Por­ta­ble pieces

Jeremy Lee’s re­frig­er­a­tor cake

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Jeremy Lee Jeremy Lee is the chef pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis res­tau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

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

100g pis­ta­chios

100g al­monds

150g prunes

250g plain cho­co­late, bro­ken into chunks

250g un­salted but­ter

2 eggs

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.

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