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Cake for the lumberjacks or a queen?

"baking (and eating) cake can help whatever ails you" David Lebovitz

On Monday we are having the Great Easter Egg Hunt - yes still. I am told my youngest grandchild - now aged nine still believes in the Easter Bunny. Or maybe he thinks that if he says he doesn't there will be no Easter egg hunt and therefore no Easter eggs. Who knows, and besides who cares. It's an excuse to all get together to have fun. Just crossing fingers on the rain factor.

Anyway there will be lunch - roast lamb this year - although I haven't quite settled on whose version of roast lamb it will be. My daughters parents are bringing a blueberry pie for dessert but it probably won't be big enough for all of us - 13 people, and now only one who could be described as a child. So I am making cake in support. This cake - Belinda Jeffery's Lumberjack cake.

I got to this choice via my throwing out old recipes from folders resolution. In one of those folders I found a recipe for what was called Apple, date and caramel cake and when I started checking it out on the net, I found that it was actually called Lumberjack cake which made me remember a recipe for that in Belinda Jeffery's book A Year of Sundays. I also remember thinking that I should make that some day and when I checked the recipe in my folder, I think from Better Homes and Gardens I found that it was almost identical to hers. And so the folder version is now thrown and I am going for Belinda's.

Having made my decision I thought I would try and form a blog post around it, so I began by wondering why it's called Lumberjack cake. Answer - nobody knows. And I mean nobody, and if you look for Lumberjack cake you will get virtually all Australian or New Zealand sites - no American or Canadian ones - with one exception that I shall come to. I even saw a Better Homes and Garden video which ended with them pleading with people to tell them if they knew why the name. Lumberjacks are Canadian after all aren't they? We don't have them here. Indeed they are so quintessentially Canadian that the Monty Python gang did that famous sketch in the form of a song - "He's a lumberjack and he's OK ..." I'm sure you all know it. A mockery of the very masculine lumberjack trope.

Which brings me to this cake, which is indeed a Lumberjack cake and which is American - almost Canadian, because its creator, Elizabeth Marek lives in the state of Oregon. She called it a Lumberjack cake - partly because of that plaid interior which evokes those flanelette shirts we think of lumberjacks as wearing, but mostly because:

"so many cakes appeal to a stereotypically feminine sensibility. It’s a manly cake. I didn’t realise there was such a lack of cakes for men. It didn’t occur to me before but most cakes are aimed at women.”

And maybe for this reason it became an internet sensation. But the Lumberjack cake that we are talking about is not it.

Still trying to find origins, I think it was through Wikipedia, that I found that there is a similar cake called Queen Elizabeth cake, a version of which is shown here from the Seasons and Suppers website. According to Wikipedia:

"Queen Elizabeth cake is a lightly sweet, moist, and low-fat date cake, topped with a brown sugar, butter and broiled coconut mixture. 'Queen Elizabeth cake' is named after the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, and may have first been made in 1953 for her coronation. Another account holds that it was invented for the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Despite its unsettled origin, the dessert gained national popularity in the 1950s and remains a Canadian staple."

So they don't even really know the origins of this one. And note - no apples. There are never any apples in these cakes, and the topping always seems to be a coconut and maple syrup concoction. It is indeed a very popular Canadian cake however.

So let's come back to Australia and New Zealand because as the author of my first website visit - Katy's Food Finds says:

"Initial thoughts are that because of its name ‘Lumberjack’, that it came from Canada or America but it seems not many people there have heard of it. The cake is more widely known in Australia and New Zealand where it is more popular." Katy's Food Finds

And here is a quick aside because the searches I did today came up with lots and lots of 'ordinary' blogger websites, and hardly any well-known ones. So I have returned to my resolution of yesterday to check out the first recipe that came up and also to briefly check out the website. Below - Katy (real name Katrina) and a picture of her Lumberjack cake.

She lives in Adelaide with her husband and teenage son, and is of Samoan, Chinese and American heritage - an interesting mix. The last post was in January last year, so I imagine she has given up. The previous posts had been at increasingly long intervals. Her website was rather attractive, and the photographs were really quite professional, so maybe she was aspiring to great success and somehow didn't achieve it. Maybe something better came up. Her food philosophy, similar to mine - and virtually everyone else in the blogosphere I guess - was "mostly healthy, sometimes fussy, always delicious." with "Everything in moderation, right!"

It was also with her recipe that I found that, in general the topping always includes coconut. Which was actually another reason for going for Belinda Jeffery's recipe because she has nuts instead in her topping. Coconut is a no no for David. The other thing I found was that some people flavoured the cake with ginger rather than Belinda's vanilla. I prefer vanilla. So to conclude on 'proper' Australian Lumberjack cake - a couple of examples from Not Quite Nigella which is a well-known Australian website I have talked about before, and The Kitchen Magpie - another 'ordinary' one - both with coconut.

Then I thought to search with the major ingredients - apple, date and caramel, which is when I found that this cake has travelled over to the UK, Europe and also to America and that perhaps some Australians as well don't realise that this is called Lumberjack cake here in Oz. Toppings varied - Nik Sharma's Apple date cake from the UK simply had a drizzle of date syrup and a sprinkling of icing sugar; Apple cake with date caramel filling/The Healthy Tart (an unhealthy cake on a website which is supposedly healthy, and she did in fact acknowledge that) - this was unusual in that there seemed to be a kind of cake tart base into which halved apples, stuffed with a sticky caramel date mix were put and a cake batter poured over; Woolworths, drizzled their caramel sauce over their Sticky date and apple cake with salted caramel sauce and also seem to put the apples on top; and David Lebovitz - the American in Paris gave his Apple date cakes with salted caramel glaze a kind of caramel icing; whereas the website Brooklyn Suppers presented Sticky apple date cake from a book called New Sugar and Spice by Samantha Seneviratne which had the ginger flavour with a runny caramel icing.

Now I love sticky date pudding - and so do most people, so I reckon this might be a bit similar. It would be nice to think it might be a bit lighter, but I suspect not. We'll see. I think it will go with roast lamb though.


Remember yesterday's wondering about what to do with carrots and smoked trout? Well this is what I did. In the end I couldn't be bothered with fussing with ravioli. It's a kind of chowder - I sweated together 2 finely shredded carrots and half a big onion with a handful of chopped parsley in butter. When they were beginning to sort of ooze liquid I added some leftover tomato sauce and some chicken stock to which were added a chopped potato and a few frozen corn kernels. Cook until potatoes are soft, add the chunks of smoked trout, and some cream to warm up. Garnish with more chopped parsley. Yum, although I think I could have added the other half of the smoked trout to give it a fishier flavour. I do like soup. Served with a green salad and a piece of David's delicious home-made sourdough bread.

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