Food fit for a queen
Queen Elizabeth Cake. (Supplied)
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee brings back thoughts of the '50s, and that decade's cooking -- its tuna noodle casserole, jellied salads, and with the advent of electric mixers, the angel food cake. And there are more - three dishes from the 1950s that have stood the test of time - like the queen herself, and they are, the aptly named Queen Elizabeth Cake, devilled eggs, classic with smart variations, and iced tea, found below in a refreshing mint version.
Queen Elizabeth Cake
A secret recipe from the Queen's kitchen, or the Queen Mom's? No, neither the present queen, nor her late mother, had anything to do with the origin of this cake. But, in honour of the queen, and following a tradition of naming cakes after celebrities among whom royalty ranks high, this rather homey but deliciously moist date cake with its caramelized coconut topping bears the name of the Jubilee Queen. It's a good carrying-cake, for picnics, potlucks and dessert parties. And I suspect, if the Queen were attending, that she would enjoy a square, or two.
1 cup (250 ml) large flake rolled oats
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (425 ml) firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each salt and cinnamon
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/4 cup (60 ml) butter, softened
1/2 cup (125 ml) packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. (45 ml) light cream (10% to 18%)
3/4 cup (175 ml) shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
Grease a 9-inch square (2.5 L) cake pan; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the rolled oats and boiling water; let stand until cool, about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir into the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the rolled oats mixture in 2 additions.
Scrape into the prepared pan. Level the top, then press some of the batter from the centre to make the batter along the edges slightly higher. (This helps prevent the cake from rising higher in the centre than the sides.) Bake in the centre of a 350°F (180°C) oven until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the centre, and the edges have come away from the sides of the pan, about 55 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until blended. Mix in the cream and coconut. Remove the cake from the oven. Rearrange the oven racks so the top of the cake is 4-inches (10 cm) from the broiler; turn on the broiler. Spread the coconut mixture evenly and gently over the hot cake. Never straying from the oven, broil the cake until the topping is slightly browned and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the cake in its pan to a rack to cool. (Make-ahead: Cover well and store at room temperature for several days, or enclose in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 16 to 20 pieces.
Devilled Eggs by the Dozen
A classic recipe for devilled eggs -- a must for any summer picnics in the '50s. For variations on this super-simple recipe, see below.
6 large eggs, cold from the refrigerator
4 tsp (20 ml) sour cream (approximate)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
Dash hot pepper sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) minced chives, sliced radishes or green onion tops
Place the eggs in a single layer in a medium saucepan; add cold water to come 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the eggs. Cover; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and let stand for 13 minutes. Drain; chill eggs into a large bowl of ice water. (Make-ahead: Drain and refrigerate for up to 5 days.) Peel the eggs. (The easiest way to peel hard-cooked eggs is first to roll the eggs on a hard surface to break the shells, then peel them under cold water, starting at the big end.)
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Trim a narrow slice off the bottom of each half, being careful not to tear the whites; gently scoop the yolks into a bowl. With a fork, mash the egg yolks (and any of the white trimmings) until smooth; mix in the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and hot pepper sauce. Add another teaspoon (5 mL) sour cream for a softer filling if desired. Mix in half the chives. Spoon neatly back into the egg whites; sprinkle with the remaining chives. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 day.) Makes 12 devilled eggs.
Variations: As befits a royal occasion, feel free to dress these eggs up with a small spoonful of golden whitefish caviar, a twirl of smoked salmon, a sprig of fresh herbs (dill, tarragon or chives are excellent), a slice of anchovy, or a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
Iced Mint Tea
Iced tea was a hot trend in the '50s.
1 cup (250 ml) packed fresh mint leaves, spearmint recommended
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) loose Earl Grey tea or 4 tea bags
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
2 strips lemon peel
4 cups (1 L) boiling water
1/3 cup (75 ml) fresh lemon juice
Combine the mint, tea, sugar and lemon peel in a deep bowl. Pour on the boiling water and let steep for 15 minutes; strain into a pitcher. Let cool completely and stir in lemon juice.
To serve, half-fill 4 glasses with ice cubes. Nestle a lemon slice and mint sprig among the ice cubes and top off with the mint tea infusion.
Makes 4 to 5 glasses.