I’m a big fan of rich, fruity cakes. And Christmas is the perfect season for them. I still favour a traditional Christmas cake (plant-based of course), but sometimes the super sweet icing is just a bit too much. Or at least I find that now I have massively cut down on my added sugar consumption. I still have a sweet tooth – just not that sweet!
A great alternative to Christmas cake with its layers of marzipan and icing on top of rich fruit cake is this glorious offering – Dundee cake. Still big on flavour, heaped with fruit but less ‘added extras’. Rather than the extra layers, Dundee cake is topped with almonds and finished off with a light marmalade glaze.
One of Scotland’s famous recipes, legend has it that this style of cake was originally made for Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. Apparently she didn’t like cherries, which were traditional in fruit cakes at the time. So to please the Queen, local bakers created a version with almonds instead of cherries, decorating the top with a circle pattern of almonds.
Dundee cake has been made commercially in Scotland since the beginning of the 18th Century, first by Keillers, marmalade producers and then other local bakeries. Leftover orange peel was incorporated into a rich fruit cake and became known as Dundee cake. It’s name is protected and everything! My vegan version doesn’t quite tick all the boxes on the ingredients list for authenticity I’m afraid. But I do include marmalade – my yummy home made one using oranges from my friend’s garden in Portugal.
The traditional Dundee cake recipe contains lots of butter and eggs as you’d probably expect. Mine does not 😉 In fact, this is definitely a ‘free from’ option as it’s:
- dairy free
- egg free
- low in added fat
- low in added sugar
- can be gluten free
- can be nut free (although then not a Dundee cake!)
I’ve included apple sauce as a fat and egg alternative – apples from my garden, no less. I use a small amount of oil, mainly to stop the cake from drying out. You could replace this with extra apple sauce if you want a completely oil free cake. There’s still fat in it from the ground almonds. But take care to make sure the baking tin is well lined with non-stick baking paper so the cakes doesn’t get stuck.
The apple also contributes some sweetness. And because the dried fruit is already super sweet, as is the marmalade, there’s not really any need for extra added sugar. I have included a bit in the recipe, but that’s in case your tastebuds need it. The cake definitely doesn’t.
If are gluten free, this cake will work well with gluten free flour – just make sure theres some binding agent in the mix. The ground flaxseed will help, but you don’t want it too crumbly.
If you have to be nut free, then you can still make this cake, it just won’t be a Dundee-style cake. It will be a delicious fruit cake though, so not all is lost! Omit the ground almonds and replace with flour. You may need to add a little extra soya milk as well.
If it doesn’t get eaten immediately, the cake will keep in an air-tight container in a cool place for up to 5 days. But I find it doesn’t hang around that long as it’s so delicious.
I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do. If you make it, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
Vegan 'Dundee' cake
- 20cm round cake tin
- non-stick baking paper
- large mixing bowl
- large jug
- Digital weighing scales
- small bowl
- Pastry brush
- 1 large orange zest and juice separated
- 140 ml soya milk
- 90 grams orange marmalade with thick peel if possible
- 140 grams apple sauce
- 20 grams ground flaxseed
- 60 gram dark brown sugar/molasses optional
- 50 ml olive oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or liquid molasses
- 260 grams spelt or gluten free flour
- 100 grams ground almonds
- 2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 450 grams dried mixed fruit
For the top decoration
- 60 grams blanched almond halves
- 2 tbsp Orange marmalade no peel if possible
- Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC.
- Grease the sides and bottom of the baking tin with a little olive oil. Line the sides with non-stick baking paper (the oil will help it to stay on the sides).
- Pour the soya milk into the large jug. Add 30ml orange juice and let it curdle for a couple of minutes.
- Add the orange marmalade, apple sauce, ground flaxseed, sugar, olive oil and maple syrup (or liquid molasses) and stir well with a whisk to combine.
- In the large mixing bowl, add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Stir well to combine then tip in the dried mixed fruit. Stir again to mix well. Make sure the fruit is not all clumped together.
- Weigh the blanched almonds out into a small dish and have to one side.
- Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir well but quickly. Make sure you have scooped up all the flour in the bottom of the bowl and incorporated it into the mix.
- Once everything is combined, pour carefully into the prepared tin – it should be full to just under the rim. Gently spread out and tap on the worktop.
- Arrange the blanched almonds in a pattern on top of the cake then place in the oven as quickly as possible. Bake for 1hr 15 minutes until the cake is beginning to darken on top. Pierce the cake with a skewer to see if it is cooked. If the skewer comes out with mix on, it needs another 10 minutes or so in the oven.
- Cover the top of the cake with a round disc of baking paper before returning it to the oven. You don't want the top over browning.
- Once the cake is cooked remove from the oven but leave the cake in the tin.
- Spoon the marmalade for the glaze into a small microwavable dish. Heat on high for 30 seconds until the marmalade is runny. Brush over the top of the cake with the pastry brush.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.