My Dairy-Free Christmas Cake (Mary Berry inspired)

By making my own Christmas cake, I can cater for my own needs. In my family, we don’t really like things such as almonds, iced cherries or currents in our cakes (Christmas or not) and my daughter is dairy intolerant. So, I looked for a recipe which could give me an idea of basic Christmas cake ingredients and quantities and found Mary Berry’s Christmas Cake recipe. I tweaked it a little and made the perfect Christmas cake! I have decided to post this recipe in my blog to make sure that I never lose it!

  • 200g of raisins, 200g apricots, 200g dried prunes, 1 tin of cherries, all fruit chopped (and cherry stones removed too of course!) to the same size as that of raisins. You could easily add another 200g of other dried fruit if you wanted, it would not affect the recipe.
  • 200ml (150ml and 50ml) sherry
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange or (even 2), it gives the cake a nice tangy flavour.
  • 250g dairy-free margarine (or butter if you are not trying to make a dairy-free dessert)
  • 250g muscovado sugar (light or dark)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tb black treacle
  • 250g of flour (an equal mixture of self-raising and plain)
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Cake covering:

  • about 3 tb apricot (or plum) jam (slightly warm makes it easier to spread)
  • marzipan – I used a good quality packet of ready-to-roll marzipan. Tip: use any left-over royal marzipan to make little figurines (trees, flowers, animals) to decorate the cake.
  • royal icing – ready-to-roll icing makes it a very easy job and any left-over can be used to make decorations.

I used a 23cm diameter baking tin. A narrower one would make the cake higher but would need less marzipan and royal icing.

Place all dried fruit in a saucepan with 150ml sherry and orange zest. Heat up the saucepan and stir until most of the sherry has been absorbed by the fruit. While cooling down, prepare the tin with two layers of baking paper (or greased greaseproof paper). Preheat over to 140 degrees Celsius, 120 degrees fan or gas 1.

Place margarine/butter, sugar, eggs, treacle on a large bowl and beat well. Add flour and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blneded. Stir the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4 – 41/2 hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after 2 hours and, if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool before removing from the tin.

Sprinkle the remaining 50ml more sherry over the cake. Spread the top of the cake with the apricot or plum jam (make sure there are no lumpy bits otherwise the surface of your cake will not look very flat at the end) and carefully cover with your marzipan as per packet instructions. Cover the cake with a clean kitchen towel overnight or up to 24 hours to let the marzipan dry a little.

Cover the marzipan with the rolled royal icing as per packet instructions and decorate as you want. As you can see below, I used my left-over marzipan and royal icing to make small decorative objects to be placed on top of the cake.

The cake contains 8,000 kCal. So, if you cut it into 24, the portion will have 333 kCal.

picture of Christmas Cake with marzipan and royal icing covering and decorations

Fruit cake with marzipan and royal icing covering

raisins, apricots, cherries, prunes

raisins, apricots, cherries, prunes

Wet room – How to find the right slope before tiling the shower floor

Before starting to tile the shower area of my wet room, I needed to know how much slope was required for the water to drain properly. So, I searched on the Internet and found that the right slope was between 1.5% and 3%. What????? What does that mean in practical terms??? As I had no idea, I had to work it out another way. My wet room is finished and I am pleased to say that my system works well. So, I would like to share it with you in the hope that you will find useful for your own project! Continue reading

Raw tomatoes, what to eat, how to cut the stem scar

Everything in a raw tomato can be eaten except maybe the stem scar which is a little tough and bitter.

Below is how to quickly remove the tomato stem scar:

cutting tomato close to tomatot stem scar to remove itremoving tomato stem scar by diagonal incision

My mum used to remove skin, seeds and the white inner flesh when she made tomato salads. Personally, I don’t think it is worth the hassle. Just cut them in half and serve in the plate like that.

How to prepare and cook a trout / whole fish

Ask your fishmonger to descale and gutter the fish. This will considerably reduce the amount of waste, save you a time and keep your wall clean (scales tend to fly around when I descale a fish…) but it will probably not be sufficient. Below is a picture of a fish cleaned by my local supermarket. The fish would not taste very nice if you cooked it in this condition.

view inside of shop-gutted trout

Before cleaning the fish some more, get some Continue reading

How to fix your squirrel-damaged peanut feeder

If a squirrel manages to open your bird feeder, try and fix it before running to the shop to buy a new one. I did that already but my squirrels did not take long before destroying my second one even though it looked so much stronger than the first one…

close up of a peanut feeder showing damaged wire caused by a squirrel

So, get a small length of Continue reading

Ways to re-use your glass jars

infusion bags inside jars with name sellotaped on glass

Place the content of each of your different infusions (green tea, peppermint, etc.) inside a glass jar. This will help your infusions stay fresh longer and also take less space in your cupboard.

Tip: to remember which is which, simply cut out the name from the infusion box and sellotape it on the side of the jar.

Wheat intolerance – Rice flour Crumble

You don’t need to make crumble with wheat flour. Having a friend who is wheat intolerant, I had to study the problem and I found that rice flour works just as well when making crumble. Use the same proportions: 1 part butter, 1 part sugar and 2 parts rice flour plus whatever par-cooked fruit such apple, rhubarb etc.


How to design and tile a shower floor in a wet room

That tiling task was not as bad as I thought it would be. First, I had many sleepless nights worrying about it and did a lot of planning.. I used a 120cm x 90cm shower former and 60cm x 30cm porcelain tiles. Please note, they are all multiple of 30 which I think helps when tiling the shower former.

1. Work out where to place your tiles to get the most pleasing end result, laying them on the floor as accurately as possible and making sure you would not end up with very small pieces of cut tile along the edge.IMG_3329 (1024x683) Below, you can see what Continue reading

Chocolate and caramel cheesecake

Follow this picture guide to make this easy and delicious chocolate and caramel cheesecake. Perfect for dinner parties as it is best prepared the day before. Serves 6-8.IMG_1725 (1024x683)

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter melted
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate (I use 70% cocoa Lindt chocolate)
  • 300g Philadelphia cheese
  • 100g granulated sugar (vanilla scented or add a couple of drops of vanilla essence)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 200ml double cream (or 1/2 double cream, 1/2 yogurt)
  • 1 tin of Carnation caramel

Continue reading

Use cheap pears to make upside-down pie / tarte Tatin

IMG_3125 (1024x683)

If you see a packet of pears at reduced price at your supermarket, grab it! They are usually quite hard and tasteless (that’s why they are on sale) but they make the perfect ingredient for an easy-to-make delicious upside-down pie or, as we French people call it, tarte Tatin. In fact, Continue reading

How to grow a pine tree

I went to Italy last October and picked up 2 pine nuts that had found on the ground. I crushed the shell of one with a large stone and ate the nut inside and put the other one in my pocket. When I got home, I decided to try and grow a pine tree so I placed the whole shell in the freezer for a few days (one week maybe) to make the seed “believe” it was winter. Then, I took it out of the freezer and loosely wrapped the shell inside some very wet cotton wool, pouring water on it regularly to ensure it never dried. After a couple of weeks, the shell started to split.

cone pine 10-28

A couple of days later, Continue reading

Ways to reuse sliced bread plastic bags – fresher tea bags

reuse plastic bread bag 750g tea packet


Tea bags are cheaper to buy in large packs but they would take too much space in the food cupboard for day-to-day use. So, I fill a handy-size container with a few handful of tea bags and, to keep the remaining tea bags fresh, I place the pack inside an old sliced bread plastic bag sealed at the top. To give you an idea of sizes, you can fit a 750g pack of Yorshire Tea tea bags inside a Hovis bag.

Used fresh lemon slices to clean your sink

reuse lemon slices from drinks

Don’t throw out fresh lemon slices that were used in drinks or any left-over fresh lemon. Keep them in a separate glass by the sink and use them to wipe the sink and prevent any build-up of lime scale. They are antibacterial too!

Also use fresh lemon to Continue reading

Keep spare buttons safe

When buying new clothes, you will often get a small plastic bag fixed inside the garment containing spare button(s). Don’t just pull it out and store it in a drawer or throw it out. Take a needle and threat and sew the spare buttons to an inside hem, somewhere out of the way which is not going to be annoying on your skin. You don’t need to make it look neat because it is out of sight anyway. You never know, you might need that spare button one day!IMG_1250 (1024x683)