Tunis Cake: A Christmas Recipe Lost and Found
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.
Prep Time: 30-40 mins
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
- Brush a tin with melted fat and line the base with greased greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to Gas 3 (325 F, 170 C).
- Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and add lemon rind.
- Add beaten eggs gradually, until light and fluffy.
- Fold in flour, almonds, baking powder and enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
- Turn into the tin, spread evenly, leaving the centre slightly hollow.
- Bake on centre shelf of oven for 1 1/4 hours, until cake is golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Leave in the tin to cool.
- Break chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Do you like this cake recipe?
© 2013 Christine Hulme