The Doctor’s Wife’s Christmas Cake

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For a few years we have been trying out recipes from my husband’s grandmother’s recipe book, (Evelyn Burgess, my mother-in-law’s mother). We have a couple of her books from the 50’s and 60’s. But looking at some of the recipes, I reakon some of them are probably some of her mother’s and grandmother’s favourites, passed down. Some are simply named “Betty’s Pure Tomato Sauce”, or “Mrs Shaw’s Marmalade”. And I do pause to wonder who these ladies were, and how they influenced Evelyn.

Over the last few years we have enjoyed one particular Christmas cake recipe. And it has become a family favourite. The title is simply “The Doctor’s Wife’s Christmas Cake”. It is circled in the index, and at the end of the recipe is has “beautiful cake”. And we agree.

As I make the cake, I wonder who the Doctor was, and who his wife was. And was she famous in the town for her cooking? I love the simplicity of the title, and the intrigue that it holds. Maybe because of that the recipe has become a favourite…we won’t rename it, we will still call it the “Doctor’s Wife’s Cake”.

The recipe is very simple…

1lb eggs (usually 8)
1lb butter
1lb sugar
5-6lb mixed fruit.
1/2 lb or little more flour
Several essences (I used lemon and almond)
Pinch salt
1 tab glycerine (the only thing I didn’t have…apparently to keep the cake moist)

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time. Mix in fruit and flour, add gradually. Add essences. Bake 8″ square tin. Put cake in at regular 1. Do not open oven door for 4 hrs. Bake 6-7 hrs. Do not alter heat. No baking powder in this – beautiful cake.

My method:
To make up 5-6lb fruit, use mixed fruit (2kg), glace cherries, glace peel, slivered almonds (I love nuts in my cakes), currants (we like currants), and chopped dates/prunes to make up the weight. Soak in brandy or grape juice (for a non-alcoholic alternative) for a couple of days, stirring a couple of times a day.

Weigh out eggs in a separate bowl. Soften butter, and cream in the sugar, pour in eggs one at a time and beat well with a beater. Add essences, and pinch of salt. When ready to make the cake, add flour to fruit mixture and stir well.

Get the traditional family spoon, and have everyone take turns stirring the egg mixture into the fruit mixture. Line a tin well (I add the butter paper at the bottom on top of baking paper – family tradition to use it, so I still find myself doing it!). Bake for a few hours at 100-125 deg C – at least 4 hours. In the end, for this years’ cake I had the oven somewhere between 100 and 125, and it was cooked for 5 hours. However I need to experiment with 100 deg C as well, that might make a more solid cake.

The end product was amazing! The cake was moist, rich and dark, and would be amazing if I had made it weeks ago and let it sit in an airtight container. I will wrap the rest up, and it will have a couple of weeks to rest at least, before Christmas.

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