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Cake advice sought for the Desert


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I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am allowed to post this particular query to this forum since I am pretty sure that someone out there will know a simple answer to my query.

My situation is that my friend’s husband is currently serving overseas, but he is allowed to receive mail from home. Therefore we thought it would be fun to send him a home made cake to show that we are thinking of him. Normally my default cakes to post would be a batch of rich fudgy brownies. However, the temperature out in the desert gets up to 50 degrees centigrade, so am not sure they’re are suitable. So my question is – what could I make that meets criteria of:

 Will keep in heat

 Durable enough to post (e.g. no delicate meringues!)

 Will not spoil within a couple of days – since am not sure how long it will take to reach him.

Our thoughts were along the rich fruit cake tradition, or possibly that dense chocolate loaf from Nigella Lawson’s book?

Any advice would be gratefully received – such as helpful hints to confirm my suspicions e.g. that anything with high butter content will spoil faster? Also, if anyone has done this already, advice on the packaging would also be very much appreciated.

With thanks in advance


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I think there are several items that will work in this situation.

These are some items that don't spoil quickly: pound cakes, 1-2-3-4 cakes flavored, fruit breads, there are lighter fruit cakes too-in addition to what we think of as traditional fruit cake with candied fruits, bundt cakes. The French have several simple cakes like financiers and tea cakes that should travel well.

Other items that should handle the heat with-out too much problem: shortbread cookies, biscotti, mandelbrat, graham crackers (homemade), several other cookies-like sinckerdoodles, chinese almond cookies, sable bretons. Tea cakes, possibly angel food cakes too, etc....

Several chocolate cakes should work well too. There are chocolate pound cakes, bundts, simple cakes (Herme' and Payard have a couple nice looking ones) that should fit your needs.

I'm not familar with the Lawson cake your mentioning. As far as high butter content spoiling faster-I don't have a great answer for that, I suspect that isn't so-don't forget it's being baked/absorbed and made into another item-think about shortbread cookies they hold for a long time.

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I posted this earlier in Classic Cakes that need Resurrecting. It keeps very well, stays moist, is dense and a little goes a long way so it will serve quite a few people. For shipping, I would bake it in rectangular pans filled only half way, so this recipe should be divided between two of the standard 9 x 11 cake pans. Wrap each in foil (the new "Release" foil is excellent) as soon as they are completely cool then stack them and wrap in heavy duty foil, then place in one of the Jumbo bags with the zip closure. The Hefty One-Zip is 2 1/2 gallons, bigger than the other jumbo bags, and will hold this easily.

There is no need to glaze it, the cake is rich enough to stand on its own without icing.

Speaking of resurrecting "classic" cakes, this one is truly ancient.

Here is a very old family recipe. The earliest mention of the cake is in one of my ancestor's journals ca. 1690. My great-grandmother found the "receipt" and deciphered the recipe in about 1880.

Although it was prepared at other times of the year, it was always called Christmas Cake.

I brought it up to date about 20 years ago when I was allowed access to my great grandmama's journals. I have continued to refine it right up to the present.

Like many cakes of that era it contains dried fruits and is fairly heavy. You can use a combination of dried fruits, but the larger ones have to be chopped so all pieces are about the same size. I have used cherries, cranberries, blueberries, black currants, Zante currants, sultanas and my home-dried extra sweet seedless red grapes, dried plums, dried persimmons, peaches and pears.

As long as the total amount is as listed in the recipe, it doesn't matter about the combination.

I often make this for parties and most people love it. Technically it is a "fruit" cake but even people who do not care for fruitcake will eat this.

Also like most of the English cakes that are served at tea, it keeps very well, as I have noted in the recipe.

FRUITED COCOA CAKE original recipe ca. 1690


It is important to use Dutch process cocoa. I use King Arthur Flour's Double Dutch Cocoa and Black Cocoa Half and Half. However any Dutch process cocoa will do.

1 cup BUTTER unsalted

1-1/2 tsp SALT


1 tsp CLOVES, ground

1 tsp NUTMEG, ground

1 tsp ALLSPICE, ground

1/3 cup COCOA, Dutch process

3 cups superfine SUGAR

4 extra-large EGGS


4 cups unbleached FLOUR

1-1/2 cups CURRANTS


1-1/2 cups WALNUTS, chopped or pecans or macadamia nuts, etc.

3 cups APPLESAUCE, unsweetened chunky style if you can find it, even better is homemade.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Grease and flour a deep 11" x 15" pan or 2 10-inch square pans or 2 holiday mold pans.

In a large mixing bowl (or mixer bowl) cream together butter, salt, spices, cocoa and sugar. beat until smooth.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one.

Mix baking soda with flour and sift, reserve 2 heaping tablespoons.

Instead of sifting the flour you can simply put it in a large bowl and run a wire whisk through it which does the same as sifting, i.e. fluffing it up a bit.

Add flour to batter alternately with applesauce.

Sprinkle the fruit and nuts with the reserved flour, toss to coat well and fold into cake batter.

Pour batter into pan and bake for about 1 hour or until cake tests done. (deeper pans will require longer baking)







Combine ingredients in saucepan, bring to simmer, stirring constantly, continue cooking until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Drizzle over cake ( I use a turkey baster and a perforated spoon as the glaze is too hot to dip my fingers into which is usually the way I drizzle icing) . After the glaze has set, decorate edges of the cake and the plate edges with powdered sugar sifted thru a fine sieve or use a cut-out pattern or paper "lace" doily.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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I think Sinclair's advice is sound. A pound cake, or something like shortbread cookies should be fine.

I found some information on one of Nestle's web sites that may be helpful to you. They've listed some baking guidelines and adapted some recipes for desert heat.

A few key points:

Middle East countries prohibit the following because they are contrary to the Islamic religion:

-- the entry of pork or pork by-products

-- alcoholic beverages (or items containing any alcohol, including vanilla)

-- home-baked treats should not contain allspice or nutmeg - spices are considered aphrodisiacs.

A card should be included with the package stating that the products were made following these guidelines. This will facilitate passage into the country.

And along more logistical and less religio-political lines:

To ensure that baked goods will withstand the high desert heat, please review the tips below:

No butter, margarine, peanut butter or nuts should be used. These fats will go rancid too fast in the high heat. Butter flavored vegetable shortening is a better alternative.

No brown sugar, corn sugar, honey, or molasses should be used. The baked goods will be too soft and possibly become moldy. Only white table sugar should be used.

Chocolate & butterscotch can be used in baked goods. Once chocolate has been baked into the product and has the chance to take up moisture from the batter, the chocolate will stay rather firm.

Bar cookies and brownies are the best bets for safe packing and are quickest for baking large quantities.

Baked goods should be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, which provides the best barrier against humidity.

Pack goodies in sturdy boxes and surround them with foam packaging material such as Styrofoam "peanuts."

As for the packaging, the US Postal Service has some useful advice on mailing packages to soldiers in Iraq, also linked from that Nestle web page.

Take a quick look at some of their "desert-adapted" recipes that follow all of the above guidelines. Basically bar cookies and brownies, but the recipes look like they'd taste just fine.

Hope this is helpful.

enrevanche <http://enrevanche.blogspot.com>

Greenwich Village, NYC

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.

- Mark Twain

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thanks to everyone for their advice - it's all very much appreciated. Think I might start off by being cautious and doing brownies but without butter or nuts in. Suppose we could send a test packet of nuts and shortbread (bought) and see what happens ...

However, andiesenji's cake looks amazing and I now want to bake that for myself. Could I double check a couple of things re: UK "translation"

am not sure we have Dutch process cocoa over here - would it work if I put in a bit more baking powder?

Also - I may have misinterpreted the tin sizes since e.g. 2 10 inch square pans sounds like a lot of cake - are they very deep? Is is possible to convert to round tins (which I have more of) or will that affect the final product? Or could I e.g. halve the proportions and make a smaller traybake?

I hope I don't seem too impertinent - just want to try and understand what I need to do. Looks like a great way to christen my new Kitchen Aid! I imagine it keeps pretty well? in which case would be perfect for the concert picnic next week!

Thanks again



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Dutch process cocoa is necessary. Droste is available in the UK. I have a friend in Yorkshire that uses it.

If you use natural cocoa the cake will have a bitter flavor.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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