This month Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to use our birthday as a way of selecting the book for his Random Recipe challenge. So that's the number eight. Strangely the eighth book on the first three shelves that I selected turned out to be a book that I'd already used in the Random Recipe challenge and so I tried the pile of books known as ‘the pile that I'm not quite sure what to do with for the moment’. Book number eight turned out to be ‘The Edmonds Cookery Book’.
It’s unlikely that I'll ever get to New Zealand to confirm it but I'm led to believe that this book is a bit of a national institution there. It was first published in 1907, has never been out of print (although it has been regularly updated) and at one time it was given away free to any couple announcing their engagement. My copy was printed in the 1990s (a fair bit after my engagement) and how I came to own it remains a mystery.
The book is bursting at the seams with straightforward, everyday recipes and on opening it I was faced with the recipe for Madeira Cake. This seemed a little disappointing at first but a random recipe can’t always be an unusual recipe and so I just got on with making it. Then, as the smell of baking filled the house, I realised that I hadn't eaten a homemade Madeira Cake for over 30 years and, what's more, it really is a very good, classic cake.
I could pass on the Edmonds recipe for Madeira cake but, to be honest, it’s just a basic Madeira cake. If you don’t already have a favourite recipe, this version on the BBC food site by James Martin is very similar to the Edmonds cake and tells you everything you need to know. (Mr Martin does decorate the cake, which, for some reason, never seems quite right to me).
So this month the Random Recipe challenge has reminded me that it's too easy to forget the classics and that there are very good reasons why they became classics in the first place. I do remember making this kind of cake in the 1960s using a large ceramic bowl and a wooden spoon and so it's also reminded me what a pleasure it is having an electric mixer with a beater attachment.
The cake is great with tea but do try a slice with a little sweet or fortified wine if the mood takes you – that’s why it's called Madeira cake, after all.