Manuscripts and Special Collections

Recipe of the month: Plum Cake

December 1st, 2010 at 08:12

A fruit cake is a traditional Christmas treat. This ‘plum cake’ recipe is for an alcoholic sponge cake with added currants, and has been tried and tested by Manuscripts and Special Collections staff! It comes from a recipe book associated with Margaret Willoughby, and was probably written down in the mid to late 18th century.

Plum Cake

To Make a Plumb Cake

3 pound of flower well dried, 3 pound of sugar finely sifted, 3 pound of currants well washed and dry’d. 3 pound of butter, let it lie all night in rose water then beat it with your hand an hour or till it be a cream then take 20 eggs. Beat the yolks and whites each by themselves. First put the yolks into your butter, then the whites, then the sugar, by degrees, then a pint of sack. You must be sure to keep beating it all the while then put in your flower and currants. Mix all these together. Butter your hoop well and put it into the oven and when it will leave the knife it is baked enough.


flower = flour

sack = fortified and spiced wine from Spain – e.g. madeira, marsala or sweet sherry

Notes on how to cook this cake using modern ingredients and ovens

One-quarter of the amounts given above is enough for one 9-inch cake tin. You can use plain white flour for a heavy cake, or self-raising for a more spongy finish. Note that it is only the butter that should ‘lie all night in rose water’. Drain the excess rose water before creaming the butter.

Bake at 160C/325F/Gas 3 for about two and a half hours.

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