7. Plum Cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • makes

    1

    large cake

Appears in

Scottish Baking

Scottish Baking

By Sue Lawrence

Published 2016

  • About

This fabulous recipe is a combination of two very old Scottish ones, both beautifully written in a flowery hand. There is one recipe in an anonymous book from the late seventeenth century which has an elaborate recipe for a ‘plume caike’ starting ‘Take 7 pounds of flower [sic] then take a pynt of creame and two pounds of butter . . .’ It also has 22 eggs in it, so we are not talking small cakes! The other recipe is from Janet Maule’s recipe book from 1701 and calls for ‘a muchken of sweet cream’ among other things. This second recipe I somehow feel an affinity with, as Janet lived in Panmure which is beside Dundee, my home town.

There is one ingredient in Janet Maule’s recipe which is very interesting: she stipulates adding ‘a pound of corduidron’. This is preserved quince, from a form of the old French word ‘condoignac’. Though the English referred to it as ‘chardquynce’, Scots would have preferred the French to the English word (this is before the full Union in 1707, remember!). So I usually add some chopped quince paste (membrillo) to add even more flavour.

I have also found some early twentieth-century recipes for plum cake in Scotland that are similar, but often include black treacle which would make it richer and darker. Plum cake, just like plum pudding, was the term used to refer to any cake or pudding made with raisins or other dried fruits.

This cake, which has the same basic flavourings as the old recipes (some of which, from the 1700s, advocate adding ‘some sweetmeats if you please’), is wonderfully moist. I imagine this probably comes from the unusual addition of cream.

Don’t be put off by the inordinate number of ingredients! It is one of the nicest fruit cakes I know, and so easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 400 g/14 oz self-raising flour, sifted
  • 350 g/12 oz currants
  • 50 g/ oz raisins
  • 50 g/ oz mixed peel
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 75 g/ oz quince paste, diced (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground mace
  • 250 g/9 oz butter, softened
  • 150 g/ oz light muscovado sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 100 ml/3 fl oz double cream
  • 50 ml/2 fl oz medium sherry

Method

Mix the first eleven ingredients together in a large bowl, with a pinch of salt. Beat the butter and sugar until thoroughly creamed and beat in the eggs one by one, then stir into the flour mixture with the cream and sherry.

Once well combined, spoon into a lined 22cm/8½in cake tin (ensure the paper is above the rim of the tin) and bake at 170C/325F/Gas 3 for 1 hour, then reduce to 150C/300F/Gas 2.

Place a piece of foil loosely over the top and continue to bake for a further 1¼ hours (2¼ hours altogether). Check it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre; it should come out clean.

Remove to a wire rack to cool before removing from the tin.