The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Relaxing with some Norfolk cake

As soon as I see some sun and I feel like resting and unwinding the image of Norfolk with its golden deserted beaches springs up to my mind. What I love of that place is the peace and quiet you can always find. You could walk for hours without meeting a soul and even when you do a mild nod and gentle smile are enough.

Inevitably our number 1 destination is always Wells-next-the Sea. There is still an old fashion atmosphere in that village with its traditional butchers, bakers, and shell shops along the main (and only) road. And the line of children fishing mini crabs with their tiny strips of bacon.

Sunday by the sea up there is one of my favourite ways to forget it all and relax. It is a bit of a drive from Cambridge - over an hour - but worth it the wait (even though during the last 20 minutes I keep saying "are we there yet?, are we there yet?").



Our typical day in Wells starts just before midday when we have fish'n chips from the seafront shop that we eat on a bench admiring the low tide and the tilting boats. A very long walk is necessary after such a substantial meal and it's only when the tide starts coming up that we finally sit down for tea and cakes.

Norfolk is mostly famous for its turkeys which are treated like pets - fed with fresh vegetables and home-grown cereals, and let to run freely for a certain amount of time before being "ready" to sacrifice themselves for thousands of festive English families. But it is traditionally also re-known for its old vinegar cake. It is quite difficult to find but it's lovely - well if you like rich fruity cakes...

The particularity of it is the chemical magic that the vinegar and the bicarbonate of soda produce creating air and thus giving lightness to the cake. The combination is probably given to the fact that it had its main revival during the WWII when raising agents were not used. Also, as it doesn't contain eggs - I was told the reason was that it was made when hens were not laying - it will please all those who suffer from cholesterol like my father (who despite being on a constant diet doesn't seem to keep it completely under control) .

This recipe comes from a lovely pocket-size book I was given at Christmas, "English Teatime Recipes".

Makes at least 10 slices

225g butter (or margarine)
450g flour
225 sugar
150g raisin
150g sultanas
120g currants (optional)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda blended with 1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cider vinegar
225ml milk

Warm the oven to 200C.

Grease a 22cm round cake tin or a loaf tin. In a bowl rub the butter into the flour to make breadcrumbs, then stir the sugar and dry fruit.

Pour the milk into a jug and add the vinegar, stir then the bicarb/milk mixture and then add it to the dry part of the cake.

Transfer the mixture into the tin and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 150C and continue baking for another hour or until a skewer comes out clean. If the cake browns too quickly cover it with silver foil during the first half an hour. Leave it to cool before removing it from the tin and turn it.

I love it with orange marmalade or simply toasted with butter. And of course, a hot fragrant cup of Earl Grey!



  1. Great to know there is a "lighter" version of Christmas cake, thank you!

    Lovely photos as always, indeed relaxing!

  2. Finally someone who can answer my question: what is the difference between raisins, sultanas & currants?!?
    Nice pix - thanks & keep them coming!

  3. Thank you for the question! Good one! a way they are all the same thing, they all come from white grape.
    They change in size and colour and variety of grapes from which they are made so e.g. raisins are medium in size; sultanas are from seedless varieties and are normally bigger; currants are normally black. Confusingly though they are also used interchangeably!

    ...not sure my answers really helps! ;D

  4. This is great as I have family who are allergic to eggs. Thank you.

  5. Hi Paula/Tim

    It is a lovely cake and hope you'll like it!