The run-up to Christmas is traditionally a time for baking delicious cakes to enjoy and share over the holiday season. If someone in the family is a coeliac sufferer or has a gluten intolerance, it makes most sense to make a bake all the family will enjoy. This cake recipe I’m sharing with you is certainly not lacking for the want of wheat flour. It is simply bursting with flavour and will be relished by all at the table whether they need to avoid gluten or not.

This light, but luscious, chocolate cake would be the perfect indulgence to enjoy as a festive afternoon treat. It’s important to beat the eggs and sugar together for ten minutes, as this adds volume to the mixture creating an impressive light bake. The cake will naturally sink in the centre while it is cooling. I’ve simply smothered the top with chocolate ganache, but this crater-like centre could easily be filled in with some softly whipped cream, as cream and chocolate cake marry so perfectly together. 

Chocolate Pecan Cake
150g pecans
200g dark chocolate, approx. 55% cocoa, broken into pieces 
175g butter
200g caster sugar
4 medium-sized free-range eggs
Chocolate Ganache
100ml double cream
200g rich milk chocolate, 35% cocoa, broken into pieces
½ pomegranate, seeds only

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/Gas mark 5. Thoroughly brush a 26cm springform tin with some melted butter.
2. Place the pecans on a dry pan, over a low heat and toss regularly until lightly toasted. Remove to a board and finely chop. 
3. In a saucepan, over a gentle heat, melt the chocolate with the butter. Stir well to avoid the chocolate sticking. Once melted and well combined, take from the heat and leave to cool.
4. Using an electric mixer on a high speed, whisk the sugar and eggs together for 10 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.
5. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and fold well to combine.
6. Fold in the half of the pecans, reserving the rest for the topping.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The top will have set, but the mixture will still be a little gooey. 
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
9. To make the chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan and heat gently. Once it begins to bubble, remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Whisk well with a fork until combined and the chocolate is completely melted.
10. Once the cake has cooled completely, pour over the ganache and top with the remaining pecans and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. 
11. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Place any remaining cake in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

We are well aware this will be a Christmas like no other, but as I hear of cancelled carol services, abandoned school nativities, no visits to Santy and the uncertainty whether or not we’ll be permitted to visit loved ones’ homes over the festive season, it’s difficult not to be a little forlorn for our traditional Christmas celebrations. I suppose the past eight months have prepared us well for honouring important occasions, while still staying within our own home. We’ve all had to become more dependent on home-based activities and making the most of what is under our own roof. Even though baking together with the children was always something I loved to do, I definitely homed in on this as a pastime a little more consciously over the past few months. 

For years, I have taken great joy in baking the cakes, puddings and mincemeat in the run-up to Christmas, and with the help of Millie, since November we had this year’s batch made, wrapped up tightly, and packed into the pantry. Each November, I dedicate a weekend to Christmas baking, and it’s a ritual I really relish. Only recently did I come to realise why I love upholding this tradition so much and it is because these couple of days of baking are always pencilled in and therefore are never rushed. The recipes are in place, the ingredients in the press and all that’s needed are a few Christmas tracks, and maybe the odd hot chocolate, to heighten the experience to something very special. 

Such traditions are what I hope my children will recall when they look back on their childhoods. When I remember my own Christmases past, the memory most etched is that of time spent baking with my own dear mother, when we would be side-by-side with only Perry Como for company on those dark November evenings. 

As a parent, we can sometimes forget, the greatest gift we can give our children is time. They yearn to be by our sides and gain the most pleasure in helping us even with the simplest of tasks. Creating something simple but scrumptious together in the kitchen is a marvellous example of this. 

Normally once December is upon us, crazy season starts, with endless lists to achieve and countless Christmas-orientated activities and dates to attend. In their place, this year, I've decided to start some new traditions which I hope will hold firm even after our busier lifestyles are reinstated. 

I still yearn to see loved ones and pray for a pinch of normality this Christmas, but if this new normal has taught me anything it’s to live more mindfully and appreciate every moment of slowness that comes my way, because within those moments, without even being aware, we are creating memories which have the potential to last a lifetime. 

Cinnamon & Cranberry Cookies

These oaty cookies are the perfect snack to serve alongside a glass of hot milk. I’m using coconut sugar in this recipe, as a less processed sweetener, but light brown sugar can easily be used in its place. 


150g porridge oats

150g wholemeal flour

1tsp baking powder

75g dried cranberries 

200g butter, softened

80g coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg


50g coconut sugar

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ fan 170°C/gas mark 5. Prepare two large baking trays by lining them with greaseproof paper.

2. Using a food processor, blitz the porridge oats until fine. Add to a large bowl with the wholemeal flour and baking powder. 

3. Using the food processor again, give the dried cranberries a quick blitz until roughly chopped. Add to the flour and stir through to combine. 

4. In a separate bowl, add the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract, and cream together until light and fluffy.

5. Add the egg and a spoonful of the flour mixture, and mix for a few moments to combine.

6. Fold in the remaining oat, flour and cranberry mix. Combine well until the dough can be gathered together into a ball. 

7. On a plate, mix together the coconut sugar and the cinnamon for the topping. 

8. Divide the dough, about one dessertspoonful for each cookie, making approximately 16 cookies, and roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the cookies evenly spaced on the baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size, until golden brown. 

9. Allow to cool slightly on the tray before carefully transferring to a wire rack to fully cool. Store in an airtight container for up to three days. 

This recipe was shared in my Home Nurse Column in Irish Country Living November 2020.