Life after Life 7: Marmalade Cake

‘What happened to you?’ Maurice said to Ursula one afternoon as he sprawled on a deckchair on the lawn reading Punch, cramming nearly an entire slice of Mrs Glover’s marmalade cake into his mouth at once.
‘What do you mean what happened to me?’
‘You’ve turned into a heifer.’ (May 1926, page 230)

In these posts on food in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life Mrs Glover’s cooking has been presented as often falling short of expectations. Her Sole Veronique – discussed here – is described as a ‘surprisingly capricious interpretation‘ of the classic French dish whilst her Veal cutlets a la Russe – from my last post – are dismissed as ‘unappetizing‘ and ‘like the dog’s dinner‘. Clearly sophisticated continental cooking is not her forte.

But when it comes to cake Mrs Glover seems to be on safer ground. I’ve blogged here about the recipe for almond and choc-chip cake that Mrs Glover bequeathed to Pamela, Ursula’s older sister, and that Pamela in her turn makes years later (suggesting it was a well-loved cake), and there are references elsewhere to sherry cake, plum cake, rock buns and sponge. And here we have the oldest Todd brother, Maurice, stuffing a slice of Mrs Glover’s marmalade cake into his mouth, suggesting that it tastes pretty good.

Having said that, the way in which Maurice eats the marmalade cake also reflects his rather direct approach. This episode comes just three months before the ‘veal cutlets a la Russe’ one and is the first indication to the reader that Ursula is pregnant following her rape by Maurice’s friend, Howie. Even Ursula herself does not realise it at this point. Maurice – the most dislikeable of all the Todd children – bluntly points out Ursula’s increasing weight – his straight-talking being neatly mirrored by his greedy devouring of the marmalade cake.

This is exactly the type of cake I like to eat: simple, almondy and citrussy, with the barest smudge of icing on it. This marks – for the time being at least – the end of my posts on Life After Life. As the summer draws to a close, it’s time to get back to some other books and the food in them, beginning with Wilkie Collins’ mystery The Woman in White for my next post, though I will be continuing to cook from Life After Life and showcasing my creations on Instagram!

MARMALADE CAKE (makes 1 loaf cake of approx. 8 slices)
120g unsalted butter at room temperature
90g caster sugar
1 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 heaped tablespoons thick cut marmalade
190g plain flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder – sifted together
50g ground almonds
pinch salt
2 tablespoons milk

For the icing
50g sifted icing sugar
4 teaspoons orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180C / fan 160C / Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a 1-litre loaf tin.
Using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter, sugar and orange rind in a large bowl until soft and creamy.
Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating between each addition.
Stir in the marmalade.
Fold in the flour and baking powder mixture, followed by the ground almonds and the milk.
Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes (depending on your oven you might want to start ‘checking’ your cake from about 30 minutes onward) until golden brown and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Once the cake is cold you can ice it. Mix together the icing sugar and orange juice to make a thin icing and drizzle over the top of the cake.

Marmalade cake

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