Thanks to the current circumstances, street parties are out as are patriotic parades and jubilant gatherings, so the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday 8 May has now been downgraded to a stay at home session with the Queen on the telly. But, rushing to the rescue of the nation comes the National Trust, custodians of Chartwell, Churchill’s home in Kent, who are marking the occasion with a … Fruit Cake.
It’s not any old cake either. This one was devised by Churchill’s cook Mrs Georgina Landemare who catered for Churchill and all visiting dignatories during the war years and beyond.
Mrs Landemare thought Churchill an ‘incredibly fussy eater’ with a long list of things he didn’t like (they included Chinese food, stews, creamy soup, tripe and marmalade). He wanted ‘simple British food’, she wrote in her cookbook published in 1958, a taste which was presumably helped rather than hindered by rationing. She must have got it right because on VE night Churchill thanked Mrs Landemare for her culinary efforts, noting that he ‘could not have managed throughout the war without her cooking…’
Mrs Landemare’s fruit cake (along with Bovril, tinned mandarin oranges and Yorkshire pudding) was one of the things that Churchill did like, and the National Trust hopes that since we can no longer go out to celebrate, we’ll stay at home and make this cake instead. It’ll certainly be less of a challenge now that flour is back in the shops, and even if you haven’t got all of the other ingredients, the National Trust is keen to emphasise that you can do as Mrs Landemare did during rationing – forage about in the cupboards and improvise.
Churchill would have approved.
Churchill’s Fruit Cake
- 225g butter
- 170g dark brown sugar
- 285g self-raising flour
- 280g dried mixed fruit
- 2 cups strong black tea
- 5 eggs
- 110g halved glacé cherries
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 1tbsp black treacle (optional)
- Soak the dried fruit in tea, preferably overnight.
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, until almost white. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl and continue to cream together.
- Gradually beat the eggs into the mixture, remember to add a little flour to stop the mixture from splitting or curdling.
- Fold in the flour and add the mixed spice to the mixture.
- Add the mixed fruit and the glacé cherries and continue to fold together.
- Continue to fold and stir, whilst adding in the black treacle.
- Preheat oven to 150 degrees and line and grease a cake tin.
- Once completely mixed together, scrape the mixture into the cake tin leave to bake for 2 hours. Check that the cake is cooked throughout before leaving to cool on a wire rack.
- Finish with a light dusting of caster sugar.
Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare is published by the Imperial War Museum, £9.99