RSS Feed

Tag Archives: spice

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


  • 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!


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


  • 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.

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cake. Better than that there coffee giant’s latte.

Every year, around this time, I see friends on Facebook and Twitter getting all hyped up because a certain high-street coffee chain brings back their Pumpkin Spice Latte. I’ve not actually tried one myself, but I’m intrigued by the flavour combination and as I had a tin of pumpkin puree knocking about in the cupboard, so I decided to have a go at creating a cake with the same key ingredients. It didn’t taste like I expected, but I really enjoyed it – it’s lovely and moist with a surprisingly light texture. As this makes two cakes, you could either freeze one (well wrapped in greaseproof paper and then clingfilm) or make up some cream cheese buttercream and sandwich the two cakes together. Or I guess you could make half as much. I only made this much because I used the whole tin of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cake


  • 425g (1 tin) pureed pumpkin
  • 225g vegetable/sunflower oil
  • 150g yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 500g light brown soft sugar
  • 450g plain flour
  • 4 tbsp espresso powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

Heat oven to 180C and grease and line two 9″ round cake tins (spring form, if you have them). In a large bowl, beat together the wet ingredients – pumpkin, oil, yoghurt and eggs – and the sugar until smooth and well incorporated. Add all the dry ingredients and mix to form a pourable batter. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for around 45 minutes; the cakes are done when they’re a rich brown colour, risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool in their tins on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before carefully taking them out of the tin to cool completely. Dust with a little icing sugar, cut a big wedge and serve with your favourite brew.

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

Sweet and warmly spiced, Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

After a few days of not baking whilst packing, moving and unpacking, I’m back at it. Almost the first thing I did in my new place was bake some bread because it made me feel at home. Need to get used to a different oven – I think this one is a little cooler than my old one so I may invest in an oven thermometer.

After baking a couple of loaves of awesome bread, I decided to further ingratiate myself with my new landlord/housemate by making cake! You can’t go far wrong with chocolate cake, and he’s a big lover of ginger so I combined the two and came up with this rather delicious tea-time number. It’s surprisingly light and you could easily leave off the chocolate topping if you wanted. But who doesn’t want more chocolate?!

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

For the cake:

  • 150g butter, softened
  • 175g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa, sifted
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 20g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 60g ginger beer

Heat your oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and syrup until fluffy and much paler in colour. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add a bit of these dry ingredients to your butter and sugar mixture and beat in, then beat in one egg followed by a bit more dry ingredients, then the second egg and the last of the dry ingredients. Stir in the ginger and ginger beer (don’t worry if it looks a bit sloppy or like it’s almost curdled) then pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. It’s done when firm to the touch – if you test with a skewer it’s absolutely fine (a good thing, in fact) if there is still just a hint of gunge left on it. Leave to cool in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate topping:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tsp crystallised ginger, finely chopped

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, being careful that no water or steam gets in the bowl as this will make your chocolate go grainy. Once melted add the butter and stir until melted and combined with the chocolate. Stir in the crystallised ginger until well dispersed. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool for a little while; you want it to be thickly pourable.

Place your cake on a serving plate and pour the chocolate topping over, ensuring it covers right to the edges and hopefully drips alluringly down the sides. Leave to set for as long as you can bear before cutting into slices to serve.

Chocolate and Ginger Cake

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Packed with fruity flavour, inside and out – Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

As I write this, there are 100 days until Christmas. That’s still a way off, but the weather has certainly become more autumnal and so has my baking. Following a visit to Middle Farm last week, where I stocked up on cheese, pear cider and apples, I decided to make an apple pie to take to family lunch at the weekend. I had some oranges that were looking a little sad so I used them to add more flavour to the pastry and I added some spices to my apples. The result was a tasty pie that put everyone in mind of Christmas flavours – this could be a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t like Christmas pudding.

This recipe will make one large pie, enough to feed 8-10 people. If your pie dish isn’t that big you won’t need so many apples. You can always freeze any left-over pastry to use another time (maybe to make some mince pies).

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

For the pastry:

  • 460g plain flour
  • 220g cold butter, cubed
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of 2 large or 3 average oranges
  • 4 tbsp orange juice
  • 4 egg yolks

In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb texture. Try to do this as quickly and lightly as possible; or if you have a food processor you can pulse the ingredients until you achieve the same result. Into the bowl add the sugar and orange zest, then use a blunt ended knife (butter or dinner knife) to mix everything together by making cutting motions across the bowl and turning the bowl as you go. Lightly beat together the yolks and orange juice and add most, but not all, to the dry ingredients – you may not need all the liquid to bring the dough together, but add more if necessary. Continue to mix the liquid in with the same cutting motions of the blunt knife. If you need to, in the final stages bring the dough together and make sure it’s evenly mixed with a light knead with your hands. Form the dough into a ball and flatten a little into a thick disc (it will make it easier to roll out later), then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once chilled, cut off about a third of the pastry to use as the pastry lid; wrap it back up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. With the remaining two thirds, roll out on a lightly floured surface until big enough to comfortably line your pie dish with a little overhang. Your pastry should be about the thickness of a pound coin. If you find it breaks or you get gaps, just patch it up with any pieces of pastry that overhang the edge of your pie dish. Cover and chill in the fridge again for at least half an hour.

For the apple filling:

  • About a kilo of apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (I used a mix of Bramleys and some eating apples from my cousin’s garden, but use whatever kind you like)
  • 60g sugar (I used a mix of dark brown and caster sugar, but any will do)
  • 40g cornflour
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 1 egg and a little caster sugar to glaze the pie

Before you begin prepping your apples, heat your oven to 190C and put a baking tray in the oven. You’ll put your pie dish on the hot tray so the base of the pie heats quickly.

Put the slices of apple in a big bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, cornflour and spices. Mix with your hands until all the apple slices are coated.

Take the pastry lined pie dish out of the fridge. Sprinkle the ground almonds all over the base of the pie – this will help to soak up any juice and prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’! Rather than just tipping your apples in to the pie, try and place the slices in neatly; you’ll end up with a more densely packed pie. The apple layer should come to just below the rim of the dish at the edges, but can be higher in the centre in order to give a nice domed pie. You may find you have sugary, spicy liquid left in the bowl but just discard rather than adding it to the pie – you have all the flavour you need in there already.

Roll out your remaining piece of pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to cover the pie (again, it should be about the thickness of a pound coin); it can be helpful to use the rolling pin to pick the pastry up to transfer to the pie. Use a fork or your fingers to seal/crimp the edges of the pastry together. Trim any excess pastry – you can make decorations out of any little pieces, maybe some apple or leaf shapes. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pie, then sprinkle over a little caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and if your pastry is nicely golden brown, cover it with a little tin foil to prevent the edges browning too much.

This would be delicious hot, cold or warm, served with cream, custard or ice cream.

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

A great seasonal dessert that would be a great alternative to Christmas pudding

With the egg whites left over from this recipe, freeze them in a sealed freezer bag (write on the bag so you know what it is) and use them another time to make a meringue based dessert. Click here for some ideas.