I really look forward to Christmas, not so much for the presents and decorations but for the time with family and friends, the good food and also the fruitcake. I just love the fragrance of spices and whisky as the cake comes out the oven – it is so perfectly Christmassy.
Unfortunately, no one in my family likes fruitcake, which often leaves me to finish it on my own. This year I have decided to make them a different cake for Christmas, though there is still a concession to fruit, with orange peel. To really bring a smile to their faces I have iced the top of the cake with meringue rather than fruit confit or white icing. Another bonus is that the cake is gluten-free.
● Butter and line a 23cm round cake tin. Preheat oven to 170C.
250g soft butter
180g light muscovado sugar
Zest 1 orange
Zest 1 lemon
200g ground almonds
80g rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
100g diced candied orange peel
100g roughly chopped whole almonds
● In a bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light. Slowly add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the orange and lemon zests, and then carefully fold in the rest of the ingredients to make a smooth batter. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Unmould when the cake is cool. It will keep for a few days in an airproof tin, or wrapped well in cling film.
● When the cake is cold and on the same day you eat it, make the meringue.
2 egg whites
220g icing sugar
Juice 1/2 lemon
● In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to leave a trace, that is, make soft peaks.
● Add the icing sugar slowly until the meringue becomes glossy and firm. Add the lemon juice at the end. Spread the meringue over the top of the cake, not too thickly. Bake in a preheated oven at 120C for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch.
● Be careful not to colour the meringue. Take out of the oven and cool.
● Decorate or leave plain.
Rose Carrarini is co-owner of Rose Bakery in Paris and author of ‘Breakfast, Lunch, Tea’ (Phaidon, £19.95)