the second apple and arrange the slices in a circle on the base of your prepared tin (you might find any little off cuts useful for covering the middle of the pan). Dollop the caramel in the centre of your tin and spread out a little with a spatula – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reach the edge of tin at all as it will spread as it heats in the oven. Sprinkle the remaining pinch of sea salt over the caramel and apples in the tin, then spoon the cake mix on top and smooth it out so everything is well covered. Try and spread more of the cake mix towards the edges of the tin so there’s a bit of a dip in the centre – what is currently the top of the cake will become the bottom so you want to compensate for it rising more in the middle so it’s as flat as possible once cooked. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until golden brown. You can tell the cake is done as it will be coming away from the edge of the tin and will spring back when you press it lightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

To serve, turn out of the tin and invert on to your serving plate, being very careful to keep your apples in place when you remove the base. I had lots of gooey, caramel goodness left on my greaseproof so I scraped it off and smeared it back on the middle of the cake – don’t want to waste any! I must also confess that as I like my salted caramel on the heavily salted side, I sprinkled just a little more on the cake just before serving.

This is particularly nice served with a dollop of cold cream or Greek yogurt, or you could warm a few tablespoons of caramel and use that as a pouring sauce.

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

It starts as the top, but then becomes the bottom of Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam and Whipped Cream

Family lunch today, and I usually take some kind of cake with me (mainly because I like feeding cake to my nephews). I’ve been a bit obsessed with fruity bakes lately, particularly peaches (see my previous recipe for Peach & Blueberry Swiss Roll) and with the addition of some oranges that were knocking about the fruit bowl having seen better days, here’s what I came up with:

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

For the jam:

  • 5 peaches
  • 150g caster sugar

Prepare your peaches by scoring a cross in the skin at the top or bottom of the peach. Blanch in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds, then take them out; the skin should peel away very easily, but don’t worry if there are a few flecks left on the flesh. Remove the stones, then squish the flesh through your fingers into a medium sized saucepan, along with the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly to make sure your jam isn’t sticking to the pan. Boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it all the time. Check if it’s done by putting a teaspoon sized amount on a cool plate, leaving it for a minute and then running your finger through it – when it has become jam it should ‘wrinkle’ and it won’t run down the plate when tilted. Place in a clean bowl to cool, transferring to the fridge until needed. If you have any left after topping your cake, store it in sterilised jam jars.

For the orange sponge:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 oranges
  • 300ml double cream (for serving)

Heat your oven to 175C and grease and line the base of a 9″ spring form cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in one egg, followed by about a third of the flour, then the next egg and more flour and finally the third egg and last of the flour and baking powder. Finely grate in the rind of both oranges, then add the juice of just one. Make sure everything is mixed well, pour into the cake tin and smooth down with a spatula, bake for 20-25 mins until golden. It’s done when the sponge is starting to come away from the sides, it springs back when lightly pressed, or a skewer comes out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, lightly whip the double cream until it’s just sticking to the whisk; be careful not to over-whip as it starts to become butter which is not what you’re trying to achieve! Put the sponge on a serving plate, top with the softly whipped cream and finish with the peach jam.