I had pictured myself with a handheld camera touring the depths of England, blowing the dust off old cookbooks, interviewing stalwarts of the WI, doing witty pieces to camera, all in search of the elusive Tunis Cake. This was to be my food odyssey, where I discovered not only the history of this childhood favourite, but of myself.
The Tunis Cake is one of those things that people remember fondly or not at all: A round Madeira cake; topped with a thick chocolate layer and some (non-descriptive) marzipan fruits; a seasonal product hitting the shelves for Christmas. The one that was always in my house was produced by McVities and was instantly recognisable in its square, red box.
Sadly my journey was neither long nor enlightening. After contacting all the supermarkets and food historians it turns out that McVities invented the cake in 1973 and ceased production in the early eighties. Bugger. Although they still have the original recipe so…
M&S discontinued their version in the mid eighties (my mum claims she had one in 1986 from them), whilst Tesco and Sainsburys are still flying the cake flag.
Should you want to try the original Tunis Cake contact McVities and ask them to dust off the old recipe and mix up a batch, or better still sign my petition – and if we ever get enough people we can march on Downing Street, or something similar!
Despite not producing a Tunis Cake for over twenty years, Marks & Spencer have, thankfully, come to their senses and decided that Christmas 2009 is the right time to buck that trend.
Slightly smaller in diameter than the other supermarkets offerings, with a slightly thinner icing, it was worth the wait. I managed to get my hands on one, direct from M&S’s bakery department and I can’t find a bad word to say about it! The sponge was beautifully moist and the chocolate icing just right.
It comes banded in red foil cardboard and should retail at around the £5.99 mark.