It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas- there are toys all over the floor. But the prettiest sight I’ll see, is the cake that I will eat, when we close the baby’s door.

Once upon a time Christmas preparation was all about civility. There were carefully curated wrapping schemes (last year I was even addled enough to design our cake, to match our ribbons).

There were large pine trees erected while we sipped on Pedro Ximenez and hours lost pondering the merits of differing glazes for hams. There was such a glut of parties that by the time December 24 lurched around the very sound of champagne popping would cause my liver to steel itself.

This year things are a little more slapdash. The tree has to be a more modest one which will sturdily live in a pot (much less chance of it being pulled down by the inquisitive fists of Captain Hectic).

Last night I got to spend a good fifteen minutes re rolling wrapping paper, after Will decided there was nothing more fun than unspooling it all over the floor and jumping on it.

The Christmas menu is looking like do ahead dishes like large bowls of cooked prawns with smoked paprika aiolli, a barbecued pink fish and a slab of pork belly with a watermelon and coriander salad.

And the parties for those who work from home are much more muted affairs.

Nevertheless, last Friday night after Will and I found the green sheep, agreed that Mulga Bill should really stick to riding his horse and said goodnight to both the mush and the moon, The Hungry One and I got to reignite a favourite tradition.

Up went the tree and out came the box of good decorations.There are two for every year we’ve ever been together. The first hail from 2003 and are small gold woven cubes with two white baubles caught inside. I’m sure at the time I contrived some grand metaphor for capturing precious affection from their structure. The middling years of our relationship contain gaudy red and crystal snowflakes that hark of our Christmas in Vegas and restrained stars from recycled books from the year when I had just signed the first book deal for A Suitcase and a Spatula. In the box there are planes and snow angels and two grey donkeys from a particularly brutish year that is luckily further away with every passing day.  Last year’s contribution are a funny sort- they were ordered last minute in sleep deprived mania (Nessun Dorma – aka none shall sleep – was surely written about infant four month sleep regression). They’re laminated and plastic and slightly tacky, with a photo of Will and his birthday scribed on it. They’re an excellent reminder of why desperate women should not be let loose on the Etsy app at 3.47 am.

Together we put on some Christmas tunes and turned on the twinkle lights. And I pulled together a small feast for dessert. There were pieces of dark chocolate and dried cherries. There were fernet branca truffles. There were snifters of our favourite raisin sweet Spanish sherry. And there was cake.

This is the sort of Christmas cake which perfectly suits life right now. It’s lighter, it’s swifter and it’s flourless. The trick is to do it in two stages. A day (or even a week) before you plan on baking marinate your dried fruit in with a healthy slosh of booze. Secret the mix away in tupperware somewhere at room temperature to allow the fruit to plump and mellow. I’d love to say this mix was a deliberately planned combination, but in reality it was what was left in the pantry. I ended up with a sparkling jumble of raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, dates, goji berries and dried cranberries which became slick and rotund from lolling about in a cocktail of walnut liqueur and brandy.  The only trick is snipping the larger fruits like apricots and dates into pieces that are the same size as the other berries – I find a clean sharp pair of kitchen scissors does this much more efficiently than a knife.

From there it couldn’t be simpler. The body of the cake is a simple batter of coconut oil, a wee portion of maple syrup, eggs, ground almonds and some coconut flour. There’s orange zest and mixed spice for festivity and some slivered almonds for texture, though you could easily substitute chopped walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts. It’s genius is in the muddle, pour and bake method. No need to be scrambling around for electric beaters to cream butter or sugar, no additional bowls for whipping egg whites. It’s a cake that will happily welcome small hands or distracted minds to the party and is fine for your gluten free friends (and is Paleo-ish – let’s leave the debate about whether Paleolithic man a) celebrated Christmas, b) ate cake and c) consumed dried fruit for another day).  In the end for a cake that is this light to eat it has a deceptive depth of flavour. It also holds together beautifully in small cubes- perfect for eating one handed while you muse on the merits of tinsel versus strings of beads with your spouse.

The rest of the Christmas menu is still up for discussion, but this has quickly become an essential part of my festive preparations. I’m partial to a small square after dinner, a wedge with a cup of tea and I’m considering rumpling it up and substituting it in for Christmas pudding in the ice cream terrine. If the rest of the holidays can be as easy as this, I’m set.

(Nb, if anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas gift- I hear there’s a terrific book called ‘Cut the Carbs!’ still for sale in good book shops which most people will enjoy. Will certainly approves).

Lighter, Swifter (flourless) Christmas Cake

Makes 1 x  23 cm Christmas cake.

Shopping/foraging

500 g of mixed dried fruit, chopped into raisin sized pieces, soaked in 125 ml of liqueur/ brandy (or tea) for 24 hours (more if you can). You should have 600 g of plumped, boozy fruit at the end.  I used a combination of raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, dates, goji berries and cranberries
3 tbsp coconut oil (melted so it is liquid) – you could also substitute any other neutral tasting oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 eggs
Zest of 1 orange
120 g ground almonds
25 g coconut flour
2 tsp mixed spice
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
50 g slivered almonds

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.

2) Grease and line a 22 cm springform pan with baking paper.

3) In a large bowl muddle together the coconut oil and maple syrup. Add the eggs and whisk well to combine.

3) Add the orange zest and plumped dried fruit and stir to combine.

4) Add the remaining dry ingredients.

5) Stir to combine.

6) Pour batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes- 1 hour. Check on the cake after 30 minutes and cover the top with baking parchment as it is starting to brown.

6) The cake is baked when a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes. Eat pieces as is, wrap in baking parchment and foil to store or rumple through softened ice cream to make Christmas ice cream.