Revisit childhood with a Christmas Tunis cake

Does the candied peel in traditional Christmas cakes make you wince? Do you hate all that dried fruit? Or do nut allergies prevent you even looking at a Christmas cake? It might be time to revive an old Christmas tradition, and reach for the Tunis cake.

The origins of this delicious Madeira cake, topped with a thick slab of chocolate and decorated with marzipan fruits, is the subject of plenty of contentious disputes on the food forums. What is recognised is that many children of the 60s and 70s have fond memories of the McVitie’s Tunis Cake, sadly no longer in production. There is a Facebook campaign begging the company to start making them again.

Supermarkets do stock their own versions at this time of year, with Waitrose, Sainsburys and Tesco all offering their variations on the Tunis Cake recipe, to different levels of quality and cost. Tesco’s version is priced at £5, with Sainsburys at £5.99.

Home bakers can make their own, as it is relatively simple, and there are several recipes online. You just need to make sure that you get that chocolate topping to a satisfying degree of thickness, at least a centimetre. Marzipan fruits can be handmade, with a little food dye, and it’s a great Christmassy activity to get the kids excited.

There are still no clear answers about the origins of the name Tunis, except speculation that it was just a name that sounded exotic, like Madeira. Visitors to North Africa do not report a noticeable local fondness for chocolate and marzipan cakes.

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