With love from Scotland Dundee Cake
So its the time of the year when parents suddenly become Santa Claus and children who are still gullible think that Santa travels all the way from his snow land on his sledge drawn by Rudolf to climb down the chimneys and leave the presents. parents threaten children the rest of the year with ,"If you do not behave yourself Santa will not bring any presents for you". Looking back at the Christmases what I most vividly remember is the Christmas holidays being my favourite holiday from school due to the long vacation and the treats and well when I was young my mother would tell me how Jesus was born on the 25th of December and a little devil was born exactly one month later. Not caring that I was being refereed to as the little devil I would listen to her stories wide eyed because it was only when she was telling me stories that my mother was not disciplining me or coming back from office to say, "Did you while away your time again"
Christmas for me never meant big parties with lots of people because my "quiet and peace loving" parents would pack up and decide on a place "Far Away from the madding crowd" at any little possibility. And every Christmas we would go to the hill stations which during the 90s and early 2000s would be all calm and quiet because most tourists would avoid cold places during the cold season in India but both my mountaineer parents loved it and soon I realized my heart belongs to the mountains especially the eastern Himalayan range though my parents would mostly head to the Western Himalayas for the expeditions and treks but when it came to our annual trips we mostly stuck to the mountains which lies yonder in the northern part of West Bengal.
Our trips were usually predictable. What was a definitive inclusion was walking the entire day and yes I was bullied into walking with my own backpack and realizing how much I enjoy it today. Another essential part of our trips were a somewhat heavy breakfast, lunch carried in our backpacks which usually consisted of bread,chocolates, fruits, crisps , biscuits snacking on steaming soups and momos (a dumpling ) etc and a dinner of chicken curry.
The most exciting day of the trips for me would be of course Christmas day when Santa would pay me a visit which was the highlight of the day. What I loathed were those rich dry fruit cakes which were a must inclusion for Christmas Day's lunch and snacking. Oh no matter how earnestly I would pray on Christmas eve that Santa get us a nice creamy chocolate cake it was always those fruit laden cakes staring me in my eyes the next day.
Over the years the timing of the trips have been freely moved thanks to my completion of education and the excessive crowds in the hills during the holidays these days. India sure has grown its resistance to cold and well of course then there is global warming. So we usually chose a time when its all quiet on the mountain front.
Well anyways coming back to cakes as I grew up despite my dislike for fruit cakes I would religiously go to the age old Flurry's (a heritage bakery of Calcutta) for their rich fruit cakes and then one Christmas I saw something which interested me, a round cake with almonds in circular patterns all over the cake. Turned out to be the Dundee cake . I bought one and was well finally this was something which made me very very very happy. With its crumbly texture and almond laden top it was what my taste buds needed.
Then I realized that what made me dislike the fruti cakes were the inclusion of cashew nuts and sweetened pumpkins something which probably takes place in India alone. Anyways so this year I decided on the Dundee cake, presenting Scotland's very own fruit cake, not very rich , needs no soaking and with a kiss of whiskey. What makes it unique is the inclusion of marmalade.
Interestingly Dundee has a very nice little story attached to it. Legend has it that Mary Queen of Scots disliked cherries and so a fruit cake was made in her honour which included a lot of almonds and there is also another legend of her having introduced marmalade to Scotland but then legends are legends. What is definitive is that Keiller's started producing marmalade in huge massive quantities which is an important ingredients for Dundee cake and as per them they were the ones who produced Dundee cake in masses and invented it. Well I do not know who invented this cake but yes this is one of the best fruit cakes I have had. Laden with figs, apricots, raisins, sultanas , currants and almonds this one is fully laden yet its crumbly light texture is simply delicious, the marmalade and orange peel gives it that perfect touch of citrus aroma and flavour.
I followed Dan Lepard's recipe and am ever grateful to him for giving some extremely valuable tips. I did look around and gather some other useful tips which ended in the perfect crumbly rich wonderful cake.
So what you need is
175gm of unsalted butter
175gm of brown sugar
250gm of all purpose flour
baking powder (Now here is the thing about baking powders, it does vary as per country, so while using do read the label please, mine asked me to use 2tsp for every 450gm and so I used my eyes and it was somewhat well say a little more than 1 tsp but you should really read your label because excessive baking powder leads to a funny zinc like bitter taste and too little will make your cake not fluff up 0
180gm of soft de-seeded apricots chopped in little pieces
75gm of chopped dried figs
100gm of sultanas
75gm of currants de-stemmed completely
75gm of raisins
150gm of glazed cherries pitted and halved and dried
80gm of almond flour (What I did was simply blanch them and dry them and toast them and grind them but please do not grind them since nuts have oil and if you grind for too long you end up with a lumpy greasy mass)
25ml of warm water
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp marmalade
3 eggs (I did use the big sized ones and the country eggs not the poultry ones for maximum taste and flavour)
100gm of blanched and halved almonds
2 tbsp whiskey
Start by lining your baking tin ( 6 inch to 7 inch) . Now most people will advice you to not grease the pan post using the parchment paper but that is essential to make sure that the greasing and dusting is done to easily peel off the parchment paper once done with baking. i am sure it will not be a hilarious story to tell when your guests end up with a little paper for extra taste :)
It is always useful to get things done from before so I did chop my apricots, figs , cherries etc the previous night of baking . On the B-day (baking day) grease your tin if using a nonstick tin and then place the parchment paper and then grease and dust. It is always helpful if you do this ahead of time.
First sift your flour and baking powder together . Now start by first creaming your butter with sugar. Here is something interesting that blew my mind. I usually use a hand held non electronic whisk and today for some reason i went even more old school and started the process of softening the butter with the back of a massive spoon and believe me the result of fluffiness was simply amazing. I went on to cream my butter and sugar with my whisk. It was something that just disappeared in my mouth , it was lighter than air :P I added my marmalade and orange zest and then 75gm of your sifted flour and whisk and then add the eggs one by one and keep whisking and now you are done with the whisk . Now is your time to preheat your oven to a 140 C , then use a spatula to fold in the flour and lastly the dry fruits. At this point you need all your strength, there is a reason why some women who bake have no jiggy wiggies hangign out from those arms :P
The mixture will feel very rich and tight. Add 20ml warm water and mix well with spatula. Fold it in your prepared baking tin. Now here is a very useful tip. Wet your hands and smooth the top so that you need up with a even topped cake. So you think you should arrange your almonds now , no all in good time my loves all in good time.
Place a flat dish with raised sides filled with boiled water in the middle of the oven, use a rack and place the cake in the middle and bake for 50 minutes. This placing of water beneath the rack makes sure that you keep your cake moist since like most fruit cakes this requires at least 2 hours 50 minutes of baking. Now is your time to carefully take out the cake and quickly arrange your almonds in circular patterns. i did preheat it again at 140 C and it took a few minutes and then baked it for another 2 hours. If your skewer comes out perfectly clean you are done. Use a toothpick , no big skewer please to make little holes and feed the cake your whiskey.
Enjoy this crumbly yet rich cake with your afternoon tea.
I proudly am entering this with Kolkata food Blogger's Baking palooza 2013