Plums in old recipes mean currants rather than plums. Plum cakes were popular and there are a variety of recipes to choose from. This one comes from The Experienced English Housewife by Elizabeth Raffald, which was first published in 1769. Raffald was an impressively busy woman. She worked as a housekeeper for 15 years before moving to Manchester. There, she ran a confectioner’s shop, where round plum cakes were part of the daily offering to customers.


Makes 10 x 20cm round cakes


3lbs 12oz/1.7kg butter

2½lbs/1.2kg white sugar

17 whole eggs

17 egg yolks

3lbs 12oz/1.7kg flour

½oz/15g ground mace

½oz/15g grated nutmeg (1½ nuts)

16fl oz/450ml brandy or white wine

1lb 4oz/560g currants

1lb 4oz/560g raisins

Zest from 2½ lemons

1lb/450g candied orange and lemon peel

3fl oz/70 ml orange flower water


1 Beat the butter to a cream

2 Add the sugar and beat again until pale

3 In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and yolks well

4 Mix the eggs into the butter and sugar

5 Add the flour and the spices

6 Mix in the brandy, fruit and peel and orange flower water

7 Put into greased tins with 1½ pints/¾-litre capacity

8 Bake for 45 minutes at 180?C