Ho ho ho! A Dundee Cake

Every year I make this really rich, dark plum cake, bursting with booze and fruit. It is rich, dark and delicious. I usually do not soak my fruits for months like most do. I found that when I did, by the time it was the season to bake the cake, more than half the bottle tended to be empty. Believe me, a spoonful of boozy fruit does a lot for you when you are feeling low. I prefer making a boiled fruit cake. It is just as moist as the one which needs months in planning.

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This year, I decided to mix it up. I decided to go traditional in a different way. Instead on making my usual fruitcake, I planned to make a Dundee Cake. I remember seeing that recipe in my big black book (remember my childhood reading material?) I remember admiring the picture and thinking how beautiful it looked decorated with all the blanched almonds. Of course, now the book is lost and I have no means of referring to it. But lucky me, one of my Scottish acquaintance pointed me in the right direction.

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This is a traditional Scottish cake baked during the Christmas season and legend has it that Queen Mary did not like cherries. The ever obliging people of Scotland baked their cakes with raisins, currants, sultanas and candied peel and conveniently left out the much-hated cherries. And for the few of you who are wondering, yes it is from Dundee and ideally had the famous Dundee orange marmalade. Of course, I had no such thing and had to make do with candied lemons, kumquats, cranberries and the obligatory candied mixed peel and vine fruit. So if you ask me, this is probably not the most traditional of Dundee cakes. It is, however, totally delicious and makes a refreshing change from the spice and fruit laden cake we usually see this time of the year.

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The cake had a lovely crumbly texture. It tasted of the zest of the fresh citrus and the lack of any kind of spice just heightened the buttery flavour. Yes, this cake does take as much time as the plum cake to bake. So the result is a somewhat biscuity  golden crust wreathed in toasted almonds and a flavourful crumb with whiskey flavoured fruit. Now that was something I insisted on using — a good scotch whiskey. The fruit just needed an overnight soak and just to be safe, I added some scotch to the cake batter as well.

I did try to glace the cake like some of the recipes ask you to. You could skip this if you wish. I also did not baste the cake with any more whiskey after baking it. I wanted to keep it light. If you really enjoy your whiskey, I recommend that you pour yourself that glass of scotch instead and enjoy it with the cake.

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INGREDIENTS

225 gms All purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking powder

150 gms Softened Butter

150 gms Sugar

3 Eggs

2 to 3 Tbs Milk, Orange juice or Whiskey as needed

400 gms mixed fruit (I used candied lemons, kumquats, pineapple, cranberries, currents, golden raisins and sultanas. Try to avoid fruits like dates, prunes etc which will soften a lot and colour the cake)

50 gms Candied mixed peel

2 Tbs Ground almonds

Grated zest of 1 Orange and 1 Lime or Lemon

3 to 4 Tbs of good Whiskey to soak the fruit and peel.

1 tsp Vanilla essence

1/4 tsp salt

A handful of Blanched Almonds

2 Tbs of Cream or milk mixed with 1/2 tsp of sugar (optional)

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METHOD

  1. Pre heat your oven to 170C and double line (bottom and sides) an 8-inch pan
  2. Clean and chop the fruit into bite size pieces and soak the peel and fruit in whiskey. If you do not plan to use whiskey, soak the fruit in orange juice.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time adding a little bit of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. Add vanilla
  4. Seive together flour, baking powder and salt. Dredge the fruit in some of the flour.This will make sure that your fruit does not sink to the bottom.
  5. Add the flour to the egg mixture and mix well. Add the zest and the soaked fruit. Mix well
  6. If the mixture is too thick add some whiskey, milk or orange juice to bring it to a dropping consistency.
  7. Fill your prepared pan with the cake batter and level the top
  8. Arrange the blanched almonds in concentric circles on the surface and bake for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Use a skewer to test if done. If the top gets too brown tent the cake with an aluminum foil.
  9. 5 minutes before you take the cake out, brush the top of the cake lightly with the sugar and milk/cream mixture and continue to bake. This will form a beautiful glace. This step is purely optional.
  10. When done, take the pan out and place on a rack and cool the cake completely before removing from the tin.
  11. Wrap tightly in a parchment-lined foil and store in an air-tight tin for at least a day or two before slicing.

To blanch almonds: Boil some water in a pan and add the almonds to it. Count to 10 and turn off the heat. Drain the almonds and ‘shock’ the almonds in cold water. The skin of the almonds will now peel off very easily. Pat dry.

This cake will be a delightfully different addition to your festive table. It is surprisingly light and even those who look upon the fruit cake with disdain will appreciate the delicate buttery flavour with the punch of citrus and fruit. If you are using alcohol, stick to whiskey. Somehow the rum and brandy seem to completely change the flavour the cake. Feel free to refill your drink before, during and after the cake is baked.

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