They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I had some dried fruit kicking around that needed to be used up and sometimes that’s all the motivation I need when I am getting my bake on. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on a light fruit cake called Albert squares. When I first heard about them I thought perhaps they had something to do with EastEnders. That maybe some enterprising baker at the BBC had come up with a recipe for a special occasion. They’re always celebrating something on that show. The anniversary of the first episode. A year since Lucy Beale died. Bagging world-famous movie star Danny Dyer to play the landlord of the Queen Vic. Speaking of which. I get that he’s considered to be a leg end. I get that he practically rescued the ratings single-handed. But what on Earth is going on with that pink dressing gown he’s always wearing? I don’t know. Angie and Den wouldn’t have had to rely on affectations from the props department like that. They was real characters. Anyhoo. I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to find out where these Albert Squares originated without success. But it seems they have nothing at all to do with the soap opera. There are a couple of explanations as to where they came from and they are only guesses at best. What a bleedin’ liberty.
From what I’ve been able to find out the recipe for Albert Squares seems to have its roots in New Zealand. Both of the stories regarding their history were connected to that country in some way. The first theory is that they were popular in and around Auckland. The central suburb of the city is called Mount Albert and was named after the large volcanic peak that dominates the local landscape. Dried fruit and coconut were popular flavourings for baking around that area. So it’s possible that Albert Squares are called that simply because that’s where they were first made. The Kiwis may not be noted for their relaxed approach to life like the Aussies but when it comes to baking they are very similar. With minimum effort they somehow manage to make sure every morsel is packed full of flavour. It’s something that I try to aspire to when I am in the kitchen. They may be right down at the bottom of the Earth but their recipes are always worth looking up.
Down the ages.
The recipe for the cake base is fairly well the same as when I found it. The only thing I had to change was the icing. You see the second explanation as to the origin of Albert squares is that it was an old New Zealand recipe from Victorian times that was named as a dedication for Prince Albert. We all know what baking was like in those days. Plain ladies that were old before their time baking plain cakes that were old before their time. And every type of cake was topped off with the obligatory wafer thin smear of glace icing. Some of the recipes I found for Albert Squares had it coloured pink as if that made a difference. But it was still going to be the same boring glaze scattered with flaked coconut. I wanted a more modern topping for this cake to rescue it from being too old-fashioned. I felt adamant that I should not be baking like a Victorian lady. You could say I was determined not to be Beeton.
A tin to bake it in.
You don’t need anything fancy for this bake. You’ll want to use a 20cm square cake tin and the tin should be no less than about 6cm deep. I bought mine a couple of years ago from Wilkinsons for around £3.00. I think they still sell them but if not just try to find one that has a good non-stick coating. It’s such an easy recipe you should have no problems. In the end I decided to make a vanilla frosting to finish the cake off. And I peppered it with chopped dried fruit to carry on the theme of the cake into the topping. The finished bake was light and airy and the updated frosting matched the cake perfectly. I still don’t know exactly where this cake came from but I know it goes down a treat. And Prince Albert’s other half might not have been amused. But if you make these fruity squares your taste buds will be laughing. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
- 280g Plain Flour.
- 2 tsp Baking Powder.
- ¼ tsp Salt.
- 150g Mixed Dried Fruit.
- 200g Granulated Sugar.
- 110g Margarine.
- 20g Golden Syrup.
- 2 Large Eggs.
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract.
- 2 tbsp Whole Milk.
- 250g Icing Sugar.
- 50g Unsalted Butter (room temperature).
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract.
- 30ml Whole Milk.
- 30g Mixed Dried Fruit (finely chopped).
- 20g Desiccated Coconut (optional).
- Position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm square cake tin with tin foil. Lightly grease the foil.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the mixed dried fruit and stir together until well coated. Set aside.
- Cream together the sugar, margarine and golden syrup until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
- Using a large spoon, fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Take care not to over mix.
- Add the whole milk and mix until combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
- Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool completely in the tin before carefully removing.
- To make the frosting: beat together the icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract and whole milk until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the finely chopped fruit and beat until evenly distributed.
- Spread over the top of the cooled cake.
- Scatter the desiccated coconut evenly over the surface (if using).
- Cut the cake into squares just before serving.