It started with a cake. It was the kind of cake that Arthur Rowe "...always liked, especially rich Dundees and dark brown home-made fruit-cakes tasting elusively of Guinness." One did not expect to happen upon such a treat during the rationing days of World War II, when England was at constant risk from aerial bombings. It was the kind of cake that drew a crowd of admirers, longing for a cut of buttery crumble, baked light with "real eggs," to cheer the heart and sweeten the tongue. Others were fixated on that buttery crumble, too, but their hearts held secrets that could not be cheered, nor did they want them to be. But it seemed like Rowe's lucky day, that he should win that "magnificent cake" at a fundraising fair, much to the consternation of those others. As it turned out, it was not his lucky day at all.
Billed as "An Entertainment" by its author, Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear charts a distinctive, enigmatic, and malevolent storyline segmented by the state of mind of its protagonist, Arthur Rowe. Haunted by a crime committed as an act of compassion, conspired against by a fifth column costumed as fortune teller, séance medium, and charity league, Rowe is a man whose fate is as existential and bleak as the irony that grips and plunders his sanity and safety.
Life, unfortunately for Arthur Rowe, was never wistfully sweeter than during the brief respite of a seemingly innocent cake in an era when loyalty and love were especially unkind.
Dundee Cake – Adapted from the recipe on Food Down UnderThis recipe is for Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, hostesses of the quarterly Novel Food event, featuring food and drink inspired by the books we love to read. Special thanks to both ladies for waiting on my post.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger
1/3 cup ground almonds (also known as almond meal or flour)
2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup dried currants
1 cup mixed candied fruit peel
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange extract
3 tablespoons golden syrup, honey, or light-colored fruit jam
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped, slivered, or sliced
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch X 3-inch springform cake pan, then line the pan's bottom and sides with cut-to-fit baking parchment, slightly overlapping the side strips. Grease all interior surfaces of parchment. (You may have to clip the side parchment to the pan to keep in place.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl, toss raisins, currants, and fruit peel with ground almonds until fruit is uniformly covered with the almonds. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric beater until soft and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange extract. Slowly beat in dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time, into butter mixture, until batter is thick and well combined. Stir in fruit mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Place pan on center rack of oven. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven, glaze cake with syrup, and scatter almonds on top. Return to over to bake another hour or until center tests clean with a slim knife or skewer. Remove cake from oven onto rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove from pan, peel off the side parchment, then carefully slide the cake off the pan bottom with the bottom parchment intact. Return to rack to cool completely. Once cool (it will take at least four hours), cake can be lifted to peel off bottom parchment. Cut with a serrated knife. Serves 16 (realistically, 8). Best served the same day, when it's very moist and tender. Leftovers must be wrapped tightly in plastic; it is discernibly dryer as it matures, like most fruitcakes, accounting for the tradition of soaking to cure in whiskey, stout, or rum.
Been There, Done That ~
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Other Peoples' Eats ~
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