Cake of the month: To the Manor Born

Once upon a time, before the bitter cynicism of adulthood took hold, Buttered Crumbs was a small and adorable child. Papa worked for well known pre packed cake producer Mr Kipling; one of the perks of the job was the monthly complementary box of cakes – a large cardboard box filled with a selection of goodies. As the years went by the box shrunk by degrees until it was small indeed. I’m not sure the employee’s even get one now.

Anyway, it was enourmously exciting to be allowed to unpack the contents onto the table, setting aside the family favourites while others would be passed on to my aged Great Aunts. One of my particular favourites was Manor House cake, described as a “Mouthwatering golden sponge baked with juicy sultanas and topped with a sprinkling of sweet demerara sugar” It had a lovely malty background flavour too, maybe it still does, these days I don’t eat pre packaged cakes if I can avoid them; nasty oversweet things, full of palm oil and humecants.

I still do love a nice light fruit cake though, none of your OTT Christmas cake nonsense! November’s cake of the month is a slightly richer version of my favourite light fruit cake, made so with the addition of traditional ale. The beauty is in it’s versatility, enjoy with a cup of normal or herbal tea or a glass of milk . Eat as a snack, as part of a traditional afternoon tea or as a light meal with fruit and cheese. The kind of cake that is happy being served for tea at Granny’s house or post gala* at Lord and Lady Snob’s country pile.

Malted Ale fruitcake

  • 6oz (180g) self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2oz (60g) ground almonds
  • 4oz (120g) butter
  • 6oz light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3.5oz (105g) sultanas
  • 3.5oz (105g) raisins
  • 3tbsp malt extract
  • 4floz (125ml) ale (I used Old Speckled Hen) or use milk / plant based milk
  • demerara sugar for sprinkling

Grease and line an 8 or 9 inch diameter, deep, loose bottomed or springform cake tin. Pre heat the oven to 160ºc (140 fan, gas mark 3)

Heat the ale, butter, sugar and malt extract until the butter has melted. Add the dried fruit, bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins. Leave to cool.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat in the eggs.  Sift over the flour, soda and almonds and beat well.

Pour into the cake tin, sprinkle generously with demerara sugar and put in the oven. Cover the top with a square of baking paper to prevent the top cooking before the middle. Depending on your oven it will take from 40 mins to an hour to cook. Test with a skewer after 40 mins just to be on the safe side. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the cake lighter you could use white sugar and milk instead of ale, to make it richer make up some of the weight of the dried fruit with chopped dried figs and apricots and soak them in ale overnight.

To the Manor Born was actually a sitcom starting in 1979, starring Penelope Keith.

Minched Pye*

Call me a Christmas Humbug (wouldn’t be the first time, and it’s true) but I hate:

  • As mentioned before, the way some foods get annexed by popular celebrations so you can’t enjoy them without appearing to join in.
  • Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas…
  • The yearly consumerfest that starts in late October. It’s not Christmas yet dudes.

Each to their own though eh?

Let’s consider for a moment the modern mince pie. Over sweet, too rich, too many raisins with bits of stalk or pips, enough allspice to choke a horse and in the case of factory produced pies, that awful pastry that is thick and cloying or dissapears into unpleasant dust when you bite into it. Do people actually like mince pies or is it just cultural indoctrination, you have to eat them because that’s what you do at Christmas right?

And yet, properly made home made pies with fresh mincemeat, no suet, proper spices and crispy pastry are a thing of unsurpassed beauty.

Try it, and I give you special permission to eat them any time of year!

A Better Mince Pie

Makes 12

For the pastry:

  • 10 oz (270g) plain flour
  • 2.5 oz (45g) butter
  • 2.5 oz (45g) hard vegetable fat or lard
  • pinch of salt

Rub the fats into the flour and salt, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually add small amounts of cold water and stir around with a knife until the dough starts to clump together. Using your hands, bring the clumps together into a ball (adding a touch more water if it’s too dry) and knead briefly until smooth. Chill the dough in the fridge for half an hour.

For the mincemeat:

  • 1 apple, any kind
  • 1oz (30g) raisins
  • 1oz (30g) sultanas
  • 0.5oz (15g) flaked or chopped almonds
  • 1oz (30g) brown sugar
  • 1tbsp booze, whiskey, rum, brandy or suchlike, I used whiskey
  • 1tbsp soft butter
  • ¼ tsp each of ground cloves, ground cinnamon and ground mace (or nutmeg but mace is nicer)
  • the grated zest of one lemon
  • 1tbsp lemon juice

Grate the apple into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. You could replace the almonds will any other dried fruit or nut if you like. Leave covered at room temerature for half an hour for the flavours to blend.

Grease a 12 hole patty tin. Pre heat the oven to 190°c/170 fan/gas mark 5.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut out 12 circles large enough to cover the holes in the tin. A 3.5 inch cutter will probably do it, it depends on your tin and your cutter. Put a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie, don’t overfill or it will ooze out in the oven. Roll out the pastry again and cut out 12 more, slightly smaller circles. Put one on top of each pie and press down gently.

Poke a small hole in each pie to let the steam out. Brush with milk or beaten egg and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Bake until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Best eaten on the day of baking.


* possibly, maybe, an old name for a mince pie

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream

King Solomon once said “there is nothing new under the sun”, he was pretty much right. Take any “original” idea, Google it, and you will likely find several people have already thought of it. In America cinnamon bun flavour ice cream is already “a thing” and a few bloggers have made their own versions. At least mine isn’t quite the same, for one thing we can’t get tubes of cinnamon bun dough over here in Blighty, though I can’t imagine chewing on a blob of frozen yeasty dough to be that pleasant!

Here is my interpretation of cinnamon bun ice cream, almost the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted and certainly worthy of any special occasion/messy break up/ice cream of the month, keep some in the freezer for emotional emergencies necessitating comfort food. The cinnamon infused cream, crunchy nuggets of bunny goodness (goodness from buns that is, not cute fluffy rabbits) and rich caramel sauce will soothe your aching soul in no time!

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream

  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double (heavy) cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 large cinnamon stick, broken into two or three pieces
  • 1 tsp corn flour

Heat the milk and the cinnamon stick to boiling point. remove from the heat, pop a lid on and infuse for at least eight hours.

Strain the infused milk through a sieve into a clean pan. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl till pale. Re-heat the milk to boiling point.

Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture in a steady stream, whisking the whole time. Pour it all back into the pan and stir constantly over a medium heat until the custard is the thickness of single cream.

Remove from the heat, add the double cream, allow to cool then chill in the fridge.

For the caramel sauce:

By all means make your own, it’s a bit of a pain though so you could use a good quality jar of dulce de leche instead.

  • 210g sugar
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 40g butter
  • 200ml double cream

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat. This takes ages! Then heat up the syrup till it starts to boil. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as it becomes a nice rich amber colour. Add the butter and gradually stir in the cream. If the caramel hardens too soon or seizes up into weird blobs you can heat it gently to re-melt. Allow to cool then chill in the fridge.

For the cinnamon bun chunks:

  • 60g of brioche loaf
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 45g butter

Cut the brioche into small chunks, about half a centimetre square. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the brioche and stir to coat in butter.

Add the cinnamon and sugar and stir the crumbs around for five minutes till they are nicely toasted and caramelized around the edges.

Allow to cool then chill in the freezer.

Ok, now you have everything chilled and ready? Put the caramel in the freezer to get really cold. Following your ice cream machine’s instructions, make the icecream. Add the crumbs when the add ins beep goes off, or when it looks nearly ready.

When the ice cream is done take a tupperware type 1.5 litre container and layer the ice cream with the caramel sauce. Swirl it around gently with a knife, but don’t overdo it or the caramel will dissolve. Chill in the freezer till firm.


In the middle ages it was believed by westerners that cinnamon was fished out of the Nile river or taken from the nests of giant birds! In fact it is the inner bark of a tree that grows in Indonesia.