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Dundee Cake from Drums of Autumn

Dundee Cake from Drums of Autumn

Drums of Autumn

“Where’s Grannie, Matt?” his father asked. “In the back parlor wi’ Grandda and a lady and a man,” Matthew replied promptly. “They’ve had two pots of coffee, a tray of scones, and a whole Dundee cake, but Mama says they’re hangin’ on in hopes of bein ’ fed dinner, too, and good luck to them because it’s only brose and a bit o’ hough today, and damned— oop!”—he pressed a hand over his mouth, glancing guiltily at his father—“ and drat if she’ll gie them any of the gooseberry tart, no matter how long they stay.”

Young Jamie gave his son a narrow look, then glanced quizzically at his sister.

“A lady and a man?”

Janet made a faint moue of distaste.

“The Grizzler and her brother,” she said.

Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 34 – Lallybroch)

Keiller Crock

Dundee Cake originated in 19th C Scotland, and was originally a mass-produced cake made by the Keiller Marmalade Company.

So how did it come to be at Lallybroch in the 18th C?

Well, there’s a bit of a story behind that, ye see…

Dundee Cake unbaked

Fruit cakes have been around for centuries. The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins all mixed into a barley mash. By the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits had been added to the mix.

Fruit cake proliferated across Europe over the centuries, and when sugar imported from the American Colonies arrived in quantity, candied fruit became more affordable and the popularity of fruit cakes surged.

Dundee Cake Baked

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a popular story claims that Mary Queen of Scots did not like glace cherries in her fruit cake, so one was made for her that used blanched almonds instead.

Which brings us back to our 19th C Dundee Cake, consumed in an 18th C parlor, while a 20th C woman stands nearby.

Obviously, there’s a time-traveling explanation for it all. Claire must have seen a few of these traditional, almond-studded Scottish fruit cakes during her visits to Lallybroch in Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, and referred to them as Dundee Cakes. And while Jamie, Ian and Jenny had never heard them called them that before, the fact is that Claire was saying a whole lot of other strange things, and the whole “Dundee” reference probably just got absorbed into the Fraser/Murray lexicon without further puzzlement.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it like candied peel.

Candied citrus peel

Most recipes I’ve come across would agree that to make it a true Dundee Cake, the specimen in question should contain almonds, whisky and orange peel — which connects it to Dundee and Keiller’s Marmalade. Most recipes also include raisins, currants and/or sultanas, as well as the once-forbidden glace cherries.

I’m with Queen Mary on this one.  I don’t know what glace cherries are, but to my taste, I question their definition as food. If you like them, then go for it! The makeup of my cake was totally dependent upon the dried fruits I found in the pantry, and the combination turned out to be very good. I’ve included my selections in the notes under the recipe.

Candied peel is another common ingredient in most Dundee Cakes, but for me, the store-bought stuff ranks right up there with glace cherries. Instead, I made my own using this easy recipe.

I also included a couple of spoonfuls of marmalade. It’s full of rich flavour, and adds a delicate bitterness – a flavour not as popular as it once was, but one, I believe, that is much missed by our tastebuds.

After all, you can’t have good without evil, and sugar never tastes as sweet without a bitter counterpart.

Dundee Cake Cut

Here in Canada, a fruit cake is also known as Christmas Cake.  This version from Dundee is a little bit drier than the average fruit cake you would find around here at this time of year, but that’s not a bad thing. The crumb is still moist, it’s just not sodden.  And while the batter is flavoured with a bit of whisky, it’s not going to keep you from driving home after indulging. (If you’ve ever had a slice of brandy-soaked cake at the end of a family gathering, you know what I’m talking about.)

This cake doesn’t require weeks of resting, but it is best baked, cooled, then wrapped for 3 days before serving. This gives the flavours time to mingle and develop healthy relationships with each other. And Christmas is all about the love, am I right?

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Dundee Cake from Drums of Autumn

: A traditional Scottish fruitcake originally from, you guessed it, Dundee. Made festive with dried fruit, marmalade and whisky, and festooned with almonds.

Yield: 8” Cake

  • All-Purpose Flour – 1½ Cups
  • Baking Powder – 2 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Ground Ginger – 1 tsp
  • Cloves – pinch
  • Butter, room temperature – ⅔ Cup (5.25 oz)
  • Brown Sugar – ⅔ Cup
  • Eggs, large – 3
  • Orange Marmalade – 2 Tble
  • Whisky – 2 Tble
  • Dried Fruit, larger pieces chopped (raisins, sultanas, currants, apricots, glace cherries, etc) (see notes) – 1 lb
  • Candied Citrus Peel, chopped – 1 Cup
  • Whole Blanched Almonds – 1 Cup

Butter bottom and edges of an 8” springform pan and line bottom with parchment (see notes).

Move rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 300°F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves. Stir gently.

Cream together butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer. When light and fluffy, beat in one egg, then beat in a third of the flour, ensuring everything is well combined between additions. Repeat until all eggs and flour are incorporated. Beat in the whisky and marmalade.

Gently fold in dried fruit and candied peel and ensure fruit is distributed evenly.

Spoon mixture into prepared cake tin and carefully level surface. Decorate by laying almonds on top of batter in concentric circles. Do not push almonds into batter.

Bake until a deep golden brown, about 2 hours. Cool completely in pan set on a wire rack.

Remove from pan and store in sealed cake tin. Tastes best when allowed to mature in tin for 2 to 3 days before serving. Once cut, consume within 3 days.

Ith do leòr! (Eat Plenty)


  • My 8” springform pan is missing. Instead, I used a regular cake pan, and lined the edge with a 4” wide piece of parchment secured with tape. This cake will rise above the top of a regular cake pan, but the parchment keeps everything intact. A great option to avoid buying yet another pan.
  • Single malts are not necessary for baking. I used Dewar’s White Label. Avoid using a smoky whisky, and if you prefer use brandy instead.
  • I used a combination of dried cranberries, sultanas, apricots and dates in my cake, mostly because that’s what I had in my cupboard. I also think that dried pears would be fantastic.
  • I must have a bit of Queen Mary in me, because glace cherries have always kind of freaked me out. Same with store-bought candied peel. I used this recipe to easily make my own peel the day before I made this cake. (And the resulting leftover citrus simple syrup makes the BEST Whisky Sours.)


  1. Anna Lapping
    December 9, 2014 at 5:34 am

    I may not make the cake, but I am for sure going to make the candied peel! My family loves it.

    • Theresa
      December 9, 2014 at 8:02 am

      It’s a great pick me up in the late afternoon!

  2. Lynn
    December 9, 2014 at 6:26 am

    At first the picture reminded me of the stollen I make every Christmas. But that is a yeast based dough and only includes raisins and candied citron. This recipe seems easy enough….I think I may have to try it!

  3. sheila moline
    December 9, 2014 at 7:30 am

    i feel truly bless to know about the recipe from outlandr i read all 7book in 4month and to find out about the recipe i was so happy im a culinary student i want to you some off the recipe as part of menu in school thank you Diana for these beautiful books and chefs

  4. Diane
    December 9, 2014 at 8:05 am

    this sounds great! Think I’ll make one. Would it freeze well?

    • Theresa
      December 9, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Most definitely!

  5. LoneRanger
    December 9, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Thanks Theresa for all these great goodies.
    Have not read (yet)Voyager nor Drums of Autum, but surely The Dundee Cake is going to become one of my favourite. A glass of Moscato White would pair the cake, would it not?

  6. MC
    December 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I love the fact that pans go missing on you too.. and you just improvise. I think my pizza pan has run off with your springform and are, even as we speak, making little tart pans.

  7. Norma Jean Stark
    December 9, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I’m interested in trying this! Two questions: 1) How do you suggest making a half recipe -what size pan or would individual muffin tin with liners work? 2) If I am using an all purpose gluten-free flour, would you suggest adjusting any of the other liquids/wet ingredients? Thanks!

    • Theresa
      December 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Do you have a smallish-sized loaf pan? That will work the best, I think…as for the GF flour, I don’t know anything about GF baking, but I assume it’s meant to substitute straight for the flour. Enjoy!

    • Norma Stark
      December 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Ah! Yes, I have various sizes loaf pans. Didn’t think to cook it in a rectangular shape. Thanks

  8. Kathleen Wade
    December 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I have my Grandma Ramsay’s fruitcake recipe from the 1800’s and it’s amazing (being soaked in alcohol will do that) I think this cake will be a good partner for her fruitcake!

  9. Michelle Vance Scott
    December 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

    This sounds marvelous! I’m thankful to have discovered your oulanderkitchen. Sooooo…. @KathleenWade…. would you consider sharing your Grandma Ramsay’s fruitcake recipe? 🙂

    • LoneRanger
      December 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Yes please, I would love to have a fruitcake recipe!!
      Many thanks in advance.

  10. Marilyn Berry
    May 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Does anyone know where I can find a tin to store a cake of this size or larger? I have had no luck so far.

  11. Annie
    December 13, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Just yesterday I made a fig pudding for a get-together. Looks like this recipe will be equally simple and quite tasty; thank you!

  12. María
    January 1, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Mi hija lo hizo para la noche de año nuevo, sencillamente EXQUISITO !!!!!!

Comments are closed.