23 May 2024

Dundee Cake - Scottish Teatime Classic

Dundee Cake - Scottish Teatime Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

Dundee Cake is one of those recipes with lots of lore attached. As with all lore, much of it is inaccurate. Was it really created at the end of the 18th century by Janet Keiller of the Dundee marmalade family? Or was it first made in the 16th century for Mary Queen of Scots, who purportedly did not like cherries which usually featured in fruit cake? 

Which of the so-called must-have ingredients must one really have? Some insist on a bit of whisky from Scotland, or Seville orange marmalade, or ground almonds. The list goes on. So ... what to do? Professional bakers of the cake actually applied for protected status, but the government chose not to award the cake protected geographical indication (PGI) because "the name Dundee Cake is generic."

The application for PGI status specified certain ingredients, including sultanas, Amontillado sherry, candied orange peel, dried vine fruits, and a pattern of whole blanched almonds on top. Not even a wee dram of Scotland's finest! Good, because I've always preferred sherry (though not necessarily Amontillado). 

Dundee Cake - Scottish Teatime Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

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I abhor store-bought candied orange peel, so unless I have a batch of my homemade candied orange peel on hand, I prefer to use fresh orange zest and perhaps a bit of juice. The main thing is that the predominant flavors be orange and almond. And I do hold with the PGI applicants' insistence on an arrangement of whole blanched almonds on the top.

Unfortunately, for some reason none of the stores around here had whole blanched almonds in stock, which I found surprising. Perhaps they consider them a "seasonal" item? Anyway ... I decided to proceed with the whole raw unblanched almonds I always have on hand. Perhaps not as pretty to some, or not "authentic" to others, but it will have to do! Blanching them myself would likely have been simple, but I wasn't in the mood to experiment with it just then.

When developing a recipe I always try to make it as "authentic" as possible, but not being a Dundonian myself, I don't wish to be dogmatic about any of this. But if you are a member of the Baker Trade of Dundee or just have set ideas about Dundee cake, do let me know in the comments!

Dundee Cake - Scottish Teatime Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Dundee Cake   

(Makes one 3-inch/8cm deep 7-inch/18cm round cake)

1 1/4 packed cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) sultanas, currants, or other dried vine fruits
Finely grated zest of 2 medium organic or unsprayed and unwaxed oranges
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/59 ml) fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon (0.5 fluid ounce/15 ml) sherry
1 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (7.5 ounces/213 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour*
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/149 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons non-GMO baking powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice**
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces/142 grams) unsalted butter, softened***
2 large (medium, in UK and some other places) eggs, room temperature
About 34 whole blanched almonds

* Many British recipes call for self-raising flour, but mine will always call for plain flour. I prefer to be in control of the amount of baking powder and salt I use. 

** Since the mixed spice, a ready-made blend popular in the UK, is not readily available elsewhere (not the same as US pumpkin pie spice), you may have to make your own. The amount to make depends on how frequently you’ll be using it. I usually stir up just a tablespoon at a time, but multiply these amounts if you’d like to make more: 3/4 teaspoon each allspice and cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon mace or nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon each cardamom, cloves, coriander and ginger.

*** Let butter stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Butter needs to be a little softer for a hand mixer than for a stand mixer. It should be squishable, but not melting or greasy/oily.

1 About 12 to 24 hours before mixing cake, stir together fruit, zest, juice and sherry in a small bowl. Cover tightly and let stand for about 12 to 24 hours.

2 Preheat oven to 300F/150C/Gas2. Prepare baking tin. Butter the inside of a 3-inch deep 7-inch/18cm pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Turn the parchment over so that both sides are buttered. Lightly flour the tin and set it on a quarter sheet pan for baking.

3 In 2 to 2.5-quart bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice, and salt to aerate as well as combine. With electric hand mixer, mix the softened butter into the flour mixture until it resembles crumbs. Drain the fruit and zest, reserving the liquid. On low setting, mix in the eggs and the reserved juice; beat on medium to high speed for 1 minute. Gently stir in the drained fruit. The batter is quite stiff and should just drop slowly off a spoon when nudged. If it is too stiff, add a tablespoon of milk or another tablespoon of orange juice or sherry, if you like.

4 Scrape batter into prepared tin and smooth the top. Arrange the whole blanched almonds in 3 concentric circles on the top, starting on the outside—20 almonds, then 11, then 3. Bake until golden brown and cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center or when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

5 Leave in tin on wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin. Peel away the parchment on the bottom and set right side up on rack to cool completely. 

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