Healthy Recipes


Christmas Cakes

img_7482Christmas cake is a traditional part of Christmas fare for many families however everyone’s dietary needs are different.

Here we offer two recipes that take into account different health issues and energy needs.

Lea’s Christmas Cake

This is an amazing cake that always works out. A very traditional recipe this cake is useful for those with high energy needs and is great to have over Christmas if you have a multitude of people to feed.

Originally used as my wedding cake 40+ years ago I have continued to make it every year since and I have never had a dud. You could halve the recipe, however if you do this you will need to also reduce the cooking time by at least 45-60 minutes. Un-iced this cake can be frozen if any is left over. I usually ice mine traditionally with a thin layer of almond icing followed by a brandy flavoured icing on top (not the sides). However if trying to limit energy or sugar then leave it uniced.


450g margarine, polyunsaturated
450g sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp almond essence
12 eggs, beaten
250g raisins
200g dried apricots, sliced
500g currants
200g dates, chopped
1.5 Kg mixed fruit
300g glazed cherries, chopped into halves
300g peel,chopped
300g crystallised ginger, chopped
300g canned pineapple, crushed, drained
125ml brandy*
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp all spice
675g flour, plain, sifted

* I just use up the dregs from the bottles in our liquor cabinet. Vermouth, Sherry, Brandy, Whisky, Gin or Vodka – it all works!


  1. As this is a large mixture I find it easiest to make in a large plastic box (that has a lid) rather than a mixing bowl. Whatever receptical you chose to use ensure that it is glass or plastic rather than metal to prevent tainting the cake with a metallic flavour as the fruits marinate in the alcohol.
  2. Place all the fruit into a large plastic box or bowl add the alcohol and cover firmly leave for 2-3 weeks in a cool, dark place, stirring every day or two with a wooden spoon.
  3. When you are ready to make the cake turn the oven on to cool conventional baking setting 150-160°C (not fan bake) and allow to pre-heat. Arranging the oven racks so that one cake can sit half way in the oven to the right and the second cake can sit below and to the left of the other cake. This allows for better circulation of heat around the oven.
  4. Also prepare your cake tins using a double thickness of paper to line these. My cake tins are 21cm and 23cm square respectively.
  5. Combine the flour and spices in a clean bowl and then using a large serving spoon stir these dry ingredients thoroughly through the fruit ensuring that all the fruit is coated in flour as this stops any fruit from sinking to the bottom when the cake is being cooked.
  6. Place the margarine, sugar and the essences into a mixing bowl and beat until creamy in texture and colour then stir through the fruit
  7. In a separate bowl beat the eggs until thick and creamy.
  8. Pour this egg  mixture over the fruit in the box and blend well. I find an electric hand mixer works well but a metal spoon would also work provided the mixture is well combined.
  9. Divide the mixture between your two cake tins. Cover with a single layer of paper and bake cakes in a slow oven 150-160°C for 4-5 hours until a cake skewer is clean when removed from the cake during testing. It usually find the 21cm tin takes around 4.5hrs and the larger 23cm 5.5hrs.
  10. Usually I place the bigger cake at the bottom and the smaller one at the top and after 3 hours  I swap their positions over.
  11. Once cooked remove the cakes from the oven and place them covered on a rake  to cool completely before removing from their tins. Keep the paper on the cake and wrap well in cling film until needed. Usually I keep the bigger one for Christmas and freeze the smaller cake for New Year or for use over January.
  12. Once iced I keep the cake in the clean plastic box in which it was mixed, covered and in a cool, dark place.

Serves  220 fingers of cake (2cm x 2cm x 4cm)

Each piece of cake contains: Energy 333kJ/80kcals; Protein 1g; Fat 2g; Saturated fat 0.4g; Polyunsaturated fat 0.77g; Carbohydrate 13g; Sugar 11g; Dietary fibre 1g; Sodium 27mgs

With Icing: Energy 375kJ/90kcals; Protein 1g; Fat 2g; Saturated fat 0.5g; Polyunsaturated fat 0.77g; Carbohydrate 15.2g; Sugar 13.2g; Dietary fibre 1g; Sodium 27.6mgs

Diabetic Fruit Cake

This cake recipe is provided by Diabetes New Zealand and is useful for Diabetics as well as the weight conscious.


1Kg mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup mixed nuts
2 cups wholemeal flour
2Tbsp high grade white flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp sherry


  1. For the mixed dried fruit use any combination of the following dried fruits: dried fruit mixture, sultanas, raisins, prunes, currants, dried apricots, peaches, nectarines, dried apples, dried mango etc.
  2. Chop or cut (with scissors) large pieces of fruit into pieces the size of sultanas. Put them in a tough, heat proof plastic bag and pour the boiling water and then the orange juice over them.
  3. Close the bag, leaving an opening of about 2cm unsealed, lie fairly flat in the microwave and cook on High (100% power) in 1 minute bursts, until the fruit is hot. Turn the bag over after the first minute, making sure the liquid can’t escape.
  4. When the fruit is hot, take the bag out of the microwave and lie it on a cold surface to cool to room temperature. Leave overnight or for at least 2 hours, to cool and soak up the liquid.
  5. Turn the oven on to 160 ° C or 150 ° C fan-bake with the rack below the middle.
  6. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
  7. When you are ready to mix the cake, chop the nuts finely and put them in a large container with the wholemeal flour, gluten flour (if available) and the baking powder. Mix thoroughly.
  8. In a mixing bowl large enough to hold everything, beat the eggs until thick and fluffy with a rotary beater. Add the cold fruit mixture and the dry mixture. Mix with a clean hand until everything is thoroughly combined. If about a cupful of mixture seems to be too dry to drop from your hand, add 2-3 tablespoons extra water or sherry.
  9. Put the mixture into the cake tin by hand, pushing it evenly into the corners. Level off the top with a damp hand. Sprinkle evenly with the slivered almonds. Bake, starting testing the cake after 1 1/4 hours. It usually takes about 1 1/2 hours until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean, showing the cake is ready.
  10. Stand the hot, cooked cake on rack. Sprinkle or brush the surface of the cake with 2 tablespoons of sherry for extra flavour.
  11. When cold, wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and a tea towel, and store in the fridge for a least several days before cutting or freeze strips (see below) in airtight plastic bags, up to 3 months.
  12. To cut the cake into 1cm x 4cm slices, use a sharp serrated knife. Cut the cake into five strips of equal width, then cut each of these crossways into about twenty 1cm slices.

Serves 100 fingers

Each finger contains: Energy 214kJ/52kcals; Protein 1g; Fat 1g; Saturated fat 1.6g; Polyunsaturated fat 0.3g; Carbohydrate 8.7g; Sugar 7g; Dietary fibre 0.9g; Sodium 22.4mgs


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