Munching on archival cakes for The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning! By Rachel Wales

The staff and volunteers at Gloucestershire Archives have always been keen to support the Macmillan Coffee morning, and this year saw our Tea Room table groaning under the weight of brownies, blondies, biscuits, cakes and other yummies.  When trying to decide what I’d bring in, I remembered a recipe I have made before – one that had come to light in one of our collections (GA reference D2455/F3/10/9/3).  This is a small handwritten volume of recipes, compiled by Michael Hugh Hicks Beach (a gentleman, politician and officer who led a very interesting life but who sadly was killed on the 23 April 1916, in the Battle of Katia, thirty miles from the Suez Canal.)  Most of the recipes were for soups or beef dishes, but there were some baking recipes included too, such as one for Oatmeal Scones, and this one, for “Guard’s Cake”. 

Rachel's Guards cake

Rachel’s Guard’s cake

The recipe is as follows:

Guard’s Cake

 1 lb flour

½ lb butter

½ lb brown sugar

½ lb currants

½ lb raisins

Little mixed peel

4 eggs

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp of Carbonate of Soda or 2 of baking powder

Soften with a little milk

Butter & sugar should be well beaten together then add each egg separately & sift in the flour & other ingredients.

Bake in a slow oven.

If you fancy giving this a try, here are a few hints that might prove useful.   I took the liberty of adding two tablespoons of dry sherry and one of orange liqueur to the dried fruit, allowing it to soak while I prepared the tin and the rest of the ingredients.  I used a 22 cm springform tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.  I used a half-and-half mixture of plain flour and self-raising flour, simply because I didn’t have enough plain flour on its own!  For spice, I added one tablespoon (I like lots of spice in a cake!) of ground cinnamon and one of allspice, but of course this is a matter of personal taste. Even though there was some self-raising flour in the mix, I did also add the bicarbonate of soda, and the cake rose quite nicely.   As the recipe suggests, it needed a little milk to “soften” the mix, but I added just a modest splash before stirring  in the last of the fruit and flour.  As for the baking, I followed the advice in another cookbook on how to bake a Dundee Cake of similar proportions, namely to preheat the oven to gas mark 9, then when you put the cake in, reduce the temperature immediately to gas mark 3, and bake for 1 ½ hours.  I put a sheet of baking parchment over the top after one hour as the top of the cake was getting a little too brown.  This cake does keep well for several days, although it didn’t last that long here…

I’m glad to say we raised £55.00 for Macmillan.

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