Tuesday 7 February 2012

A birthday cake for Charles Dickens by Adèle Geras

Today on The History Girls blog, we are having a party for Charles Dickens (see the post directly above this one from 7.00 am!) who has just turned 200. It's a virtual party and we're all going to be bringing gifts and speaking a little about our favourite bits from the novels, but even a virtual party demands a cake and because it's my day to post on the blog, I have created a special cake for the occasion which is not virtual but very much in the real world.

I can't say I invented the recipe from scratch, but I adapted one of the oldest recipes I have to turn it from a rather plain fruit cake into a thing stuffed full of everything delicious I could think of, on the Dickensian principle (later taken up by Mae West) that too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

I have road-tested this recipe on my family who approved of it. I reckon it's delicious and filling and rich and just the sort of thing the man himself would have enjoyed, with its echoes of Christmas....you'll see when you get to the list of ingredients.

The original recipe is on an ANCIENT wipe-clean card advertising Stork magarine but if you feel like using the best butter, then I'm sure it'll still work a treat. It might even be better, though I haven't tried it.

This is what it looks like:

And the recipe follows:


Heat the oven to 170 degrees. Gas mark 3.
Grease and line an 18cm/7 inch cake tin with baking parchment, bottom and sides.


8oz/220 gms plain flour
6 oz/175 gms Stork
6 oz/175 caster sugar
Half teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
8 oz/220gms dried fruit mixture. I used Tesco's Christmas mixture..that's the Christmas echo!
2 oz/50gms EACH of:
cranberries, dried cherries, walnuts, dried apricots or indeed any combination that you prefer as long as it all adds up to about 220 gms or 8 oz.
All should be cut up small. The above was what I had in my store cupboard and what I used.
Finely grated zest of a rather large lemon
OPTIONAL as not everyone loves ginger:
2 lumps of stem ginger (the kind in a jar with syrup!) cut up very small.

I didn't use any spice, because of the amount of ginger but you could try some if you feel like it. Nutmeg and cloves might be nice but I'd say go easy.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
Scrape resulting batter into tin. Level the mixture in the tin.
Bake for one and a half to one and three quarter hours, testing after an hour or so with a long skewer. If this comes away clean, the cake is done. NB: I have never in my life met a cake I didn't have to cover with a double sheet of foil while it was cooking. This one got about 25 mins before I went in with the silvery blanket. So watch out to see that your cake isn't getting burnt on top.

When it comes out of the oven, allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the tin and then remove and place on a plate to cool completely. Then you can ice it.

I used:
75 grms/ 3 oz of icing sugar and the juice of a lemon. These amounts are approximate. Just make a smooth icing you can spread without having it run down over the sides (although there's nothing wrong with a runnier icing that does exactly that). Slap it all over the top of the cake, where it'll stiffen nicely. Or else, take spoonfuls of it and dribble it on the top in a kind of spiral. Whatever takes your fancy will be fine. You could also omit icing altogether but why would you?

This cake keeps well in an airtight tin. I made it three days ago and it still tastes good.

If anyone makes it and likes it, please let me know in the comments box. I hope everyone who does make it enjoys it.

Happy Birthday to you, Mr Dickens!


catdownunder said...

This sounds lovely - ginger included! I will save the recipe - but we still have half the Christmas cake to eat!

Jan Jones said...

Oooh, Adele, you have made me want CAKE

JO said...

Oh joy - a reason to eat cake!

Sue Purkiss said...

Can't wait to try this! SUCH a good idea, Adele!

Theresa Breslin said...

Wonderful Adele! You put this together with mastery that CD himself would envy. xx

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

CAAAAKE! I shall have to try this out soonest. It looks lovely.

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