There’s nothing like lovingly taking photos of a cake on your camera and then sticking the camera’s SD card into your pocket and then losing it somewhere in the street to hinder the blog post writing process; luckily for me should anyone find it there is only cake photos on there and nothing incriminating (all my photos of me holding up signs saying “I just robbed this bank!” while pointing to a bank are on another SD card, phew!) but it was one hell of a pain to try and take photos of the cake again when I’d since demolished so much of it directly into my mouth. I managed to take a few hasty photos of what was left of it and found a couple of grainy-like-sugar snaps on my phone, but yeah, consider yourself warned that these photos aren’t my best work, and my best work is in fact dissolving in a puddle somewhere between Newtown and Wellington central.
The recipe was written in that type of handwriting that was probably considered terribly neat and full of propriety sixty years ago, and is entirely unintelligible nowadays, not to mention all in imperial measurements – a pound of this and a pound of that – and finally, as was the style of the time, it trails off mysteriously halfway through and doesn’t give you any detail about how to mix it, what temperature and how long to bake it for, or indeed what sort of tin to put it in. There was so much that you just had to know back then! In the spirit of trying to just know stuff, I made some presumptions and biffed it into a ring cake tin and baked it for an hour at 180 C, or what Aunt Daisy might’ve cryptically referred to as “a good oven”.
And it turned out splendidly! The mixture contains a resolutely old-timey mixture of prunes, grated carrot, grated apple, and sultanas, as if it’s trying to be five different cakes at once, but you get a kind of moist fruitiness that’s very comforting, the sort of cake you want to have with a large pot of tea while the rain dashes at the windows (a very easy scenario to come by in Wellington these days as we approach the middle of a neverending winter.) Honestly, when (when! Not if!) I make this again I’ll increase the apple and carrot quantity to two, and dice the prunes a lot finer – the former sort of dissolved into the cake while the latter were all like “here I am! Prune! In your face!” I’d also use brown sugar instead of white, just to hold all that fruit together with a slightly more darker caramelliness. But honestly, this cake was wonderful, especially when I spread it with a thick cream cheese icing.
bobby dazzler cake
adapted from a handwritten recipe from my great-grandmother
250g soft butter
one and a half cups sugar
one cup milk
one cup sultanas
one cup prunes, roughly chopped
one large carrot, grated
one large green apple, grated
three cups plain flour
one teaspoon baking soda
Set your oven to 180C/350F and generously butter and flour a ring/tube cake tin. I say generously because ring tins always make me a bit nervous, since there’s so much surface area for cake to stick to.
Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together till soft, light and fluffy. Meanwhile, heat the milk till just below a simmer – hot and starting to wobble but not bubbling – and carefully stir it into the butter. I added a little at first, and whisked that in, then a little more and a little more and then finally tipped the lot in – this makes it easier to mix it all together.
Stir in everything else, and spatula it into the cake tin. Bake for around an hour, or until firm and brown on top. Allow to sit for about ten minutes before running a knife carefully around the cake and its inner ring, and tipping it onto a plate. Ice with a mixture of around 250g room temperature cream cheese mixed with around half a cup of icing sugar.
Keeping it familial, and while you’re here I may as well tell you, the grey rose-patterned plate that I photographed the cake on used to belong to a family friend’s great-aunt (if I remember correctly) and it was given to me as a birthday present years ago. The blue gold-edged plate belonged to my late grandmother on my dad’s side. I love new things and new cookbooks but there’s something quietly lovely about looking at a cookbook and seeing someone’s handwriting on it, someone who only knew you when you were a baby, and thinking about them at your own age; or how a plate that would’ve had a thousand different cakes on it throughout the years is still getting to have cake on it; or just, I don’t know, knowing that these bits and pieces aren’t stuck in a cupboard somewhere but are still getting used and loved. It’s nice!