This Holiday Season: How to Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
For me, Christmas time is about family. For years now, Mom and I have slowly been evolving our Christmas meals to make them healthier. As a child, my worst Christmas was waking up to the sound of a teenage goat screaming as his throat was slit, and getting up to see him being skinned in the backyard. I had befriended this gentle animal the night before in the garage. I was devastated. I refused to eat my friend.
In Fiji, fresh goat meat is a way of honoring important guests by giving them the “best” we can afford and access. Even as a youngling, I had the notion that death was not the best we could do. What about life? The animal’s life, and our lives, all matter.
Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension run in my family, on paternal and maternal sides. Over the years, thanks to Mom’s expertise in diabetes and my own growing awareness about how to be healthier, I began to change the way I cooked and baked.
In my baking, the first thing I did, while still in high school, was eliminate sugar and replace it with fruit. This means using raisins, dried apricots and cherries, applesauce, and dates for cakes and cheesecakes, and fresh or frozen berries, mangoes, and pineapple for puddings and sorbets.
My second move, when I went vegan in 2011, was to remove dairy and eggs. I began experimenting with almond and other plant-based milks, and flax meal and ground up chia seeds as egg replacers.
When I went gluten-free in 2015, I began to test brown rice flour, coconut flour, almond meal, chickpea flour, tapioca flour, and potato flour in my baking. When I got to Fiji, I was limited by the absence of brown rice flour. After some experimenting, I found that a gluten-free vegan pancake mix worked wonders for my cakes. A gem for our third cookbook, no doubt. But, why wait?
This holiday season, if you want a healthy cake that you can enjoy eating with your whole family without guilt, take heart. I’m sharing my new Holiday Fruit Cake recipe with you right here, right now. It has no added sugar, no dairy, no eggs, no gluten, and no unpronounceables. You can skip the nuts if you have a nut allergy in the family. If you want to know about more substitutions, leave me a comment.
Let me know where you are in the world, how you improvised it, and how it turned out – better yet, post a picture in the comments! If you’d like to pair this cake with our Coconut Custard or other delicious options, check out our World of Love.
Holiday Fruit Cake
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free vegan pancake mix OR 1.5 cups gluten-free vegan all purpose flour + 1 tsp baking powder (this second option gives a stickier result so replace about 1/3 cup of the flour with almond meal)
- 1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit of your choice (we like raisins, cherries, and mixed citrus peel)
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces
- 1/3 cup vegan butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or equal parts ground cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg
- 2-3 cups boiling hot water
- Unsweetened almond milk or other plant-based milk as needed
- In a large mixing bowl, soak the dried fruit, walnuts, and spices in boiling hot water until just covered, and let sit for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300F/150C and grease a square 8 x 8 inch cake tin or baking pan
- Add vanilla essence, and melted vegan butter or oil, and stir into the soaked fruit mixture.
- Stir in the flour until it’s mixed in, adding a little almond milk only if the batter is too dry.
- Bake for 1.5 hours, checking at 1 hour and rotating the pan if the cake isn’t browning evenly. Bake a little longer or less depending on your oven. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean from the center.