Can it be a year since you left already? I hope Canada is treating you well and that your Barry’s tea supplies are holding up.
While the news reports hereabouts are generally doomy and gloomy, at least they aren’t a kind of World War Two bad, in which case we’d be looking for you to send your tea back to us!
The Da – your Granda – who, as a young army cadet, was responsible for doling out rations during WW2, tells me that the tea allowance was 3/28th of an ounce per person per day – which I reckon is about a teabag’s worth. With rations like that, you’d be hanging out for the emigrant relations to do the needful and send tea home (like Grannie, who, according to this custom’s declaration, was sent 10lb of tea in 1942 by a cousin who had emigrated to New York).
And even with the rationing, I’m sure Grannie would have managed some boiled cake to go with the tea.
In fact I thought of you when I found a recipe for ‘Canada’s Cake’ on the inside cover of one of the Ma’s old cookbooks. It’s a version of boiled fruit cake which Ma says that her ma (Grandma) made often, having gotten the recipe in 1924 at a local church bazaar on Valentia Island.
I couldn’t resist making some to mark your first Canadian year.
Happy anniversary kiddo.
Canada’s Cake: A Boiled Fruit Cake
This is my rendition of the recipe for Canada’s Cake as handed down from my Grandma. It’s a boiled fruit cake, where dried fruit is simply boiled in water with some spices and other flavourings, cooled and then mixed with flour and baking soda. It’s an old-fashioned treat that you can eat as is or you might like to spread with some butter if you have it. It’s simple, unfancy, economical and won’t win prizes for elegance, but is still worthy of a place on the teatime table.
- 450g sultanas (or other dried fruit)
- 200g demerara sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp gnd cloves
- 1 tsp malt vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tblsp butter
- 400ml hot water
- 450g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
You’ll also need:
- I used an 18cm round cake tin that was about 7.5cm deep. This made for a very full tin and very tall cake, which took longer to bake than I’d anticipated. I would be inclined to use a 20cm square tin next time.
- Add the sultanas, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, salt and butter to a medium-sized saucepan along with the hot water. Bring to a boil over a medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool fully (I left it for about 2 hours).
- When you’re ready to bake the cake, preheat your oven to 150C and grease and line your baking tin.
- Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a teaspoon of hot water and add to the boiled fruit mixture along with the flour. Mix until combined.
- Scrape the cake mixture into your baking tin and bake until a skewer inserted comes out fairly cleanly. This took about 2 hours for me but start checking the cake periodically after about an hour. You’ll also want to cover the cake with foil at that stage, as any fruit exposed at the top of the mixture may burn.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes or so and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Once it’s cool, go and get the kettle on. Any cake that remains after teatime can be wrapped in foil, stored in an airtight tin and should keep for at least a couple of weeks.
- You can really vary the dried fruit and spices according to what you have and what you like.
- One old-fashioned fruit cake which will serve one large Irish family for tea.