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A Note From Home

Dear Claire,

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).

Customs Declaration Front

Declaration for 10lb of tea, sent in 1942 to my Dad's mother from her cousin in 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.

Canada's cake recipe

I couldn’t resist making some to mark your first Canadian year.

Happy anniversary kiddo.

Auntie Spud

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Canada’s Cake: A Boiled Fruit Cake

Tea and 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.

You’ll need:
  • 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.
The Steps:
  • 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.
The Variations:
  • You can really vary the dried fruit and spices according to what you have and what you like.
The Results:
  • One old-fashioned fruit cake which will serve one large Irish family for tea.


  1. Claire

    Thanks a million Aunty Spud!!

    Can’t believe that I’ve been gone a year! I’m delighted that the tea can come this way as opposed to me sending it the other way! I do stockpile and ration my Irish goodies but thankfully purely out of a desire to make it last and not a necessity!

    I hope the Canada cake was good – it think I’ll have to give it a crack myself now in honour of our anniversary here!

    With our family fascination with the Family Tree and with your recent historical culinary discoveries, I think that you should start a “foodie” family tree! Recipes through the generations – I want 10% of the book deal for that one!! ;)

    Thanks again for the letter Aunty Spud – reading your exploits helps to ease the homesickness a bit – and it also keeps the other half fed!! :)

    I’ll let you know how that Canada cake turns out here in the country of its origin!!


    The Emigrant!! xx

  2. Meister @ Eat This Neighborhood

    This post is 100% charming. Thank you so much for sharing your grandma’s delightful recipe.

  3. jen cheung

    Canada is not treating me well! It’s like already freezing here and I’m getting sick. :(

    have a lovely weekend!
    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  4. Daily Spud

    Claire: You’re welcome sweetheart. The Canada’s cake was good, a real old fashioned teatime cake and exactly the kind of thing I would have eaten in Grandma’s house, spread with butter and with leaf tea drunk from a well worn cup and saucer.

    Meister: …and thank you so much for visiting, glad you enjoyed it!

    jen: oh no, poor you :( hope you get better soon!

  5. Yvette

    Yummy yummy!
    could you boil the fruit up with tea either? Sounds like good comfort food for this hour of the year! Delighted to see that the boxty flying dumplings did you proud!!

  6. Daily Spud

    You could absolutely boil the fruit up with tea Yvette and it’s definitely good autumnal eating. And I was very proud of my flying boxty dumpling, even if it wasn’t quite good enough to get me to the next round. Still, it means more time for other spudly activities, so no loss!

  7. Joanne

    Well if it’s grandma-approved you know it has to be good. I actually don’t know that I’ve ever had sultanas but it sure does sound good!

  8. Ruby

    Funny that this hails from a church bazaar because that’s exactly what it reminds me of. Tea, fruit cake and old ladies – in the best, most comforting way possible! And I love the handwritten recipe – I think seeing people’s handwriting from long ago is magic. It’s so personal, like having them back for a bit. Very nice post.

  9. Daily Spud

    Joanne: sultanas aren’t that different to raisins, so providing you like raisins, then I think you’ll be safe enough liking this :)

    Ruby: Thanks for the kind words. There definitely is something special about old, handwritten recipes. It makes me wonder how many people write out recipes by hand now, as opposed to keeping them in electronic form, which is not quite the same thing!

  10. Sophie

    What a lovely story!! That fruit cake does look amazing & mighty tasty too!

    Kisses from rainy Brussels to you!!

  11. Daily Spud

    Thanks Sophie! And for a change it is not so rainy here in Ireland :)

  12. OysterCulture

    What a great read and sharing of a wonderful sounding recipe. Although at first read, I am not so sure about boiled fruit, but I trust you implicitly.

  13. Tangled Noodle

    So sweet, Auntie Spud! A bit of family history and a bite of cake – what a lovely way to celebrate a loved one’s milestone. 8-)

  14. Daily Spud

    OysterCulture: I know what you mean about the boiled fruit but do trust me on this one!

    Tangled Noodle: history that involves cake is my favourite kind :)

  15. Cheryl

    I was born in Buffalo NY, my Great-Grandmother who was regulated to a wheelchair since she was 13 gave my Grandmother this recipe, then to my Mother and now to me. I make this for gifts for Christmas but I add sugar and nuts (walnuts) to it. It tastes like ginger bread, if some of the reciepents like I will “cure” the cake in spiced rum for about a week.

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