Hillside’s Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! Those lovely people at Hillside Animal Sanctuary have a brilliant vegan Xmas cake recipe – I tried it after discovering that a Viva! colleague and his missus made it every year!

Not only is it vegan, it’s also fatless and sugarless – which makes it sound a tad worthy but it really isn’t! The dried fruit makes it very moist and sweet. However, I’ve adapted their original recipe by adding a bit of flax meal for binding purposes (and a glug of whisky!). It can also be made a few weeks in advance as the dried fruit means it doesn’t go off easily. Just store in a cool place.

Icing? For that pro look, some commercial brands of ready-made icing are vegan, eg Dr Oetker’s Regal-Ice Ready to Roll Icing or Renshaw Icing (from Lakeland). Many Xmas cake decorations are vegan-friendly too – just remember to read the labels. You can also try making your own vegan-style royal icing.

Size? The recipe makes a regular sized 20cm/8 inch or 23cm/9 inch cake – OR make several mini cakes, as in our photo. If making smaller cakes, reduce the cooking time as the cakes will be less dense – see below.

There is also a gluten-free version which just replaces the wholemeal flour and baking powder wtih GF alternatives. Easy!

Gluten free
Wheat free

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  • vegan-desserts




  • 180g/6oz plain fine wholemeal flour, (use GF equivalent if appropriate)
  • 3 tsp baking powder (use a GF version if appropriate)
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 450g/1lb mixed fruit (or a mixture of raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. I used 60g mixed peel then about half each of the raisins and sultanas)
  • 110g/4oz chopped dates
  • 110g/4oz chopped apricots
  • 60g/2oz desiccated coconut
  • 280ml/½ pint hot water – or enough to just cover the soaking fruits
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp flax meal (ground flaxseeds) mixed with 3 tbsp warm water


  • Kettle
  • Scales
  • Scissors
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring jug
  • Mixing bowl
  • Sieve
  • Mixing spoon
  • 20cm/8 inch round cake tin with loose bottom OR several small cake tins. If using baking parchment option, a good non-stick tin is recommended. If using a cake liner it’s not so important
  • Baking parchment, scissors and pencil – or a ready-made cake tin liner, see the photo!
  • You’ll also need a double layer of parchment/greaseproof paper to cover the top of the cake(s) in the oven.


1. Prepare the dried fruit – cut the apricots and dates with scissors for quickness. Place all the dried fruit – mixed, dates, apricots and coconut – in a bowl and cover with the hot water. Cover and soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.

2. When the fruit is ready, pre-heat the oven to 160°/325°/Gas Mark 3. If using a fan oven, reduce 15 degrees or so. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl (flour, baking powder, mixed spice) and set aside.

3. Prepare the cake tin – grease and baseline if using parchment option (see above) or else just place the cake liner in the tin. Mix the rest of the ingredients – the fruit and its liquid, the flaxmeal mixture, orange juice (and whisky if using) – into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix quickly but thoroughly by hand until it’s all integrated. It should make a stiff but quite moist mixture. If it’s too dry, add a splash or two more water. Spoon into the cake tin and place in the hot oven immediately.

4. For one large cake: bake for 40 minutes then cover with the parchment/greaseproof to prevent the cake burning or drying out. Carry on baking for 15-30 minutes until the time is up or until a toothpick or sharp thin knife comes out of the centre cleanly.

5. For smaller cakes, bake for 30 minutes then cover with the baking paper to prevent drying out. Carry on baking for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick or similar comes out of each cake cleanly.

6. Remove the cake(s) from the oven and let stand until cooled. Carefully remove from the tin(s), place on a cooling rack but cover the top to prevent drying out. When it’s had a chance to air out a bit, wrap in foil, place in an airtight container and store until ready for decorating. Alternatively, serve au naturel! The cake(s) will keep for several weeks in a cool place.

Optional extras / notes

  • Overnight soak, 15 minutes prep, 40-60 minutes baking. 20- 30 if smaller cakes


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