You bet your sweet Scottie we are!
It's Christmastime, and one thing I love about being an American is how traditions and foods from different parts of the world blend together to become distinctly American, but still retain their roots.
Kind of like people, right?
I'm a perfect example of America's melting pot: my great-grandparents were 1) & 2) Swiss German, 3) Irish? or English? (someday I may tell you about the skeleton in that closet), 4) Irish, 5) English, 6) Scottish, 7) & 8) German.
A traditional cake from Scotland is the Dundee Cake - a kind of light fruitcake. Rumor says it was developed for Mary, Queen of Scots, because she didn't like candied cherries and what-not in her cakes.
I came across this cake because I'm a Tasha Tudor fan.
But the Tasha Tudor receipt (she never called them 'recipes') has candied fruit in it, and Mary Q of S wouldn't stand for that, so I started researching.
I found out the main thing that makes a Dundee Cake, other than being cakey and fruity, are the almonds.
No almonds? Then you just have a fruit cake. You might as well be English. A Low-lander. Sheesh.
I read through dozens of Dundee Cake recipes and came up with a cake all my own. I hate fruit cake, but I love this cake. I made it this weekend for our own St. Nicholas Day observance on Thursday.
So, (drumroll please), here's the recipe:
Jan's Dundee Cake
First, prepare your pan. I used my 8" spring-form pan, but you can also use whatever pan you have that gives you enough room for the cake to rise. A 9" round cake pan isn't high enough, but a 9" square pan should be big enough. Tasha Tudor's family uses two 9" loaf pans.
Grease your pan with butter or cooking spray, and line with baking parchment.
Then I used three 5" strips of parchment to line the sides of the pan.
Now it's time to make the cake.
1/2 c. whole almonds
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup slivered almonds, chopped as finely as you wish
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Put your whole almonds in a bowl. Be sure you use raw almonds, not roasted or salted.
Pour boiling water over the nuts just to cover them. Let them soak for one minute. Any longer and you'll get soggy almonds. Any shorter and you won't be able to get the brown skins off.
It's an easy process, but a bit tedious. Employ your elves (aka children hanging about) to help.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and chopped almonds. Add your fruit pieces - I used raisins - and stir to cover the fruit with the flour.
Next, using your mixer (hi, Edna!), beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Then add the vanilla, orange juice, lemon extract and orange zest. Blend with a spoon or with your mixer on low speed.
The next step is your signature. Place the blanched almonds in a design on the top of your cake. Make spirals, sunbursts, whatever. The more almonds you use, the better.
Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about one hour.
Test for doneness with a cake tester or toothpick. Stick it in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. But with this cake you want a few crumbs sticking to the tester - it's better for the cake to be slightly underdone than overdone.
Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then remove from the pan, place on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
Now comes the really hard part.
This cake is better after it's been sitting for a few days.
Wrap it up well in plastic wrap or an air-tight food storage container, put it in a cupboard or on top of the refrigerator, and wait.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can play with it and make it your own!
Here are some ideas of different additions you can make to the batter:
So, are you ready to try this departure from traditional fruit cake, or are you one of the 50% of Americans who love those bricks of .....whatever they are?