In a delightful little book by Alison Uttley. ‘Recipes From an Old farmhouse’, one of cakes mentioned was the mysterious Thor cake… whether there is any connection with the Norse god I don’t know, but it is more likely that the word derives from Old English, þeorf (theorf) meaning plain… but candied peel, spices and treacle doesn’t sound a plain cake to me, especially with lashings of butter! It was also called Thar cake by some people and originates in Derbyshire where it was made and eaten in the autumn, especially for Guy Fawkes Day. It is a very old recipe… and may even have been made to celebrate Halloween pre-Fawkes! The name also might be related to the word ‘parkin’, that gorgeous gingerbread made in the north of England!
In the north of England there used to be annual week’s holidays called Wakes Week; where traditionally the mills would be shut for the workers to have a well-deserved rest; in Derbyshire, according to Mrs Uttley it was in November and a fair would come to the village with swings and merry-go-rounds. This was when Thor Cake would be made and eaten as a morning snack, spread with butter.
Thor Cake… according to Alison Uttley:
½ lb oatmeal
½ lb Demerara sugar
4 oz black treacle
½ oz ground ginger
pinch of salt, mace and nutmeg
4 oz candied peel
- Warm the butter and treacle together
- mix with the dry ingredients and the egg
- mix thoroughly then knead it like bread
- roll out to a thickness of about 2 inches
- place on a greased and lined tin
- cook for about ¾ hour at 190C, 375F, or gas mark 5 until the cake is done
- cut into slices as needed, butter, eat, enjoy!
I have seen other recipes where it is put in a loaf tin and then sliced when cold, but some of those recipes add self-raising flour… there are plenty of other recipes available if you’re interested, but this is Alison Uttley’s version! I am going to make it and I’ll let you know how it turns out!