CakeSpy Note: this is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Corina, who was kind enough to introduce me to this wonderful holiday cake!
There’s Something about the Dundee Cake...
“There’s something about Mary”... I am sure everybody remembers this Cameron Diaz film that is meant to make one smile, laugh and think more of the beauty of this simple name: Mary. One could say something similar: There’s something about Scotland. Indeed, there’s the breathtaking landscape, the jolly people, the scotch, the kilts and the Dundee cake.
Also known as the Scottish Christmas Cake, the Dundee cake became popular at the end of the 19th century, though the roots are even older than that. Fruit cakes already existed in Scotland. While children may enjoy a cake with proper Christmas decorations, adults will find the combination of cake and whiskey simply irresistible. It’s light, with a crumbly texture and a great alternative to the luxury cakes filled with buttercream.
But how did it all start?
One story says that Mary Queen of Scots did not like cherries in her fruit cakes, so almonds had to be used instead. Another story tells us that what we now enjoy as a fine, luxury Christmas cake, was initially a mass produced cake by the marmalade company called Keiller’s. Keiller’s marmalade is believed to have been the first commercial brand of marmalade produced in Dundee, Scotland. Not that related to our Dundee Cake, the marmalade story is interesting enough to be mentioned.
So, a humble Dundee grocer, James Keiller, took advantage of a Spanish ship taking refuge from a winter storm in Dundee harbour. The ship was loaded with Seville oranges so he bought a large quantity of oranges for a paltry sum. He wanted to sell them, make some profit, but couldn’t, as they turned out to be rather bitter, so his wife decided to use them. That’s how marmalade became popular.
Many years later, a marmalade factory was opened in Dundee. And while the Keillers may not have been the authentic creators of the Dundee Cake, they definitely made it commercially available.
The main ingredients are: flour, butter, caster sugar, mixed peel, currants, raisins, sultanas, eggs, lemon juice, a little bit of milk, almonds and whiskey. There are quite many recipes that are worth trying; a classic one can be found here.
But the most important thing to remember is the use of whiskey. Some recipes come up with alternatives like brandy, or other spirits, but the authentic Dundee cake is the one that uses Whiskey. So make an effort and try to use this ingredient. Also, remember to soak the fruit at least a day before. The better soaked they are, the more intense you can feel their scent and aroma.
If you want a more special Christmas, you should really try a Dundee cake, or a British Christmas Pudding. And if you are not in the mood for baking, you can always pay a visit to Dunn’s Bakery, a family owned British bakery that started back in 1872. They use traditional British recipes handed in from generation to generation and make sure that the art of baking still remains an art.