Let’s discover this delicious Dundee cake recipe, the Scottish Christmas Cake, one of the most popular sweet Christmas recipes in Scotland and throughout the UK.
What is Dundee cake?
Under a topping of crunchy whole almonds, you will find a very fragrant buttery dough, enriched with chopped nuts, raisins, candied cherries, marmalade and orange peel, preferably Seville oranges.
Indeed, what sets Dundee cake apart from other cakes is its star flavor: orange, and not just any orange! Particularly the bitter orange of Seville, with a sweet and bitter taste, a unique and characteristic flavor.
For a Dundee cake with a purely authentic taste, be sure to use marmalade and candied peel from Seville oranges.
What is the origin of the Dundee cake?
Officially, the Dundee cake first appeared in the early 19th century in the city of Dundee, in the north-east of Scotland, about 60 miles from Edinburgh, hence its name.
It is interesting to note that the city of Dundee is the historic capital of marmalade. The first version of the Dundee cake would have been created by the Keiller family, owner of the emblematic company of jams and marmalade of the same name, at the very beginning of the 19th century, thanks to an inspiration triggered by the arrival of a cargo of oranges from Seville.
Mrs. Janet Keiller, in front of the large volume of citrus fruits arriving at the port, had a stroke of genius and decided to transform oranges into marmalade, an idea which made the fortune of the Keiller family.
Janet Keiller and her son James therefore created what they called the Dundee cake and which they ended up selling on an international industrial scale.
But a legend says that the birth of the Dundee cake came much earlier than the invention of the Keiller family, and has another origin.
Indeed, a popular story tells that Mary, Queen of Scots (December 8, 1542 – February 8, 1587), also known as Mary Stuart, and who reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567, did not like candied cherries in her cakes.
So her royal chef one day prepared a cake for her that simply contained raisins and almonds, but also a unique ingredient that would forever make the Dundee cake different from the others. It offered the subtle flavor of the bitter sweet oranges of Seville that were already imported into Scotland and precisely into the port city of Dundee.
Mary Stuart’s cake also used raisins and Spanish almonds.
It would therefore be the Queen’s chef who decorated the top of the cake with concentric circles of almonds for the first time, when originally it was decorated with concentric circles of candied cherries.
The scent of orange blossom and the color of ripe oranges are one of the symbols of the city of Seville, the magnificent capital of the region of Andalusia, in the south of Spain. It is the city with the highest number of trees in the world, over 40,000.
However, it is the most recent Seville that has made bitter orange trees and the scent of orange flowers what it’s known for. There were around 5,000 orange trees in the city in 1970, multiplying their number by 8 in just 4 decades.
Every year, 1.2 million kilos of oranges are collected on the streets of Seville.
The Seville orange is too bitter for its fresh consumption. Because of this, bitter orange is used for the preparation of alcohols such as Curacao, Cointreau or orange wine and is also very useful in confectionery for the preparation of creams, fruit pastes and chocolates. But above all, the Seville oranges are closely linked to the British jam.
The biggest consumer of bitter oranges from Seville is the United Kingdom, the Seville orange marmalade being one of the essential ingredients of English breakfast.
It seems that the originator of this sweet sin was the Duke of Wellington, who, during the War of Independence traveled through Seville and was enthused by the characteristic aroma of the Seville orange. Queen Elizabeth II herself is a big consumer of this jam.
The British even organize an annual marmalade competition in Dalemain, the Dalemain Marmalade Festival, to reward the best industrial orange marmalade in Seville. It is interesting to note that very few Andalusian participants take part in this event.
Don’t wait until Christmas to taste this wonderful Dundee cake accompanied by a hot lemon and cinnamon whiskey!
- 3 oz. blanched almonds
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup muscovado sugar whole cane sugar
- Zest of a large orange
- 3 tablespoons orange marmalade preferably from Seville
- 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup whiskey preferably Scottish
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1½ oz. candied orange peel preferably from Seville
- 1½ cup golden raisins
- 1½ cup currants
- 1 cup candied cherries halved
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- Macerate the raisins in the whiskey.
Preheat the convection oven to 340F / 170C (or 360F / 180C in a traditional oven).
Line the round cake tin with parchment paper.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat it for a few minutes,
- Add the sugar and beat until obtaining a light, fluffy consistency.
- Stir in the orange zest and marmalade.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder.
- Add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, little by little, beating well between each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle, stir in a little flour.
- Add the flour and the ground almonds and mix well.
- Stir in milk, then add raisins and currants (drained), orange peel, and cherries.
- Add the whiskey used for the maceration and mix gently with a spatula.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, and level the top using a spatula.
- Decorate by placing the whole almonds in concentric circles on top of the cake.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 300F / 150C (or 320F / 160C in a traditional oven) and bake for another 60 to 80 minutes.
- Check the cake after 50 minutes by inserting a wooden or metal skewer into the cake.
- Once cooked, it should come out almost clean. Check every 10 minutes because it is important not to overbake the Dundee cake so that the center is still a little soft.
- Once baked, remove the cake from the oven.
- Add the milk and sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
- Brush the top of the cake with the mixture and return the cake to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove and allow the cake to cool in the pan.
- Unmold the cake once it is cold and keep it well wrapped for at least 2 days before serving.