Dundee Cake from Drums of Autumn

Dundee Cake from 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.

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?

Show/Hide Comments


09 Dec 2014 - 1:34pm

Anna Lapping

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

09 Dec 2014 - 2:26pm


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!

09 Dec 2014 - 3:30pm

sheila moline

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

09 Dec 2014 - 4:05pm


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

09 Dec 2014 - 5:46pm


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?

09 Dec 2014 - 5:57pm


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.

09 Dec 2014 - 10:21pm

Norma Jean Stark

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!


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

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

10 Dec 2014 - 1:02am

Kathleen Wade

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!

10 Dec 2014 - 4:38pm

Michelle Vance Scott

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

23 May 2015 - 9:10pm

Marilyn Berry

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. Thanks!

13 Dec 2015 - 6:24pm


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

01 Jan 2016 - 2:56pm


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

15 Nov 2018 - 6:07am


for some reason the quantity for the butter and brown sugar is a question mark (?) rather than a number in my version. Can you tell me what the quantities should be. Thanks, Christine

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