During the summers of the mid thirties, we would wait for a sunny Sunday when the whole family would go off for a picnic. My Mum would make sandwiches containing Ham, Cheese, Corned or Roast Beef, with a touch of fresh horseradish sauce, pink salmon and cucumber. Sometimes, the sandwiches would be made with paste, such as Salmon and Shrimp or Anchovy and Tomato. There would be a large Dundee cake, baked by my mother, and bottles of lemonade for us boys while my Dad would have, at least, one quart bottle of beer. This he might consider sharing with my two eldest brothers, but if he was going to do that, he would bring another two bottles or more.
Although my mother called her product a Dundee Cake, it was really a Sultana Cake. Here is her recipe dating, once again, from around 1906.
Half pound of butter (226g), half pound of castor sugar (226g), five eggs, one pound of self-raising flour (450g), 3 ounces (85g) of mixed candied peel, eight ounces (350g) of sultanas, grated rind of one lemon, a bare gill of milk (140 ml).
Beat the butter and then add the sugar and cream both together. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well (remember that they had to be sure the eggs were fresh in those days). Clean the sultanas, put the flour through a sieve and shred the candied peel. Stir the flour, sultanas, lemon rind, and candied peel lightly and gradually add to the eggs etc., With an iron spoon, adding the milk, a little at a time, as the mixture get stiff, stir from the bottom of the basin and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a well-greased cake tin, line with to layers of buttered paper, and bake at once in a moderately hot oven for about two hours.
As an alternative, she would bake what she called Queen Cakes. Here’s her recipe:
Four ounces (113g) of butter, 4 ounces (113g) of castor sugar, 4 ounces (113g) of currents or glace cherries, 1 (28g) ounce of candied peel, 6 ounces (170g) of self-raising flour, the grated rind of a lemon and 3 eggs.
About a dozen Queen-cake moulds should be on hand, well greased with clarified butter and dusted out with a mixture of equal quantities of castor sugar and flour. Cream the butter, grate bthe lemon rind on to the sugar, add the sugar to the butter and cram thoroughly. Clean the currants (or cut up the cherries), shred the candied peel, put the flour through a wire sieve. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar, beating each well in; lastly, stir in the flour and fruits gently, and bake at once in a moderate oven for fifteen minutes or rather longer, allowing the oven to get rather cooler after the first few minutes.
The location of these picnics was what was known locally as “The Willows”. From our house in Trulock Road, Tottenham, we would walk to the Lee Valley Viaduct where we would then walk along the tow path of the Lee Navigation Canal for about a quarter of a mile to the north and then set off to the east into what was, then, some rolling countryside with a copse of willows. Here we could sit on the grass, seldom bothered by anyone else, and look down towards the New River. At this point, the river was contained within concrete walls about five feet high with a concrete bottom. Here, at the age of four, by Dad taught me to swim. What bliss, what fond memories. Unfortunately, The Willows disappeared under the construction of yet another reservoir.
Next chapter: Chapter 11: The Family Holiday