Tunis Cake: A Christmas Recipe Lost and Found

Updated on December 20, 2019
Joanna14 profile image

Christine, wife, mother, homemaker for over 40 years, has an NVQ3 in Childcare & Education, a diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition and TEFL.

I remember the Tunis cake from my childhood
I remember the Tunis cake from my childhood | Source

The Return of the Tunis Cake!

From my childhood, I have fond memories of Christmas with my parents and three sisters. My mother would bake the typical rich English fruitcake, but she would also buy a Tunis cake each year. My father particularly preferred it, with its delicate Madeira sponge, gentle lemon flavour, nutty consistency and generous layer of chocolate topping. The one I remembered had coloured marzipan fruits on top, as well!

I have always loved this cake, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t get it in Germany where we lived for 13 years. There was always plenty of Stollen and Lebkuchen at Christmas time, but alas, no Tunis cake!

Finding the Tunis Cake Recipe

Undeterred, I managed to find a recipe to make my own—and I have been making it most years ever since. This was just as well, as in the meantime it had almost vanished from the shops in England. I mean, who can resist all that chocolate that goes so well with the Madeira sponge? You can add marzipan fruits if desired, which can be bought or made and added with the decoration at the end.

Where Did the Name Come From?

Tunis cake was invented in 1973 by McVities, who sold it in the UK until the early 1980s. The name may have come from the Tunis warrior during the Carthage Empire, who celebrated victories won with Rome with the tradition of serving Madeira wine and cake.

Do you have any memories of Tunis cake during the 1970s and '80s? Leave your comments below! Meanwhile, here is the recipe.

Cook Time

Prep Time: 30-40 mins

Total Time:

Serves: 8-10


For the cake:

  • 6 oz (150g) butter
  • 6 oz (150g) caster sugar
  • Grated rind 1 lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz (75g) ground almonds
  • 8 oz (200g) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the topping:

  • 8 oz (200g) good quality plain chocolate
  • 2 oz (50g) butter
  • 4 oz (100g) sifted icing sugar
  • 7 walnuts


  1. Brush a tin with melted fat and line the base with greased greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to Gas 3 (325 F, 170 C).
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and add lemon rind.
  3. Add beaten eggs gradually, until light and fluffy.
  4. Fold in flour, almonds, baking powder and enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
  5. Turn into the tin, spread evenly, leaving the centre slightly hollow.
  6. Bake on centre shelf of oven for 1 1/4 hours, until cake is golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  7. Leave in the tin to cool.
  8. Break chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  9. Carefully pour melted chocolate onto the top of the cake (still in the tin), gently easing it to the sides to smooth the surface. When set, carefully turn out of the tin.
  10. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until creamy and use to fill the piping bag. Pipe a shell or rosette edge around the top. Complete with a whirl in the centre and a flower of walnuts.
  11. You can freeze the madeira cake for up to 6 months. Decorate after thawing overnight.

Serving Your Tunis Cake

Serve with a cup of tea or coffee for afternoon tea or supper on Christmas Day and afterwards, during the festive season, as a delicious alternative to the traditional iced, rich fruitcake.

Serving the Tunis cake
Serving the Tunis cake | Source

Do you like this cake recipe?

5 stars from 1 rating of The Tunis Cake Recipe

© 2013 Christine Hulme

Guestbook for Tunis Cake Recipe

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Sounds interesting, with the lemon type cake topped with chocolate.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Your cake and your recipe look very good. Pinning.

    • Fiorenza profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      I loved these cakes as a kid and think it's a pity you can't buy them any more. Thanks for the recipe!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I never heard of this. It does sound good.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      6 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Looks and sounds wonderful... Thanks for sharing this

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      6 years ago from Canada

      I've never heard of Tunis Cake. Thanks for the introduction!

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Had never heard of this cake before. It sounds good.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      6 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I could die eating this entire cake. Looks so good!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Sounds yummy - Pinned to my Gingerbread & Sugarplums board


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