Today I am celebrating. We That are Left has been chosen as Book of the Month for March three times over.
It’s the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, Waterstones Wales Book of the Month and the inaugural Book of the Month for The National Museums of Wales.
I couldn’t quite celebrate yesterday, as I was busy being interviewed by BBC Radio Wales for the Roy Noble Show, which is going out on Sunday March 16th between 10.30 – 12.00. However, being me, the occasion wasn’t quite right without cake, so I took in one of Elin’s recipes from We That are Left to the Bangor studios – with apologies to Roy Noble and all the lovely people in Cardiff who were just too far away (it’s winding roads all the way, believe me). The next time I visit Cardiff …..
So to celebrate, and for all those who missed out on tasting my version, here it is. It’s a traditional recipe that would have been made in 1914, and in the early years of the war before things like sugar became expensive and hard to get – and vital to preserve fruit for the winter months. The original recipe was gargantuan, and included caraway seeds. I did try it, but after a youthful mishap with Pernod (an occupational hazard of having family in France) I still can’t quite get to grips with anything that vaguely resembles aniseed.
The recipe I found suggested poppy seeds – and that really works. I also added the zest and juice of a fresh orange and lemon along with the candied peel. Like anything that needed importing, these became scarce as the war went on. It’s actually the reason rationing kicked in straight away when it came to the Second World War – the First World War was steep learning curve in how to keep a population fed and so able to keep on working at home, as well as fighting abroad. It was also when they found out about air raids. So when the Second World War came, everything was ready to kick in and safe thousands of civilian lives and keep a population fit and strong.
If you are not sure of poppy seeds, try half the amount. You can toast them as well. I like the texture and flavour of the non-toasted ones, they sort of pop in your mouth. This icing is a lemon butter icing with a touch of vanilla – but experiment to taste. I wasn’t sure about the original cake proportions, so I went back to my mum’s no fail recipe for my version of the basic cake. I’ve found everything works with this recipe, and cooking is wonderfully creative, so happy experimenting.
And if anyone can make a successful caraway seed cake, just let me know ….
8 oz 230g Butter or margarine
8 oz 230g Sugar
2 ozs 60g Caraway or poppy seeds
8 oz 230g SR flour
2oz 60g Candied peel
Rind and juice of I orange
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add juice of one orange, caraway/poppy seeds, candied peel. Spoon into a greased 7inch/ 18cm tin and bake in oven at 180 degrees (160 for fan assisted)/ Gas Mark 4 for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean. When cool cover with butter icing. (Vanilla or lemon both worth well.)