This recipe for a ‘Peggy Tub’ Cake (eaten all year round, but particularly made at Easter) comes from a 1934 publication ‘400 Prize Recipes’. Obviously one of the first questions you may have about this cake is, “what is a Peggy Tub?” and quite rightly too, it was our first question after coming across this recipe …
A Peggy Tub is a northern slang expression, (of the inter-war years, 1920s – 1940s) particularly around Leeds, it was the tub in which washing was pounded by hand before the days of washing machines. It is apt for this cake because unusually in a cake recipe the cake dough is wrapped in a cloth and then left to soak in a tub of cold water … an old sexist expression of the North, when commenting on a woman doing a job, was to say, “What they need is more ‘eddication’ at the peggy-tub.” a threatened reaction to the changing times when women during this period started to gain employment in traditionally male jobs.
Taken from “400 Prize Recipes For Practical Cookery” Reprinted From The Daily Telegraph Newspaper, and published in book form in 1934. “This collection of four hundred Daily Telegraph recipes, selected from many thousands tested by women readers in their own kitchens, is published in answer to the demand that has come from all parts of the country for a volume assembling in convenient, classified form, the practical but often out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for interesting dishes that have appeared on that newspaper’s Woman’s Page. It is a fascinating record of the intimate family life of the English home.” The weights and measures have been adapted for the modern kitchen and the method expanded to aid explanation.
Peggy Tub Cake Recipe
- 1kg plain flour
- 115g lard, softened
- 225g butter, softened
- 30g active dried yeast – or 60g fresh live yeast
- 300ml warm milk
- 3 eggs
- 500g caster sugar
- 125g candied peel
- 375g raisins
- 375g currants
- 1/2 nutmeg grated
- 1 tsp ground ginger
In a small bowl or jug pour in the warm milk and sprinkle in the yeast and stir it thoroughly with a plastic or wooden spoon. Leave to sit for 7 to 10 minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check occasionally to see if the yeast is rising and frothing. After about 4–5 minutes give it another stir, it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top. Do not allow the yeast (barm) to sit longer than 12 minutes before using, leaving it too long will exhaust the yeast before it is in the dough.
In a large mixing bowl sift in the flour and then rub in the softened lard and butter into the flour with your fingers so that the flour resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre.
Mix in the beaten eggs – and then when the yeast is fully activated (7 to 10 minutes) add the yeast and milk (barm) and bring the flour and milk together into a dough with a wooden spoon – you may need to add in a little extra warm milk if necessary.
Form a light dough which you can gently knead. You are looking for it to be springy and elastic. Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a flat floured work surface.
This technique is more gentle than when kneading a bread dough: Hold one end of the dough with one hand and then with the palm of your other hand gently push the dough away from you, stretching it out a short distance. Once stretched (without breaking the dough) pull the dough back in and over with your fingers into a bigger lump once more. Give the dough a quarter turn then repeat. Giving the dough a quarter turn before stretching it back out works all of the dough and stretches the gluten out in different directions. If sticking to the work surface or the dough is a little wet sprinkle over a little extra flour.
When smooth and silky make the dough into a ball, and then place it into the centre of a clean cloth (muslin cloth folded over twice is ideal). Tie it loosely with some string but allow space for the dough to rise.
Plunge the dough in the cloth into a ‘tub’ of clean cold water (the ‘tub’ can be anything from a large saucepan to a clean plastic bowl or bucket). Leave to stand till the dough ‘turns over’ (for about 2 hours).
After two hours take the dough out of the cloth and place onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll or spread out the dough and add into the centre the sugar, dried fruits, grated nutmeg and ground ginger. Roll up the dough and gently knead the dough once more for a few minutes to thoroughly mix in all the added ingredients throughout the dough.
Grease 2 medium loaf / bread tins with some butter.
Break the Peggy Tub Cake dough into 2 equal portions and put the cake dough into the bottom of each tin. Leave the tins somewhere warm for 35 to 40 minutes for the dough to have a ‘second’ rise.
Preheat the oven to 180C
After the second rise bake the bread tins in the oven at 180C for 1 and 1/2 hours (90 minutes) or until the Peggy Tub Cakes are fully brown and baked.
After baking remove the bread tins from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Then turn the cakes out of the tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack.
Eat the same day or keep in an air-tight cake tin for the next day. Eat the Peggy Tub Cakes sliced and spread with a little butter – the slices can be toasted after two or three days being kept.