The traditional birthday cake in my family is sultana cake. My grandmother made it for my Dad, and then Mum took over and it was the birthday cake of my childhood and I still make it for myself. It was a family cake though, for parties there was usually a chocolate cake I think! It will be heading into its fourth generation, as Hazel has discovered that she loves it (thank goodness!). I hope the smell of it baking will bring happy birthday memories back to her in years to come, as it does for me every year.
It's a lovely, light cake with a delicious hint of almonds. I'm not sure how common sultanas are in the States, but Wikipedia tells me they are also called Thompson's Seedless raisins if that will help you locate them. They're smaller and more delicate than regular raisins, although you could use them in a pinch.
I use my wooden cake box to cook it in, and can't recommend them enough - totally eliminates the need for all the lining of the tin to ensure the cake cooks slowly and evenly. In the last few years I've been using bread flour which is reputed to hold up the fruit better in these kinds of cakes, and as you can see it does a pretty good job - there is nothing worse than a layer of fruit at the bottom of the cake! You just have to be extra careful not to overmix the batter. When cooked just right the top is slightly crunchy and crumbly and the middle is soft, dense and moist. It's definitely better to under-cook it than over - test with a knife at the one hour mark. When the cake is done it will come out buttery, but with no streaks of batter. Put foil over the top if it's getting too brown.
1 cup butter 1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs 1 tsp almond essence
1 3/4 cups sugar
- Cover the sultanas water and simmer for approx. 8 minutes until soft.
- Pour off the water and add the butter.
- Sift together the dry ingredients
- Beat the eggs until frothy, add the sugar, and beat until thick and creamy.
- Add the sultanas and butter, then the sifted flour, baking powder, and almond essence and fold together gently.
- Line a square baking tin with several layers of baking paper or newspaper, then with tin foil. Pour the batter into the tin.
- Bake in a 180C (350F) oven for about 1 1/2 hours.