South Pacific Christmas Cake

As a kid, I pretty much hated this cake. Which was somewhat of a tragedy as this is the most traditional and most common NZ “celebration cake” – at Christmas time and a at wedding in NZ you can be almost sure to get something like this. The funny thing is that as the years went by I grew to like it. Or maybe it was just this particular “South Pacific” version, which courtesy of a family friend I stumbled upon just a couple of years ago.

In the oven.

As this year, I decided to try to show the locals a bit of the flavours of a Kiwi Christmas – this cake pretty much immediately came to my as a good ‘un. As it tastes good, feeds heaps and is very traditional Kiwi. It also has so little flour in it that I figured that it’d work very well as a glutenfree cake. Which was proven 100% true.
This cake is super-rich, heavy and decadent. Expect it to take the guts of a week to get through the whole thing, even with a decent sized crowd. But on the other hand, that’s fine as it keeps very well.


  • 185g Brazil nuts
  • 185g pecan or walnuts
  • 125g stoned dates
  • 125g mixed peel
  • 125g red glace cherries
  • 125g green glace cherries
  • 185g seedless raisins
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 90g  (about ¾C) gluten-free flour
  • 1t xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1T brandy, rum or vanilla
  • 125ml apricot jam
  • Extra nuts or cherries for decoration
Notes about the ingredients
I’m not really sure about the xanthan gum – which if you don’t know what it is, is a ‘gluten-replacement’ i.e. something that tries to match the elasticity of gluten without being bad for you.
If you can’t find all of the ingredients you can replace some of them. I replaced some of the raisins with dried apricots and dried cranberries – both of which worked out very well. As to the candied peel, it might be a kinda strange flavour if you’re not used to it. I hated it as a kid, but these days I think it brings a much needed kinda sharpness to balance all the richness of the nuts and sweetness of the fruit. But feel free to replace it without something else if you’re not a fan.

Glazed and ready to serve.

  1. Place nuts, dales, peel, cherries and raisins in mixing bowl and stir.
  2. Stir in sugar and sifted flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Beat eggs until smooth, then add to mixture with brandy and mix well.
  4. Place mixture in tin and press down well with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake in lower half of slow oven (150 C ) for 1 1/2 hours or until skewer comes out clean (for me, with our oven, this was closer 1:15 so it pays check a bit before time).  Cool on wire rack.
  6. Heat sieved jam until lukewarm then brush over top of cake.
  7. To decorate, arrange extra whole nuts and halved cherries on top then brush more jam over fruit and nuts, leave to set.

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