Updated: Nov 16, 2018
For someone who loves baking, this is a most magical time of year. There is an ever-so-slight sense of urgency to get fruits soaking and spices mixed for all the lovely traditional seasonal cakes, loaves, puddings and treats. Of course, at Birkinshaw's we actually started on this quite some time ago what with recipe testing and loooong steeping of the fruits for our traditional Christmas cakes. But some cakes don't require quite such a head start and Dundee Cake is one of those that can be made somewhat closer to the big day and still have plenty of Christmassy flavour.
Have you had Dundee Cake? Is it maybe a part of your traditions if your ancestors had Scottish roots?
Dundee cake is a famous, traditional Scottish fruit cake with a rich flavour, often helped by the addition of whisky.
The cake is usually made with currants, sultanas and almonds; sometimes, fruit peel is also added to it. The cake originated in nineteenth-century Scotland, and was originally made as a mass-produced cake by the marmalade company, Keillor's. Many recipes do have marmalade/whisky marmalade in them, although really a 'Dundee cake' under other names existed before Keillor's made their claim, as a rich, Scottish fruit cake, and similar fruit cakes have long been produced across Scotland. It is popularly believed that Mary Queen of Scots did not like glacé cherries in her cakes, so the cake was first made for her, as a fruit cake that used blanched almonds and not cherries. Traditionally, the top of the cake is decorated with concentric circles of almonds. Some recipes now include cherries and there are, in fact, probably as many variations on the recipe as there are villages in Scotland. Today, the cakes are sold all over Britain and it is certainly not considered a Christmas cake, although a few extra feeds of whisky help move it into that bracket at this time of year!
Queen Elizabeth is reported to favour Dundee cake at tea-time and is was also, apparently, Winston Churchill's favourite. My Lancashire great, great aunts, Emma and Sarah, often had a variation of a Dundee cake as their 'cut 'n' come again' cake - ever-ready in a tin in case visitors called by. I remember often being asked, as a child, to reach down the tin for them from a high shelf in the pantry cupboard.
A Dundee cake is less rich than a traditional Christmas cake and has a crumblier, cakier texture to it but, like any good fruit cake, will keep for several weeks or longer if stored properly.......which means never putting it in the fridge, but wrapping it in parchment and keeping it in an airtight box or tin in a cool-ish place.
Our Birkinshaw's Dundee Cake will be part of our tea room offering from late November, or you can order your own from our Christmas Foods catalogue, available in-store or on our website www.birkinshaws.ca.
The traditional Keillor's Dundee Orange Marmalade jar. A white pottery jar still available in some gift packs