Fruitbowl Tea Loaf

Retrieved from  an old farmhouse baking book, this recipe has dates and walnuts, which make for a delicious tea loaf, but can also make it a little dry, almost dusty, especially if the walnuts aren’t in their first flush of youth. Deliciously, the inclusion of mashed bananas helps with the moistness and the apple sauce really brightens the flavour with its freshness. Neither flavour dominates, making the loaf wonderfully flavoursome. Finally, it is brought to a rich, batter consistency by a splash-ette of lager – and indeed, Lager Loaf was the original recipe title – but that sounds too much like Lager Lout to my ears – which is far from tasty – so I feel justified in renaming it.

And it is a distinct improvement to eat spread with butter, with a cup of something hot.

Fruitbowl Tea Bread

You don’t HAVE to make this with the apple – if you have the eggs, just use two and no apple.

85g unsalted butter
1tbs golden syrup
85g soft brown or light muscovado sugar
1 sharp eating apple, e.g. Jazz or Braeburn
1 large egg
280g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
150ml lager
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
125g chopped dates
50g walnuts, roughly chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin with parchment paper. Tear off a second piece of parchment and make a fold down the middle. This piece will be used during the baking.
  • Peel and core the apple, then grate finely into a small saucepan. Cover with a lid and heat gently until the apple has broken down into a puree. Sieve to remove any lumps. If you’re impatient, whizz it in a small food processor.
  • Gently warm the butter, syrup and sugar either in a pan or using the microwave, until melted.
  • Add the lager and apple puree, then whisk in the egg.
  • Mash the bananas. Make sure your dates and walnuts are also chopped and ready.
  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl.
  • Add the liquid mixture and stir thoroughly.
  • Quickly fold through the bananas, dates and nuts and pour into the prepared tin.
  • Place into the oven and prop the second piece of parchment over the tin with the fold at the top, rather like a tent. This will prevent the top of the loaf from becoming too dark during baking.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the ‘tent’ and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Be sure to test the cake for done-ness using a cocktail stick/skewer/cake tester before removing from the oven – the moisture in the bananas and apple will make it very moist, so be sure it’s baked all the way through, especially towards the bottom.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Serve sliced and buttered, and store in an airtight container.

Dundee Cake

This recipe is fabulous – and this recommendation is coming from an until-recently Dundee-Cake-Disliker. The crust is crisp but delicately thin, the insides delicately moist and buttery, rich with the sweetness of sultanas and the tang of candied orange peel.

The modern Dundee Cake has an iconic appearance: the carefully laid-out pattern of whole, blanched almonds immediately distinguishes it from other fruit cakes. For many years I’ve not been a fan, based on the Dundee Cakes I’d been served as a child: dry, crumbly, tasteless, overly-fruited masses with burnt nuts on the top and, horror of horrors, glacé cherries studding their depths.

After a bit of digging around in the cake history books, it turns out that the Dundee Cake known today is quite a few steps removed from the original. So I had high hopes that with a little experimentation I could, as with other recipes I’ve managed to rehabilitate from childhood dislikes, bring Dundee Cake back to its former glory and once again make it a teatime favourite.

Dundee Cake was first made by the Dundee-based Keiller company, as an off-season sideline to their marmalade business, as a way of using up excess peel generated by the marmalade manufacturing process. By gentleman’s agreement, no other bakers in the city made the cake. Keiller’s were also responsible for popularising their creation under the name Dundee Cake, described by Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food as light, buttery delicacy stuffed with sultanas, almonds and candied orange peel.

Quite when the cake was first made is a bit of a mystery, but it is mentioned in stories and novels of the mid-nineteenth century. An 1853 edition of The Lancet carries an advertisement for a Regent Street caterer, which includes Dundee Cake in its list of available cakes. This recipe is based on Madam Marie de Joncourt’s 1882 recipe, but tweaked to conform to the description of the original delicate and rich cake: more butter, almonds, sultanas and peel, no currants, no almonds on top. I’ve left off the distinguishing almonds, because they’re not mentioned in the original recipe, but you can make your own decision on that.

Dundee Cake

180g butter – softened
112g caster sugar
4 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
180g flour
150g sultanas
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 grated nutmeg
100g ground almonds
125g candied peel, cut into thin, 2cm slivers

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease a 20cm, deep (at least 10cm) loose-bottomed cake tin.
  • Line the base with a circle of parchment.
  • Tear off a long strip of parchment, long enough to wrap around the whole tin.
  • Fold the strip of parchment in half lengthwise.
  • Unfold, then fold in each long edge towards the centre fold.
  • Fold both halves together, making for four layers of parchment.
  • Line the tin with this 4-ply strip of parchment. Any fruit-filled cake needs protecting from the high temperatures that baking in a tin will generate.
    Grease the parchment on the sides and base of the tin.
  • Put the softened butter into a bowl and whisk until light and creamy.
  • Add the sugar and whisk until pale and fluffy.
  • Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Whisk for a good 3-4 minutes before adding the next egg.
  • Stir in the vanilla.
  • Gently stir the remaining ingredients together, then fold into the wet ingredients. Don’t over-mix, or you run the risk of deflating all the air you’ve just whisked into it.
  • Spread the mixture into the tin and level the top.
  • Bake for one hour, gently turning the tin around 180 degrees after 40 minutes.
  • Check for done-ness by inserting a wooden toothpick deep into the centre of the cake. If no liquid batter is clinging to it when removed, the cake is done.
    Cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store, wrapped in foil, in an airtight tin.

Snow Cake

An unusual and simple cake, with the bonus of being gluten-free!

As I was perusing one of my several vintage baking books, I came across this recipe – not in any specific allergy-related book or even chapter of a book. No, it was just included with a bunch of other recipes in a book aimed at the commercial baker, dating from the early 20th century. I have scaled the recipe down from the originally huge quantities, but otherwise, it is unchanged.

This cake is made using potato flour. IMPORTANT: Potato flour is made from RAW potatoes and is a bright white and very fine powder, with no discernible taste. It is NOT dehydrated cooked potato, which is coarse, yellowish and tastes of potato. That makes mashed potatoes when reconstituted and will add a similar texture to your cake. Readers in the US: use potato starch flour.

At first, I thought the cake got its name from it colour, because, as you can see from the photo, it is indeed a very pale cake. However, after tasting the cake, I’m now of the opinion that its name comes from its texture. It has the same quality of settled snow, in that there is a thin ‘crust’ on the top and soft, friable, almost powder-like substance underneath. The cake dissolves in the mouth – but in a different way to, say, Melting Moments. It’s incredibly light and tender and is best enjoyed simply, where it can really shine.

That said, the cream that I have teamed with it is pretty awesome itself. It is a variation of the filling I used for the mille-feuilles in the final of The Great British Bake Off. The mixture of sweetened cream cheese and whipped double cream is given a firmer set by the addition of gelatine, which helps to hold in the moisture and makes for a very luscious, rich, creamy and mousse-like texture. Just to continue the frozen theme, it’s like the very best soft-serve ice-cream, without the cold.

I’ve brightened the filling with some Apricot Jam, but any other sharp jam would also work well.

I bought the potato flour at Holland & Barrett.

Snow Cake

112g unsalted butter – softened
112g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 level tsp baking powder
225g potato flour

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line the base of a 20cm diameter, tall cake tin – not a sandwich tin. The high sides will help shield the cake from the direct heat of the oven and keep it from becoming over-coloured.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly – a good 5-10 minutes. Ordinarily, you’d run the risk of over-beating a cake mixture, which would develop the gluten in the flour, leading to a tough cake. Since the potato flour has no gluten, there’s no need to worry about this. You want to try and get as much air into the mixture as possible to make for a light texture in the cooked cake.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the tin 180 degrees and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, for a total of 30-35 minutes. When you turn the cake after 20 minutes, slip a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the tin to keep the colour from getting too dark.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Luscious Cream Filling

50ml double cream
50g caster sugar
2 leaves gelatine

1tsp vanilla extract
150g cream cheese,  room temperature
250ml double cream

  • Soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water for 15 minutes.
  • Warm the double cream and caster sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Shake off the excess water from the gelatine and add to the pan.
  • Stir until the gelatine has melted, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Once the mixture has cooled a little, pour it into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Whip the mixture until the cream has thickened and it is soft and pillowy.

To Assemble

Even though this is a light sponge cake, the weight of the top half will be too heavy initially, to avoid squidging (technical term) the cream out of the sides of the cake. Therefore, I strongly recommend using the following method to assemble your cake.

200g apricot jam – warmed and pureed

  • Using cocktail sticks, mark the midpoint of the cooled cake around the edge and cut it horizontally.
  • Spread the cut side of each cake half with apricot jam.
  • Put the bottom half of the cake back into the tin in which it was baked.
  • Slip a band of parchment or food-grade acetate around the inside of the tin, between the cake and the inside of the tin.
  • Smooth or pipe the cream filling over the bottom of the cake, making sure it reaches the edges of the cake.
  • Place the other half on top and press gently.
  • Cover with cling-film and chill for 2-3 hours, until the gelatine in the cream has set.
  • Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and gently peel the parchment/acetate from around the filling.
  • Smooth with a knife if necessary.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.