Aunt Daisy knows best (+recipes)

By Jan Bilton

Aunt Daisy was our first celebrity foodie. From 1936 until 1963, she greeted listeners at 9am every weekday with her boisterous: "Good morning, everybody."

Then for 30 minutes she regaled listeners with recipes (some her own and others from her followers), home hints and sponsors' products.

Her fame was such that before a 1938 trip by ship to the United States, the Wellington Town Hall was filled to overflowing with fans wishing her well, and en route to Auckland in the train followers were on the platforms to sing the theme song to her programme, Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.

Several of the Christmas cake recipes from her books are still baked by people I know, especially the Howick Christmas Cake that includes blackcurrant jam; a recipe is widely available on the web.

The recipes were traditional but I've always been intrigued by one from Mangatainoka, a small town in the Wairarapa. The cake has prunes and ground almonds sprinkled in the centre, providing a layered effect.

Because I have so many friends on gluten-free diets, I have adapted the recipe to suit.

So cheers, Aunt Daisy, your recipes live on, even if they have been tweaked for today's lifestyle.

Baking tips

Use level metric measures.

When measuring flour, spoon it into the measuring cup and lightly level the top. Do not pack it into the cup. The only ingredient to pack is brown sugar.

To measure dry ingredients by the spoon, fill the spoon then level the top with the straight edge of a knife.

If the cake pan is heavyweight and non-stick, then just line it with baking paper before use. If it is lightweight, then line with a layer of thick brown paper and one of baking paper.

Always cook fruit cakes in the middle of the oven at a low temperature otherwise the sugary fruits tend to burn. If the top appears to be browning too much, place a sheet of brown paper lightly over the cake, resting it on the paper that lines the pan.

When the cake is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and stand it on a chopping board.

Make rich fruit cakes at least three to four weeks before cutting.



Based on the Mangatainoka Christmas Cake but using gluten-free flour.

2 cups gluten-free flour

1/4 tsp each: grated nutmeg, baking soda

250g each: currants, raisins, sultanas

125g candied peel

Finely grated rind 1 lemon

250g each: butter, brown sugar

4 eggs, beaten to a stiff froth

1/4 cup brandy or wine

12 pitted (soft, juicy) prunes

125g ground almonds

1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 22-23cm round cake pan with baking paper. Sift flour, nutmeg and baking soda into a bowl.

Combine currants, raisins, sultanas, candied peel and lemon rind.

Cream butter and sugar, until light. Add eggs, beating in well. Add all the fruit - except prunes. Lastly, add flour mixture and brandy or wine. Mix thoroughly.

Place half the mixture in prepared pan. Lay prunes over top then strew with ground almonds and icing sugar. Top with rest of cake mixture.

Put cake in oven and reduce heat to 150C. Bake for 1 & 3/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool then wrap in foil and store in a cool place for at least two weeks before cutting.


A quick-and-easy festive cake.

200g each: dried apricots, raisins, currants, mixed peel, glace cherries

1/4 cup brandy

3 large eggs

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

175g butter, melted

1 & 1/2 cup high-grade flour

1 tsp mixed spice

Preheat oven to 150C. Line a deep, 20cm round cake pan with baking paper.

Quarter apricots then place all the fruit in a bowl with brandy.

Beat eggs and sugar until light, add cooled butter and fruit. Mix well. Sift in flour and mixed spice. Mix gently. Pour into prepared cake pan and smooth top. Bake for about 1 & 1/2 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool then wrap in foil and store in a cool place for at least a couple of weeks before cutting.


Adding Kremelta keeps the icing firm during warm weather.

70g each: butter, Kremelta

2 cups sifted icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1-2 tbsp milk, brandy or orange juice

Slightly soften butter and Kremelta then cream together, until smooth. Beat in icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth. Add vanilla essence and enough liquid to make the icing spreadable.

This makes enough to cover the sides and top of a 20-23cm cake.


400g each: sultanas, raisins

150g each: currants, glace cherries, mixed peel

1/2 cup brandy or whisky

225g butter

1 & 1/2 cups dark cane sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp each: grated orange and lemon rinds, vanilla and almond essences

2 tbsp marmalade

4 eggs, well beaten

2 & 1/2 cups high-grade flour

Pinch salt

1 tsp each: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Put fruit in a large bowl. Add brandy or whisky and mix well. Cover and stand for one to two hours, stirring occasionally.

Line a deep 20-23cm heavy cake pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 150C.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add citrus rind, essences and marmalade. Beat well. Add eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If mixture starts to curdle add a little of the flour. Fold in mixed fruits alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Mix well.

Pour into lined pan. Smooth the top with a wet hand. Bake for about 2 & 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Start testing after two hours. Remove and cool. Store in foil.


- Hamilton News

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