Christmas is one of those times that create memorable food memories. The Christmas dinner table is the source of much merriment and fun, all centred around delicious food and drink. Food can be a love language, and Christmas is a perfect opportunity to pour goodwill and love into our cooking. Our nearest and dearest feel it. This post will show you my favourite vegan Christmas treat, a Calcutta Christmas cake recipe. It requires some forward preparation, but everyone loves the finished product. Indeed, this is my big hug on a plate! This labour of love is a beautiful tradition in Calcutta homes. If food is your language, pour your passion into this and give your family and friends a real treat! If you want to make this for Christmas, now is the time to start. Read on!
Christmas Cake, Calcutta Style
The UK is my home now, but Christmas here always brings back fond memories of Christmases in Calcutta, India, where I grew up. Christmas was always a big affair. The weather was perfect, with lots of Christmas parties and great food. One very fond food memory I have is the Christmas cake served to us at the Calcutta Club.
Fast track to the adult me, doing my chef training in one of the best hotels in India. We participated in a September tradition of mixing dry fruits with alcohol in preparation for making Christmas cakes later on. This months-in-advance preparation was the love and attention given to this classic.
Ready? Let's bake a cake!
Chop the dates and the apricots into smaller dice, similar to the size of a sultana. Ensure all of the fruits are covered in alcohol. Add all the dry fruits into the sterilised glass jar and pour in the whisky, gin, limoncello and vodka. Close the lid and store it in a cool, dark place. Give the jar a shake every other day to ensure the fruits are always covered in the alcohol.
Prepare the cake tin by coating it with butter and then lining the sides and bottom with parchment paper. Ensure the parchment paper on the sides is at least half an inch higher than the height of the tin.
Add warm water to the flax meal and mix to create flax egg. Set aside.
In a bowl, add the softened vegan butter and cream the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the sugar and continue to whisk until combined.
Add in the flax egg, ground almond, spices, and the zest of one orange. Whisk to combine.
Add the sifted flour and baking powder. Fold to combine.
Add the soaked alcohol fruits and chopped orange peels and mix to combine. Be careful not to over-mix.
Transfer the mixture to the pre-prepared tin, spreading it to all corners.
Wet a spatula and smooth the top of the cake.
Gently tap the tin on the countertop to remove any trapped air.
Bake in the oven for 2 hours.
One hour into baking, turn the tin around to ensure even colour.
After two hours, insert a skewer into the cake to check if it's ready. If it comes out clean, it should be done. If not, then leave it in for another 15 minutes.
Once ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
You can use store-bought candied orange peels; however, homemade candied orange peels are best, and you know exactly how much sugar is in them. They are very yummy as a snack! They can be made up to a month in advance. However, be warned, they might disappear from the jar before you get around to using them in your cake!
For a dairy version of the cake:
- Replace the vegan block butter with the same amount of dairy block butter.
- Replace the flax egg with five eggs. Add after you have creamed the butter and sugar with a whisk. Add the eggs one by one and whisk after adding each egg. Continue to follow the recipe as usual.
To make an alcohol-free version of this cake, boil the dried fruit until they soften and then use it in the recipe as instructed.
If stored in an airtight container and a cool dark place, the cake will stay moist for more than a month.
Give enough time to soak the fruits in the alcohol. At least a week, but anywhere up to three months. Also, give yourself time to make the candied orange peel if you want to do that. The choice of dry fruits and alcohol is up to you.
Ideally, try to make the cake at least a week in advance so that you have time to feed it with alcohol (dark rum is the best, but I fed mine with sloe gin) which helps to make it deliciously moist. Feeding the cake involves brushing alcohol onto the surface so it soaks into the cake. This is, however, optional. Remember not to feed it on the day you serve it.
If you want more cake ideas, perhaps try my vegan mango-flavour crepe cake.
Calcutta Christmas Cake (vegan)
- Digital scales
- 8 inch Cake Tin
- Measuring Jug
- 1 litre glass Jar with a lid
Alcohol Soaked Fruits
- 100 g Sultanas
- 100 g Apricots
- 100 g Cranberries
- 100 g Dates
- 100 ml Whisky
- 100 ml Sloe Gin
- 100 ml Limoncello
- 100 ml Vodka
- 275 g Vegan block butter
- 275 g Soft brown sugar
- 275 g Plain flour
- 2 teaspoon Baking powder
- 75 g Ground almond
- 5 tablespoon Flax meal
- 10 tablespoon Water
- 1 Orange
- 8 Cloves
- 10 All spice berries
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon Nutmeg powder
- 500 g Alcohol soaked fruits
- 100 g Candied orange peels
- 100 ml Alcohol (optional) For feeding cake, dark rum is the best.
Soaking the Fruits In The Alcohol (prepare one week to three months in advance)
- Chop the dates and the apricots into the smaller dices, similar to the size of a sultana.
- Add all the dry fruits into the sterilised glass jar and pour in the whisky, gin, limoncello and vodka.
- Ensure all of the fruits are covered in the alcohol. Close the lid and store in a cool, dark place.
- Give the jar a shake every other day to ensure that the fruits are always covered in the alcohol.
Making The Cake
- Prepare the cake tin by first coating it with butter and then lining the sides and bottom with parchment paper. Ensure the parchment paper on the sides is at least half an inch higher than the height of the tin.
- Add warm water to the flax meal and mix to create flax egg. Set aside.
- Chop the candied orange peels.
- Pre heat the oven to 150ºC (fan assisted oven)
- In a bowl, add the softened vegan butter and cream with a hand whisk or electric whisk.
- Add the sugar and continue to whisk until combined.
- Add in the flax egg, ground almond, spices, and the zest of one orange. Whisk to combine.
- Add the sifted flour and baking powder. Fold to combine.
- Add the soaked alcohol fruits and chopped orange peels and mix to combine. Be careful not to over mix.
- Transfer the mixture to the pre-prepared tin, spreading to all corners.
- Wet a spatula and smooth the top of the cake.
- Gently tap the tin on the counter top to remove any trapped air.
- Bake in the oven for 2 hours.
- One hour into baking, turn the tin around to ensure even colour.
- After two hours, insert a skewer into the cake to check if it's ready. If it comes out clean, it should be ready. If not, leave it for another 15 minutes.
- Once ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- If you wish to feed the cake, poke holes in the surface using a skewer. Brush on your choice of alcohol. Feed the cake every day until you are ready to serve. Don't feed on the day of serving.
In a professional kitchen, food hygiene and safety are top priorities, and from the beginning of my training, I practised good habits and routines. Of course, practising good food hygiene and safety at home is also essential. Here are some fundamental practices to adopt in the kitchen.
- Wash your hands regularly while preparing, handling and cooking food.
- Wipe down countertops and high-contact points regularly.
- If you cook meat and fish, do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat. Use separate chopping boards for meat and fish. Wash your chopping boards immediately after use.
- Thoroughly cook food to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Don't leave food at room temperature for extended periods (more than 2 hours).
- Store food correctly.
For more details regarding food hygiene and safety in the home, visit the UK Government's Food Standards Agency webpage.