I was at our local farm shop today and noticed that they had a Tunis Cake from a local artisan bakery. As I had family visiting in the afternoon I thought it would make a nice Christmas treat with a cup of tea mid afternoon.
I’m not sure why it is called a Tunis cake but it’s a British Christmas tradition now like Panettone is in Italy. A Tunis cake is a Madeira sponge cake topped with a thick layer of chocolate and decorated with marzipan fruits.
If you are in Norfolk or Suffolk and able to get hold of a Tunis Cake from Wendy’s House Bakery then I can highly recommend it. The cake itself was light and moist and the chocolate topping was lovely and rich without being too sweet. I’m not sure my photo’s do it justice but it looked really lovely and my family and visitors really enjoyed it this afternoon.
The origins of the cake are Edwardian. Scottish bakery Macfarlane Langs produced commercial Tunis Cakes in the 1930s, and when they merged with McVitie & Price in 1948 to form a company called United Biscuits (which still owns the McVitie’s brand) the recipe passed to the new company. McVitie’s produced a Tunis cake until the mid 1980s. Members of my family can remember when they stopped producing these at the start of the second wold war and how pleased they were to see one again after the war.
The cake itself is thought to have been created out of post-WW1 austerity at a time when people wanted a traditional Christmas cake but could not obtain dried fruit. The Madeira sponge and rich chocolate topping were much easier to make from more readily available ingridents.
If you would like to make your own Tunis Cake then I can recommend Mary Berry’s Tunis Cake Recipe it’s a great alternative to a traditional Christmas Cake and really useful if you’ve run out of time to make your cake this year.