At 7am yesterday morning I was weighing out and soaking dried fruit in whisky for a scottish whiskey dundee cake. Even for me and the party animal I have been the whisky was turning my stomach at that hour. It’s never been my choice of tipple but then there’s a new man in my life that I’m cooking for. His name is Reg and I must have met him about 3 or 4 months ago. Our only exchanges have been on my street at 7.10 am on my way to work. Reg would be either coming back form or going to get a paper, sometimes in freezing cold weather with only a baseball cap and thin suit jacket on. He would always shout ‘hello dear’ we would say a few words and that was it really. I don’t know much about him apart from the fact he lives alone since his wife died 10 years ago. He must be in his late 80s. He’s two blocks up from me in their home and he used to work portering in the blocks along my street. Reg brightens up every morning I see him. It’s been a cold, dark and rainy few months and I’m indefinitely tired. Then there’s Reg. A kind, happy, man who even at that hour is always beaming like he’s so thankful and happy in life. Before Christmas he asked me what I was doing for the holdays and if I was going anywhere nice. When I asked him what he was doing he said ‘oh I’ll be alright’ and I thought that sounded like the response from someone who was going to be home alone at Christmas and this made me feel deeply sad especially as I’m so used to large family gatherings, all my favourite festive foods a plenty, surrounded by a lot of love. On getting on the tube that morning and letting all this digest I had this overwhelming urge from deep inside my belly to cook for him. I couldn’t bring him company but I could certainly make him food and show him love. So I did. The day before christmas eve I spent cooking away for Reg, two real classics, the kind I imagined an elderly man to like but made that bit more special. I wanted to make him something that was tasty and may have been the kind of stuff his wife or mum used to make, just proper good home cooked food. My gift included slow braised shin of beef in red wine with onions and carrots. I boiled up a load of potatoes too that he could either mash or have whole. Then I made a scottish whiskey dundee cake, don’t all elderly people love a fruit cake? Especially one soaked in whiskey. I left the parcel outside his flat (he’s too deaf to hear the doorbell) and when I bumped into him after my christmas break two weeks later he told me it made his day and brought a tear to his eye. We had a big hug and when I continued to the tube I wept.
Since this time I’ve started doing other bits for Reg. Recently when he was ‘under the weather’ I made some leak an potato soup with leeks from my dad’s garden. This week I’ve made him another scottish whiskey dundee cake. I felt the last one could have been improved on. The cooking time in the recipe is WAY out so I wanted to repeat and perfect it and I’m going to share it with you. It’s a classic Delia recipe and one my mum swears by but as I find with many of the her recipes her cooking times are massively off (she says cake cooks in 2-2.5 hours but it never takes longer than 1.5 hours!!!) so please follow my instructions.
I urge you people to cook something for someone today. Someone who’s alone, someone who’s old and can’t cook, someone who’s homeless, whoever just spread and share the love.
Anyway this post is dedicated to Reg. Everyday I see you you brighten up my day. Thank you.
Scottish Whiskey Dundee Cake
3 tablespoons whisky
6 oz (175 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
4 oz (110 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and cut into halves
3 oz (75 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
grated rind 1 small orange
grated rind 1 small lemon
5 oz (150 g) butter, at room temperature
5 oz (150 g) soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
milk, if necessary – I always need about 50mls
2 level tablespoons ground almonds
4 oz (110g) whole blanched almonds
1 miniature bottle (3½ tablespoons) single malt Scotch whisky (for ‘feeding’)
You will also need a 7 inch (18 cm) square or 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tin, greased and lined with silicone paper (baking parchment)- double line it with parchment paper. A tip from my mum to stop the edges burning.
Begin the night before by weighing the fruit and peel into a bowl and sprinkling it with the 3 tablespoons of whisky. Mix well, cover and leave overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy – or use an electric mixer for more speed. Whisk the eggs separately, then, a little at a time, beat them into the creamed butter and sugar. Next, using a large tablespoon, carefully fold in the sifted flour and baking powder. Your mixture needs to be of a soft, dropping consistency so, if it seems too dry, add a dessertspoon of milk.
Now, carefully fold in the ground almonds and then the currants, sultanas, cherries, mixed peel and orange and lemon zest. Then spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing it out evenly with the back of the spoon. If you don’t intend to ice the cake, arrange the whole blanched almonds in circles on top of the mixture, but do this carefully and lightly; if they are pressed in they will sink during the baking. Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for 2-2½ hours or until the centre is firm and springy to the touch.
Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking it out to finish cooling on a wire rack. Then ‘feed’ it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of malt whisky – wrap it in double silicone paper and store it in foil or an airtight container till needed. If you like you can feed it again before icing or eating.
Enjoy and remember to spread the LOVE