Friday, April 08, 2016

A Piece of Cake

Dundee Cake. The name remains stuck in my head although it has been decades since I had eaten it or seen it at any of the supermarkets in town. Dundee Cake! Sweet, fruity—and to a kampong kid who was familiar with only steamed or boiled local kuehs—delicious slices of heaven.

I found the recipe online and baked a small cake recently. It’s amazing how a fruit cake can dredge up long-forgotten childhood memories.

I was about nine when circumstances forced me to live with my paternal aunt’s family for a number of years. My uncle bought the family’s groceries by ordering items from this store in Jesselton—as KK was then known. Whether he sent his order by phone or he sent a list to the store, I have no idea. But every month the groceries would be delivered by the store to the house and we kids would help to arrange the items on the kitchen shelves and cabinets. There’d be tins of Golden Churn butter, tinned beef, sardines, a huge rectangular-shaped tin of cooking oil, a few jars of fruit jam and bottles of sauces. And sometimes there were even strange and never-before-seen items.

I’d never know whether the store delivered the wrong items or added ‘free items’ on purpose or if my uncle wanted to be adventurous and experiment with unfamiliar food. At one time among the stuff delivered were two packets of long, yellow tubes which were like fat, extra-long, drinking straws.

Google Image

 We kids kept turning the packets in our hands and asking each other: “What are these? How do you cook them?” The word “Macaroni” written boldly on the packets didn’t mean anything to us. Winnie, the oldest and wisest cousin, cooked the pasta eventually (for ‘wrong’ items were never sent back) and I thought the cooked macaroni looked, smelt and tasted suspiciously like rubber tubes!

Courtesy of Cousin Winnie

The “Dundee Cake” was one of those unfamiliar items the store delivered. It came in a sealed tin that had to be opened by peeling a strip of the tin with a ‘key’ all around its upper circumference to separate lid from the ‘body’. You smelt the lovely aroma even before you saw the cake. Once the round cake was taken out of the tin and deposited carefully onto a plate it was admired by many pairs of eyes. When the cake had been cut and everyone received a slice, I tried to make mine last as long as possible. It was the best thing I had eaten then and I told myself when I grew up I would have a slice of fruit cake every day.

So here I am, several decades older, making my very own Dundee Cake! And I’m wise enough to know I should not eat it every day.

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