The encyclopedia will tell you that Dundee is a Scottish city some 50 miles to the northeast of Edinburgh, renowned for its confectionery and marmalade. Dundee cake, then, should mean Scotland to anyone with a grain of sense, but to me it means Wales, because that is where I first tasted the glorious Stuff.
More specifically, Dundee cake means Ferndale, a small mining town in the Rhondda, where sheep walk the streets with pleasant unconcern. In the town lives the Edwards family (several Edwards families, that is, but only one for me), and in their cozy home, the fortunate guest can eat more than is good for him of Wales' pancakes (crepes to the rest of the world ) and Welsh cakes -- those melting little rounds or currant-studded pastry, cooked on the griddle instead of in the oven. And then there's the Dundee cake. Mrs. Edwards makes a bit of a speciality of it.
With Dundee cakes, she becomes a one woman assembly line, blanching almonds, cutting cherries, lining tins, until she has made enough for her family and friends for Christmas and beyond.
I don't pretend to supply all my friends and relations as she does, but every year, about this time, my husband and I start thingking back to the Christmas we spent with the Edwards family, and inevitably, we begin to dream of Dundee cake.
MRS. EDWARDS' DUNDEE CAKE
(Makes 1 8-inch cake) 1 cup granulated sugar, superfine preferred 8 ounces butter or margaine 4 eggs 8 ounces sultanas (golden raisins) 8 ounces currants 8 ounces candied cherries 2 ounces finely ground blanched almonds 2 ounces blanched almond halves, split along their seams 1 3/4 to 2 cups flour, sifted
Cream sugar and butter until pale, add eggs one at a time and beat in well. Combine sultanas with currants and set aside. Pour boiling water over the cherries, stir to rinse well, drain dry and halve. Shake ground almonds on top of the cherries and mix to coat. The almonds will keep the cherries from sinking in the batter as it cooks. Fold the cherries, then the raisins and currants into the creamed mixture. Sift the flour over the batter and fold in.
Grease an 8-inch round cake pan, then line it with a double thickness of waxed paper, coming 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the top. Surround the whole with aluminum foil. The built-up sides allow the batter to rise and protect the topping of almond halves from scorching during the long baking time. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, spreading evenly. Decorate the top with a symmetrical arrangement of the split almond halves, rounded side up, completely covering the batter. Mrs. Edwards and I begin at the edge, working inward in concentric circles, the broader base of the almond toward the outside, the sharp tip toward the center. Place the cake in a 400-degree oven, then turn the heat down to 300 degrees after 10 minutes. Continue to bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove and cool completely on a rack. Wrap well and store in the refrigerator or freezer. This cake is best if "mellowed" for a few days before cut, and, like most fruitcakes, will keep for a considerable period of time.