Dundee Cake
The Queen's Favourite

Barely mentioned now, and thought of as a bit old-fashioned, this is the most lovely light, moist fruit cake, with a nice hint of orange. The distinctive blanched almond topping, toasted in the heat of the oven, looks good and provides extra taste and texture. Whisky in the mix is optional but highly recommended.

It’s a big favourite in our house and, apparently, a firm favourite with the Queen and a regular feature of the royal tea-table. Wherever she journeys in the world, the Queen likes a Dundee cake in a tin to accompany her: it’s a welcome taste of home at tea-time and travels well.

Dundee cake was first made commercially at Keiller's marmalade factory in Dundee during the 19th century. Marmalade may have gone into the mix and very likely, some leftover orange peel.

Use a roomy pan so that you can do all your mixing in it and save washing up. Tea isn’t traditional as a Dundee cake ingredient, so feel free to use water if you prefer.

  • 175g salted butter, diced
  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 275g mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 150ml freshly brewed tea
  • Or, 120ml tea and 30ml whisky
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 25g glace cherries, quartered
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g blanched almonds

You will need a greased and lined 20cm (8 inch) loose bottomed cake tin or silicone cake mould

Preheat oven to 150C (fan oven) or equivalent

Combine the butter in a roomy pan with the sugar, dried fruit and tea.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat.

Once cooled, stir in the whisky, if using, and the orange zest.

Combine the baking powder and flour and sieve a tablespoon or so over the mixture.

Stir in the eggs one at a time, adding a little more flour with each egg. Add the rest of the flour and the ground almonds and mix everything together thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, making sure the fruit is evenly distributed throughout. Arrange the almonds in circles on top. Start with the outer circle and work towards the centre. (See note, below.)

Bake for about 1¼ hours or until golden brown in colour and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Check after an hour. Cover loosely with greaseproof paper tucked underneath the tin if it’s browning too quickly.

Cool on a wire rack and when completely cold store in an airtight tin. Serve with a hot cup of tea or a dram of whisky. The Queen’s favourite tea is Darjeeling, I believe.

Almond Note

Make sure that the each almond is lined up so there is a continuous pathway from the edge of the cake to the centre for the knife to cut though: don’t stagger the lines as if you were laying bricks!