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Stories and Stovies
Hamely Fair - Special Occasions

Scottish Wedding Cake

Scottish Wedding Cake – it’s kind of like a wonderful medium heavy fruit cake with this delicious marzipan icing. 

Do you see the sprig of lucky heather on top of the cake slice?  This cake is sometimes known as Strathspey Cake – I have a recipe for it somewhere, I think.

A Scottish-American wedding in Montrose, Scotland

A Scottish-American wedding in Montrose, Scotland. This is the wedding family group of Christine and Larry Keeter (John’s best friend when he was at the US Navy Base, RAF Edzell, Scotland). John is the best man on the left. Neither John nor I realized the best man’s obligation was to be the escort of the chief bridesmaid when he took me to the wedding as his date. And we never did apologize for not understanding this. If I ever meet up with Larry or Christine again, I’ll have to make up for this, I think.

A Taste of Scotland's Dundee Cake
Remember, Keillor's made the best Dundee Cake in Dundee!

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
4 small eggs
1 heaped tablespoon ground almonds
1 cup sultanas or seedless raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup (scant) chopped, mixed peel
2 tablespoons milk, previously boiled and cooked with 1tbsp sugar
1 cup (scant) halved glace cherries
Grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon brandy or rum
1/4 cup blanched split almonds
pinch of salt

Prepare dried fruits as follows: Several hours prior to making the cake, put the glace cherries, sultanas, currants and peel into a casserole, mix thoroughly, cover with a lid or foil and put into a slow oven (220) until well heated through, stirring at least once with a fork, for about 20 minutes or until mixture is sticky.

Cream the butter, cream in the sugar, and when white and creamy add eggs one at a time alternately with good sprinking of flour, beating well all the time. Stir in the ground almonds, and add dried fruits, peel and lemon rind and juice, also pinch of salt.

Mix the remaining flour with the baking powder, mix it into the mixture, and finally stir in the brandy or rum. Turn into an 8" cake pan that has been greased and lined with wax paper. Cover with foil and bake in a slow to moderate oven (300) for about 2:1/2 hours.

Half-way through the cooking time remove the paper and scatter the split almonds on top. Test for doneness with a skewer (here in America you have "cake testers" with little chef's heads on them - so stick the chef's head in the cake!) before removing from the oven, and 5 minutes before it is ready brush over the top with the sweetened milk, then put it back to give it a nice glaze when dry.

Remove from oven and let become completely cold. Do not remove from pan until cold.

Since we’re calling this the Special Occasion cake section, and I showed a picture of wedding cake, here’s my granny’s wedding picture with my grandfather, grandmother, my granny’s father and her half sister Mary McIntosh Forbes.

my granny’s wedding picture with my grandfather, grandmother, my granny’s father and her half sister Mary McIntosh Forbes.

Strathspey cake is often used as birthday cake and christening cake. The tradition of saving the top tier of the cake for the first anniversary cake is also Scottish – the nice thing is if you put this great cake in an airtight tin, you don’t have to worry about freezing it for a year like you do American wedding cake.

In the old days, it wasn’t unusual for the first baby to come in the first year of marriage – look at our genealogy charts and you’ll see that often happened in our family – so this cake could also serve as Christening cake. So, let me tell you a Christening story:

One Scottish tradition is to "wet the bairn's head" with a glass of whisky all round for luck, health, and prosperity. But the one I really like is this - because I remember once I was out walking one Sunday with my mother and we were stopped by this family walking home from Church with a baby in Christening clothes. They said something to my mother, my mother gave them a coin, and I got this great bag of cake and sweeties. She told me later they had a little girl who had just been Christened and in order to ensure good luck for their baby, and a generous spirit and prosperity enough to share with others, on her behalf they gave away a bag of gifts to the first young girl they meet after her Christening. My mother gave a silver coin in return as a blessing to the new baby from me. I like that memory.

And, to round of this romantic and baby memories section, here’s my wedding picture:

here’s my wedding picture

Charlotte's Granny's Clootie Dumpling


Diddle, diddle, dumpling

Diddle, diddle, dumpling,
My son, John,
Went to bed with his stockings on.
One shoe off, and one shoe on,
Diddle, diddle, dumpling,
My son, John.


Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating his Christmas pie.
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, "What a good boy am I!"

Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
Met together in a shower of rain.
Put in a bag, and tied round with a string,
If you’ll tell me this riddle,
I’ll give you a ring.

When we were living in Germany, I wrote my Granny and asked her to send me the recipes for the two things I was missing the most at that time - her Clootie Dumpling and her scones.

Granny always made a dumpling for birthdays. I remember watching her putting all the ingredients together, then listening to the dumpling bubble in its boiling water on the stove, and then, finally, Granny taking it out of the pot, out of its cloot, and placing it on a plate.

But it wasn't done yet - the next step in this often repeated process (after all I did have 18 birthdays in Scotland) was when she placed it on one of the black leaded hobs of the fire to steam. And only when it had reached the right point of shinyness, but not dryness, would she even consider listening of my pleas to start eating!

Granny would have hot, thick, Bird's custard poured all over that great pudding and it was so good. Even the leftovers, cold for breakfast or a team time treat were delicious.

Here's Clootie Dumpling, just as my Granny wrote it to me on a sheet of blue air mail paper:

1:1/2 lbs flour self raising
1/2 lb currants
1/2 lb raisins
2 heaped dinner spoons mixed spice
3 qts of breakfast sugar

Put flour in bowl, add sugar and spice, add currants and raisins, mix up well, then gently add water and mix. Don't make to damp, just stiff mixture.

On your machine run up a bag, any old piece of linen, but tight not to let in water. Put a small plate in bottom of your pot 3/4 full of cold water. When its boiling put in dumpling and keep simmering for 2:1/4 hours. If water boils in add more boiling water in your pot.

Remember to tie dumpling in cloth tight near top with string. You can add a little more sugar or fruit if you want to. Hope it turns out well. Place on plate in over or in front of fire to dry off.

Water must be boiling before dumpling goes in pot. Shake a little flour over dumpling before you put in bag.

Here’s a similar recipe taken from a newspaper clipping, must have been either the "Courier" or the "Telly" (Evening Telegraph and Post), from when I took Johnny, Tina and Stephanie back to Dundee for about six weeks in the summer of 1974:

"A friend tells me he had a delightful meal at Logierait Hotel. One of the most enjoyable items on the menu was ‘clootie dumpling’ with brandy sauce.

I phoned the owners of the hotel, Mr. And Mrs. Jim Macfarlane, and asked if they’d give me the recipe for the dumpling.

Mrs Macfarlane says it was handed down from her mother-in-law, who had probably received it from her own mother in turn.

The recipe is:

1 cup fine bread crumbs
2 cups of self-raising flour
1 cup of Atora suet
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
Pinch of salt
One and a half cups raisins
One and a half cups sultanas
One cup of warmed treacle
One cup of milk with one egg beaten into it.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and add warmed treacle, milk and egg. Mix thoroughly. Turn into a floured and dampened cloth. Tie end firmly and put into boiling water and boil for at least four hours. The final product can be served with custard or brandy sauce. It may be left until cold and then sliced."

When I recently made this, I combined my granny’s recipe with this one, and it came out somewhere near perfect. Marva, my neighbour down the street, calls this Scottish Raisin Bread and is always asking me to make it for her. At least, unlike haggis, I have someone to help me eat this delicacy!

And, you know, it’s possible that I had my granny make me a dumpling for when the 12 guests we had at our wedding came back to the house for a drink and a few biscuits after our wedding lunch at the Breadalbane Arms, across the street from the old Howff graveyard. And this is a fine excuse for me to go back to the wedding thoughts we started this section with, and show you a picture of my wedding cake. If you’ll look closely you’ll see a little black sweep – every bride in Scotland, I’m sure, at that time was given a silver horseshoe and a sweep for luck. Adriana now has the silver (cardboard wrapped in silver paper, really) horseshoe, but I still have the miniature autograph album with our guests names in it.

wedding cake

That’s Eileen, my bridesmaid’s bouquet. I carried a white missal. John didn’t like "wedding cake" – Kidd’s the bakers, thought I was crazy when I asked them to make the cake "Madeira" or pound cake.

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