Making a Dundee Cake is a risky business for me; fraught with the potential for family discord. It’s part of family history that I used to make Delia Smith’s Whisky Dundee Cake (in her Christmas book from 1990) for my son often when I visited him at university in Manchester or made one for him to take back at the end of the holidays. And I never made one for my daughter. I could plead that I hadn’t discovered the recipe at that point – she went to uni about 4 years before him – but I can’t honesty remember when I started making ‘the’ Dundee cake, which has become a firm family favourite. As I grew up, my grandmother always made the family a traditional Christmas cake and when she died I took over the role, even inheriting her cake tin with all her icing equipment. But after a few years I gave up making the rich, dark fruit cake traditionally eaten at Christmas. Only my mother and I liked it; and there’s only so much dark, rich Christmas cake one wants to eat. Instead I tried out the Delia’s Dundee cake and that went down a storm and has been made at Christmas time ever since.
The Dundee cake rose to family discussion a little early this year. My daughter got married last weekend and the reception was held at the wonderful venue of Burton Court in Herefordshire. The Wedding Breakfast was actually a light lunch of quiches, salads and gorgeous sandwiches for we were to have ‘street food’ in the evening when a roaming van with a pizza oven arrived to make fabulous pizzas and flat breads topped with amazing combinations.
After the lunch there were speeches (including from this blogger, being in feminist mode and therefore thinking that mums should make speeches too these days), and these were followed by tea. Tea as in pots of tea, homemade scones, jam and clotted cream, and homemade cakes. The caterers made the scones; a few of the guests made cakes. Yours truly made – of course! – Torta Caprese, our family celebration cake, and … yes, you’ve guessed … a Dundee cake. There was a great selection.
My daughter rang me a few days before the wedding: ‘I have you down to make a fruit cake,’ she said. Oh god! I’d forgotten. I’d promised to make a richer more traditional fruit cake – the kind you traditionally have at weddings. Cakes you make weeks in advance. ‘I’ll make a Dundee cake,’ I said. I’m not really a baker. I rarely make cakes, other than the dessert kind like Torta Caprese. I never mastered Victoria sponges. Rich fruit cakes take lots of time to prepare; maybe days of soaking the fruit; hours and hours in the oven. Obviously some subconscious aversion had taken over. But still, probably most people would prefer the Dundee cake – especially my daughter!
So little do I bake that when I took out ingredients like sultanas, currants and mixed peel from my cupboards, everything was out of date. Supermarkets don’t think small these days so I had to buy large packs of everything again. Which meant I had enough ingredients for at least three Dundee cakes! Thus, I thought yesterday, let’s make another Dundee cake. I was spurred on by remembering that this slightly different recipe from Delia’s revised cake book …
… is super fast and easy. I have her original cake book somewhere on my shelves; this newer revised version was a gift. The Dundee cake is almost an all-in-one; a throw-everything-in-together-and-stir recipe. Well, not quite all in one go, but almost … and certainly very, very easy. In fact easy enough for The Single Gourmet Traveller to happily tackle again.
Sift 225g plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder into a big mixing bowl and add 50g spreadable butter (please don’t use margarine!!), 150g golden caster sugar and 3 large eggs and with an electric whisk beat until you have a smooth, dropping consistency. If it doesn’t drop easily when you hold up the whisk, add about 1 dessertspoon milk to loosen. Now add the other ingredients: 175g currants, 175g sultanas, 50g glacé cherries (rinsed, dried and halved), 50g mixed chopped candied peel, 2 tablespoons ground almonds, zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon.
Gently fold in, spoon into a prepared 18cm loose-based cake tin, buttered and lined with greaseproof paper. Now decorate the top with whole blanched almonds, laying them on very gently so they don’t sink during the cooking.
Bake in pre-heated oven (170C) for about 1¾ hours. I found both mine took less so check after about an hour and a half. Remove when golden brown and firm to touch and leave to cool in the tin.
You could eat this straight away but it’s best if you can possibly wait a few days before cutting in and enjoying a slice.
I wrapped mine in greaseproof paper and foil and transported to Jonathan’s yesterday because I was looking after Baby Freddie for the morning. While he napped his Nonna opened up the cake and made some tea and was reminded of why our family loves Dundee cake so much.
It’s a great family cake and the bonus is that it will keep well (wrapped or in a tin) for some time. So you don’t have to eat it up quickly. But of course you may not be able to resist doing so!