If you have an extreme aversion to the ’80s – I suggest you stop reading now. However, if you were rocking a waistcoat and listening to Morrissey – keep going. Growing up in South Africa in the 1980’s left much to be desired – first of all we were in the grip of apartheid, the media was censored and we knew very little of what was going on in the rest of the world – apart from what the then government wanted us to know. The eighties were also filled with so much kitsch – even I want to throw up. I remember as a child, my mother threw dinner parties where prawn cocktail was the starter of choice – a mound of iceberg lettuce – adorned with – wait for it – baby shrimp smothered in a mix of mayonnaise and tomato sauce. This was a standard – and if we were going to get posh about things – the iceberg lettuce would be traded in for half an avocado. I remember a colour palette of brown and orange prevalent in my particular home and I also recall the standard trio of flying ceramic geese – hung in ascending order. The only cool things about the eighties were the music and possibly leg warmers – and who could forget the mix tape? And lastly – there was this throwback to the eighties – the Fridge cake – which appears in so many different incarnations it could be a religion.
I had completely forgotten about Fridge Cake – until I encountered it recently at a friend’s home. She had whipped up a batch and her two small children were devouring it like it was going out of fashion – which it had. This Fridge cake was not too sweet, buttery and fruity and quite possibly more addictive than crack. I got home and immediately started experimenting – the thing about Fridge cake is that it is hard to mess up. I also did some research – trying to discover its origins – who was the genius who created this moreish treat – I still don’t know – but give that gal/guy a Bells! If any of you, dear readers, have a clue – please drop me a line. A search for Fridge cake – invariably brings up the chocolate kind – not unlike a ‘Rocky Road’.
Anyway, enough banter. If you make one thing this weekend – let it be this. Your children will love you, your family will love you – heck – YOU will love YOU – it’s that good. The South African version calls for Marie Biscuits – but if you can’t find those – try a rich tea biscuit.
A Retro Fridge Cake
Makes about 30 squares
250g Stork margarine or butter (Yes, I know – I never thought I’d advocate using margarine – but this is retro style and marg was big in the 80s – bigger than shoulder pads)
3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup if your dried fruit choices are very sweet)
2 cups (500g) Mixed dried fruit ( The original called for fruit mix – but now is the time to bring the Fridge cake into the 21st century – I love a combination of dried cranberries, raisins, sultanas, Glace cherries, Turkish apricots and mixed citrus peel)
2 x 200g packets Baker’s Blue Label Marie Biscuits, crushed ( I don’t crush them to a fine powder – you want some texture – so roughly crush – leaving some bigger pieces of biscuit)
2 xl free-range eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla essence
Begin by melting the margarine/butter in a large saucepan along with the sugar over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the dried fruit and allow to boil gently for about 3 minutes – stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes then stir in the beaten eggs and the vanilla essence (I whisk the vanilla in with the beaten egg before adding it to the fruit mixture) – return to the heat stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes – you want to cook the eggs and avoid salmonella. At this stage, throw in the crushed biscuits and mix to combine. Spoon into a greased rectangular dish and put in the fridge to set (Takes about an hour) – cut into squares and devour. I suggest playing ‘Come Back To Camden’ on repeat and wearing a side pony and/or leg warmers while you make these – but any 80s music would do.