Fruitcakes and Festschrifts

book cake3

Festschrift cake-book

Last Wednesday my friend Marios organised a small retirement party for our PhD supervisor Rhoads Murphey. We both did our PhDs in Ottoman History at Birmingham University at the same time. Rhoads was a brilliant supervisor: supportive, very generous with his time, and extremely knowledgeable. I am sure his current students will miss him considerably. Anyway, Marios not only organised a party for him, but has also put together a festschrift for Rhoads to be published by Brill. Former students and colleagues have all contributed articles to the volume. Mine is called “Being Tiryaki Hasan Pasha: the politico-textual appropriations of an Ottoman hero” – not that this is strictly of interest here.  The reason I mention the festschrift is that I wanted to make Rhoads a cake that looked like the book. I did this at the end of last year to celebrate the launch of a volume I edited with Anna Contadini on the Renaissance and the Ottoman Empire and it worked really well – the cover was a photo of an Ottoman textile and pauline iced the cake to look exactly like it!

Me and Anna with the cake-book

Me and Anna with the Renaissance cake-book

I would love to be able to ice cakes, but I can’t –  my skills are strictly limited to the baking department. So I made a fruit cake and Pauline, a lovely, talented lady who lives in our village, iced it. She is totally amazing at icing cakes and painted the picture by hand.

One and a half kilos of dried fruit

One and a half kilos of dried fruit




The recipe I use for the fruit cake is adapted from  Nigel Slater Appetite (435)

A big fruit cake – ingredients: 350-g butter, 350g soft brown sugar, 1.5 kg of dried fruit (sultanas, currants, raisins, figs, cherries, apricots, prunes etc), 5 eggs, 100g ground almonds, 150g blanched almonds, 5tbs brandy or Madeira, zest and juice of two lemons, half a tsp of baking powder, 350g plain flour. I make it in a square pan that is about 27cm. Line the tin with baking paper and set the oven to 160C. Beat the sugar in a mixer and butter until pale. raw cakeAdd the eggs gradually. Mix in the ground almonds and whole almonds. Cut up the fruit into small pieces and add. Add the brandy, zest and juice. Add the flour and baking powder. Put it in the tin and bake for an hour, then turn the oven down and bake for another hour or longer – bake until a skewer put in comes out clean. I leave it to cool in the tin and then take it to Pauline who works her magic. The cake keeps for ages.

Cake before it is cooked

Cake before it is cooked


Cutting the cake

6 responses to “Fruitcakes and Festschrifts

    • I know – she is amazing isn’t she? She also made a brilliant cake for a colleague to celebrate the librarian leaving the Royal Asiatic Institute – it had the symbol of the institute as a 3-d relief elephant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s