December 12, 2009
My girlfriend and I have been planning Christmas with her sister and parents. When discussing sweet stuff, something that came up was Tunis cake. Being a former lover of things cakey I was rather surprised never to have heard of this addition to the Christmas table. Yet exist it does. This link is the most concise description I’ve found, and sums it up: people either love them or have never heard of them. I obviously fall into the latter category. So where do they come from? My Mum worked for a bakery for years, so I would have expected to see them as well as the usual Christmas cake and (multiple) yule logs, but they obviously never made it to Doncaster.
That made me think that they might be a southern thing, but my girlfriend’s supplier is a colleague at work and they are usually apparently available from one of the big supermarkets, even here in Leeds. A google search finds lots of people asking about them, but few other clues to their origin until a few pages in. This link mentions them in the context of a chain of stores called Kinghams based in the Hertfordshire area, who sold a Tunis cake made by Macfarlane Lang, a Glasgow based company who are now part of the United Biscuits empire. So were they Scottish, like the Empire biscuit? The trail seems to grow cold here. So if you’ve landed here looking for them, they are apparently available at Marks and Spencer this year, and possibly at Sainsbury’s. We’re going to look for one this weekend.
The main criteria of a Tunis cake is apparently the thickness of the chocolate, which is nowhere as good as it used to be, the marzipan ‘fruits’ (ugh) and also the way in which the chocolate is attached to the top of the cake. The Sainsbury or Tesco ones of recent years have had a layer of apricot jam twixt cake and chocolate. A review/reverie will follow.
Update: It was a success. Out of the box, it is a madeira sponge with a thick layer of chocolate on top. Inspired by the McVities pic in this article, Catherine pimped it up with pink and yellow icing so it looked more like the thing of memory:
Eating it is an, ahem, individual experience because the chocolate is solid. A heated knife would probably be useful for actually getting through it and eating it. The cake was good, but the chocolate is definitely cooking chocolate although a bit nicer than eating it out of the packet. Tesco still have them, or at least the big one in Bradford does, so see for yourself.