Jeremy Lee’s refrigerator cake
Bake it in the fridge overnight”. Well, if that won’t confuse a novice cook, I don’t what will. It’s surely an instruction that would confound even the most seasoned cook. Such a command is on a par with the one given to a hapless youth who was despatched to find a can of tartan paint – the fate of a young chef I once worked with in Scotland a very long time ago.
In this instance, however, your eyes do not deceive you: the recipe for this so very good, very shivery bite – the joyful tuckbox treat – is indeed made, set in a tin and covered, then despatched to the fridge overnight to set, becoming, the following day, refrigerator cake, or fridge cake as I knew it as a wee laddie.
My mum’s recipe was a classic of the Women’s Institute, drawn from the many years she was a member – even presiding once, if my memory serves me right. Often called upon to judge at the WI baking shows – and they were a major event in the small village I grew up in just outside Dundee – Mum amassed a lovely collection of recipes from some very fine bakers to be found among the womenfolk of Kirkton of Auchterhouse.
The original recipe for “refrigerator cake” is written in Mum’s immaculate handwriting in one of her notebooks. There is, listed in the ingredients, margarine, digestive biscuits and glace cherries. There may also be raisins. I quite like a raisin (though many don’t). Margarine remains anathema. I have of course, as is the way of cooks, taken the most modest of liberties with this recipe. The changes are, in chef’s terms, quite undemanding.
The chocolate should be good – very good – plain chocolate, measuring at least 70% in cocoa solids. I swapped out glace cherries, as the only decent ones I could find were at Rococo or Fortnum & Mason (please, by all means, acquire and add to the recipe if they are handy and affordable for you – I love them). I also love agen prunes. They are, yes, just as rare as the cherries, but I do think that a fairly good prune is a lot more to hand than a hand-picked and crystallised cherry. And no, I am not going to enter any conversation on the subject.
On the other hand, McVitie’s digestive biscuits are vital. I have tried macaroons and biscotti in this recipe with disastrous results – the military equivalent would have resulted in war. But, having averted an international incident, the recipe is fairly straightforward and the resulting cakes keep well – so long as they are kept under lock and key, and out of reach of kitchen raiders.
Chocolate fridge cake Makes 8-12 slices
24 digestive biscuits (McVities preferably) 100g walnuts
250g plain chocolate, broken into chunks
250g unsalted butter
1 Line a tin measuring 20x30cm by 2cm deep with baking parchment.
2 Coarsely chop the digestive biscuits, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. Then stone and coarsely chop the prunes.
3 Put the chocolate in a bowl and sit this above a pan of slowly simmering water. Meanwhile, cut the butter into small pieces and let it soften to room temperature. Crack the eggs in to a small bowl and beat with a fork.
4 When the chocolate has melted, add the butter, a little at a time, and stir gently until smooth. Add the beaten egg and again, stir until smooth.
5 Add the biscuits, nuts and prunes, then mix well. Decant the mixture into the tin and spread evenly. Cover with a sheet of baking parchment, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
6 Cut into squares or rectangles and store carefully – wilful creatures have a way of sniffing out good things and will happily risk a cook’s wrath for a bite of something delicious.