Thursday 15 December 2016

History in a Cake

by Marie-Louise Jensen

I always find it fascinating to see how the movement of people around the world transports and alters dishes and customs. I'm not completely sure where the English tradition of Christmas cake comes from, though I've read various theories, including from Ancient Egypt. It's been around for a good four hundred years or more as a tradition in England. I've also read that it was banned, along with mince pies, during Cromwell's time as Lord Protector, for being too rich and indulgent.

Not being entirely English, I was never that big a fan of Christmas cake. But then 26 years ago a friend and colleague gave me a recipe when I was living in Germany and I became converted. The reason this recipe was something different, is it was an Indian recipe. Taken to India by the British during the Raj and spiced up by their Indian cooks perhaps? And from there brought back to Europe? I don't honestly know what steps led to the amalgamation of a British cake with Indian spices, but I approve! It's the spices, especially the cardamon, which makes this Anglo-Indian recipe so special. And it almost certainly has an illustrious history and thus deserves a place on this blog.

In any case, this cake, so influenced by our shared history with India, has been such a joy to me over the years that I feel it would be a crime not to share it at this season. Even though, ideally, it should have been baked three or four weeks ago. I've not had time yet this year either and have earmarked this weekend for cake baking.


350g raisins
350g sultanas
350g currants
60g cut mixed peel
50g glace cherries (I always swap these out for extra  nuts or raisins)
60-80g almonds, chopped
225g butter
200g sugar
250g flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
4 eggs (separated)
1 1/2 tsp syrup or honey
4 dessert spoons cognac (you may want more)
grated rind of one lemon
1 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1 dessert spoon vanilla essence
1 dessert spoon of almond essence
1 tsp rose water

covering: 3 tablespoons of apricot jam


Chop the nuts and mix with fruit, drizzle with the brandy, leaving them to soak overnight, covered.
Beat together butter and sugar and then add egg yolks one at a time. Add lemon rind, spices, essences and honey. Stir in flour. Work in fruit and nuts. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then blend with the dough.
Line and grease a cake tin and place mixture into it. Bake at 130 degrees c for anything from 2.5 to 5 hours, depending on the tin and your preference for a moist or drier cake. Cover with baking parchment or foil after the first hour.
Cool completely on a baking tray and remove paper. Drizzle with more brandy and store in an airtight tin - will keep for up to a year...but probably won't get the chance.

Good thing Cromwell never heard about this one.


Penny Dolan said...

A nicely spiced recipe, but I'm a bit worried as to how well I'll be able to watch over the baking, with that "2-5 to 5 hours."

My version would need to NOT include any alcohol, so I'm pondering on good liquid alternatives to brandy. Ideas, anyone?

Wishing you a Happy Christmas with your cake, Marie-Louise.

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

Orange juice?

Thank you!

adele said...

HEAVENLY bliss! Will try one day...

Jessica said...

Best African Love Spell Caster-Get Your EX Lover Back Fast Now By Dr.Unity.
My wife divorce me, she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore, So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. One day I came across a website that suggested that Dr.Unity can help solve marital problems, restore broken relationships and so on. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and told him my problems and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next 28hours, what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do and i did it, Then the next morning, So surprisingly!! my wife who did not call me for the past seven months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a Dr.Unity.If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity now and i guarantee you that he will help you.Email him at: ,you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348071622464 ,His website: . Mike Robinson from England.

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

Adele, I thought of you when I posted this! I know you enjoy a good cake recipe :)