Why not plan a Scottish high tea for your next afternoon tea? Karen explains what goes into it and shares a recipe for a beautifully moist Scottish fruit and marmalade cake.
Scotland is justifiably famous for its teatime table, and as my maternal grandmother was Scottish, I can still remember her tea time table groaning under the weight of home-made cakes, tarts, pies, sandwiches, scones and preserves. Nobody left her table hungry and what wasn’t eaten at the time was safely packed away in an assortment of old biscuit and sweetie tins for future tea time delectation. There were freshly boiled eggs, slices of crusty bread with salted butter and cold cooked ham on offer too, all washed down with cups of hot, sweet tea – it was a meal in itself and nothing else was needed until tea and toast before bed.
I still hanker after a good Scottish high tea, the ones where hot savouries are served alongside all the cakes and bakes; my mum still prepares a good Scottish style tea, for birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions, and one of her specialities are freshly made Drop Scones, also known as Scotch Pancakes or Scotch Griddle (Girdle) Cakes.
She makes them just before serving tea and keeps them warm in a clean tea towel, ready for spreading with butter and dribbling honey all over them. Her cheese scones are also famous and many a scone has been “stolen” from the wire cooking rack before it even made it to the table!
As well as scones and pancakes, a good Scottish tea would not be complete without cake, and Scotland has many delicious cake recipes, the most famous being the Dundee Cake. The Dundee Cake’s origins are claimed by the marmalade company Keiller’s Marmalade, who were the first ones to bake the cakes commercially, but, similar fruit cakes with nuts have been made in Scotland for centuries. There is a charming tale that Mary Queen of Scots was not fond of cherries in cakes, so the cherries were omitted and almonds were added instead. Whatever the origins of the cake, it’s one of my favourites and a popular Scottish recipe export to the rest of the world.
Staying with fruit cakes, one of my favourite family recipes is my grandmother’s Scottish Fruit and Marmalade Cake. A “cut and come again” cake that is easy to make, of vast proportions (in order to feed a family) and which gets better the longer you keep it. In fact, it’s always better to keep it for 48 hours after baking before cutting it, if you can manage it that is! It uses a basic recipe for boiling the dried mixed fruit in water first, which plumps them up and makes them moist. A couple of tablespoons of marmalade are also added to the mixture, which also helps keep the cake moist, as well as adding a fabulous flavour. It’s a cake that is always welcome on my tea time table, and is perfect for packed lunches and picnics too.
I am sharing my grandmother’s recipe for her Scottish Fruit and Marmalade Cake today, to help celebrate and promote Scottish Food & Drink Fortnightwhich runs from 7th to the 22nd September. I have already shared a savoury recipe for Smoked Haddock Mousse, which would also have been seen on my grandmother’s high tea table, but probably called smoked fish pots – in fact, smoked haddock featured a lot in dishes for tea and supper, on toast or in fish pies, it was a popular fish to cook with and a little went a long way.
This cake recipe is also perfect for those people who disliked heavy, rich and dark Christmas cake, and I have often made this recipe as my Christmas cake without the icing and marzipan, with an added glug of festive brandy (or Scotch) to make it special.
There is only one rigid requirement, try to use home-made or high quality commercial marmalade, for a better taste. Why not enjoy a slice of this cake with a cuppa one afternoon, plus, the children will love a slice in their school lunch box too, and the cake will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight tin, so a perfect cake to make and keep!
Scottish Fruit and Marmalade Cake
(16 to 24 generous slices)
450g mixed dried fruit
225g butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons marmalade
350g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
350g caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs, beaten
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Grease and line an 8” (20cms) square cake tin.
2. Put the dried fruit into a large saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the fruit well and put it back in the pan. Add the butter to the hot fruit, and mix well until the butter has melted. Then add the marmalade and stir well again. Leave to cool.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl and mix well.
4. Beat the eggs and sugar together until light and frothy and add them to the flour mixture; then add the fruit mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon.
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, before turning down the heat to 150F/300F/Gas 2 and baking for a further half an hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
6. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool and keep for 24 to 48 hours before cutting.
Want more beautiful baking recipes? Visit Great British Chefs hub for inspiration and hints and tips.