Fruitcakes in Britain date back as far as Saxon times. Drying fruits and nuts was the best and perhaps only way to ensure a good supply during the harsh months of winter. But many ancient European cultures have different variations of such sweetened cakes but like mince pies, the fruitcake came into shape as a Christmas- New Year meal during the middle ages when an array of spices and vast amounts of honey were added to make this sticky, dense and rich cake. This delicacy was so well loved that for a while was the staple wedding cake! In Victorian times citrus peels and liberal amounts of brandy were added to intensify the flavour and moisten the cake. Although European immigrants introduced it to America, it still holds a strong nostalgic connotation and links to the motherlands of the old world. Although many claim one must bake a fruitcake at least two months before Christmas, I’ll give you my speedy recipe that you can with just one day ahead, an elegant Victorian decoration with almonds …
It happened in Glasbury-on-Wye, Wales. This is a wonderful little town surrounded by green, green mountains, valleys and sheep… loads of them. One of MrD’s dear friends chose this destination as a setting for her annual birthday hiking. We also visited briefly Hay on Wye although we were a bit too early for the book festival. MrD and I teamed up to prepare the celebratory dinner, a mexi-thai menu, so vast we even had enough to share with the cottage’s owners (Cross House), a lovely family leaving in a bungalow next door.
If you’ve seen “The secret life of Walter Mitty” you’ll remember the scene when Ben Stiller’s character hast to bribe an Afghan warlord with some clementine cake and to his astonishment it actually works.
Typically when we think about upside down cakes the first thing that pops into our heads is the classic 1970’s pineapple upside down cake with a shiny glace cherry in the middle of every ring. Well we can u se the same idea and use any other fruit to produce a great cake with a fruity surprise.
Act 1. The Quaker side. Quakers have been in Tottenham (North London) for 300 hundred years. Quakers do not have a traditional creed and that each person has direct access to God. Quaker women there used to bake used to bake and sell tray bakes, topped with pink icing traditionally died with mulberries off the tree in the burial ground (for extra flavour?). It was then sliced in squares and sold.
Delicate sponges generously filled with fresh fruit or flavourfull jams, balanced with freshly whipped cream are a quintessential British speciality. It is said that Queen Victoria (a sweet toothed girl herself) used to accompany her tea with a slice…or two of a sponge sandwhich filled with strawberry jam and cream, sprinkled with caster sugar. So much so, that this cake became known as Victoria Sponge Cake.
This is a small twist to a classic Victoria Sponge Cake, the batter is quite simple and the cherries add a touch of playfulness.