SOMERSET COTTAGE RECIPE by ROSEMARY HEMPHILL – writer Joy Barrow

This is the most fabulous recipe for a Christmas or Wedding Cake.  I arrived in Australia in the mid sixties and lived on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.  After a frustrating search to find herbs and spices I rang a friend who had studied naturopathy in London.  She suggested I should eat at Mister Mitzos’ restaurant in Liverpool Street, Sydney and shop for herbs and spices in Dural.  I was pretty taken aback as both these places were a long way from where I was living.  But she was spot on there were few vegetarian restaurants and a dearth of herbs and spices.Mix powdered spices in glass container over black background

I met Rosemary Hemphill, bought herbs to plant and packets of spice and she gave me this wonderful recipe.  I have used it many times and it never fails to win words of admiration.  We met 50 years ago, Rosemary is now over 90 and her love of great food and produce survives through her son Ian,  affectionately known as Herbie. You can read Ian’s story in Fifty Five Plus under the title, Discovering Herbs and Spices and I hope you enjoy his mother’s recipe as much as I have over the many years.  The recipe is in Imperial Measurements.  Sadly I don’t have a photograph of this delicious cake.

ROSEMARY’S HEMPHILL’S CAKE RECIPE:Christmas Cake

  • 14oz plain flour
  • 2oz. self raising flour
  • 1 lb butter
  • 6oz raw sugar
  • 1 cup liquid honey
  • 10 level tsps. Somerset Cottage mixed spice
  • Juice and grated rind of one lemon
  • 1/2 lb each of: red glace cherries, sultanas, seeded raisins, glace pineapple, mixed peel, glace pears and shelled halved almonds
  • 1/4 lb each of: glace figs, glace prunes, glace apples and  glace peaches
  • 3 tbsps. rose water
  • 1/4  pint overproof rum or brandy or orange juice.

METHOD:Christmas Rose Water

Soak almonds in rosewater, preferably overnight, or at least for 2  hours.  Prepare a 9″ cake tin by lining sides and bottom with 2 layers of brown paper and 1 layer of buttered grease proof paper, allowing a good 2″ collar, and pushing paper well into corners.

Prepare fruit by cutting the large pieces into big chunks and halving the smaller pieces, put them into a large bowl with sultanas and raisins.  Drain off and discard any excess rosewater that the almonds have not soaked up and add them to the fruit.  Sift all dry ingredients together into another bowl, mixing a small portion through the fruit and nuts to stop them sticking together.

Cream butter and sugar, add honey and beat until smooth.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then lemon juice and grated rind. Fold in sifted spiced flour, then fruit and lastly rum.  Spoon cake mixture into prepared tin, pressing the batter well into the corners and smoothing the top.  Bake in a slow oven (300 f) for 3.1/2 – 4 hours. Let cake cool in tin for 30 minutes, remove, peel off paper.  When cool, wrap in cheesecloth soaked in brandy and store in a sealed container.Christmas wreath isolated on the white background

I promise you this will be worth the effort. It can be made ahead for Christmas and a wee drop or two of brandy added from time to time to keep the cake moist.