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It's gluten-free and guaranteed to be a genuine sensation

We all know I'm domestically challenged and as sleep deprivation has effectively seen off any chance I had of pretending otherwise, there is no use in hiding it. This week's comedy of errors involved two toddlers, two gingerbread houses and a severe case of Not Reading The Instructions.

Unfortunately, by the time I discovered that gingerbread houses need three hours to set before being decorated, I had already wound Chloe and her little friend William up into a frenzy of excitement. There they were, aprons on, clutching their bowls of candy and ready to go. I could hardly ask them to give it all back so we could try again in a few hours. Well I could have done, but it wouldn't have been pretty.

After several re-builds, I had two houses that were at least standing. They were terrible, and I mean really terrible, but I've told everyone that Chloe did ours and no-one expects much from a two-year-old. Incredibly, hers actually survived the process, but William lost a side wall and the roof within minutes.

Not that he seemed to mind, I think he was intent on eating it all anyway along with an impressive amount of candy. On that note, I was under strict instructions to let the kids enjoy themselves and not be the candy police, but I confess the sugar count did give me palpitations. At least I had switched out the artificially-coloured candy that came with the houses for Smarties and Dolly Mixtures. I know, I'm no fun, but whilst these options are still sugary, they are at least free from all the additives that tend to make kids bounce of the walls. I say that, but Chloe was still singing 'Jingle Bells' in her bed at half past nine. Oh well.

All this was enough for me to swear off any creative kitchen activity for some time. That is except for the annual Christmas cake extravaganza. I will be braving the baking process just one more time over the next two weeks, and that is to cook the best gluten-free Christmas cake out there. All too often, gluten-free products are dry and tasteless, but this one is a genuine sensation. I'm not really a fan of fruit cake, but this is moist and really quite delicious. Fortunately I've made this before, so I'm already aware this is a lengthy process. Just make sure that if you give it a go too, you read the instructions beforehand. I wouldn't want you to try and whip this up at eight o'clock at night.

So if you are either catering for someone with a gluten intolerance or would simply like to test out my definition of a culinary miracle, try out the fruit cake recipe below. I'll warn you now though, it's labour intensive, but it's really worth the effort especially as even die-hard fruitcake haters tend to love it.

Gluten-free–Christmas cake

Ingredients:

175g Earth Balance vegan margarine (Down to Earth, Lindo's)

110g molasses

75g soft, dark brown sugar

150ml Silk soy milk (red carton)

110g dates, chopped

300g raisins

200g dried plums, chopped

110g glace cherries, chopped

225g brown rice flour (Down to Earth, Harrington Hundreds)

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (widely available)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

110g ground almonds (I got mine from Miles)

2 lemons, the grated rind of

3 eggs

Method:

1. Place the margarine, molasses, sugar and soy milk in a large pan along with all the dried fruit. Heat gently and stir until all the margarine has melted.

2. Simmer for one minute and then take off the heat and cover. Leave the fruit to “swell” for at least two hours even overnight if you have time.

3. Line the base and sides of a round (8”) or square cake tin (7”) with baking paper. Make sure that the paper rises at least 5 cm above the rim of the tin.

4. Put all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix roughly.

5. Add the fruit mixture and mix by hand or using an electric mixer (not a blender!) on low speed. Mix well.

6. Pour the cake mix into the tin and smooth the surface with a wet knife.

7. Bake for two hours and 40 minutes at 250 F or 110 C (fan assisted) /130C (no fan)

8. Leave to cool in the tin until cold

9. Ice as you would an ordinary Christmas cake, or make a “butter” icing using Earth Balance margarine, icing sugar and a little rum.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the U.K. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. She can be contacted at nourishbda@gmail.com.

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Published December 17, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 17, 2010 at 6:42 am)

It's gluten-free and guaranteed to be a genuine sensation

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