Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nannas Recipes....The History of the Dolly Varden Cake...

You thought a Dolly Varden cake was a cake with a doll rising Phoenix like, from it's centre, right?
Nup. A real Dolly Varden cake harks back to a character from a Charles Dickens novel. In the novel series Barnaby Rudge, tributes aplenty describe this fetching creature, seen above, depicted on a Christmas card. Such was her allure that in some countries, she was honoured with Chintz patterns which then adorned ladies vanity tables and wardrobes for years.
Yet others named a (pink and green!) trout after her. Truly.
We in Australia and New Zealand, chose to pay tribute to Dolly Varden by baking a cake.
During a recent declutter of my  hoard  collection of home décor, gardening and cooking magazines, I actually found a recipe for a true Dolly Varden cake. Mimicking Dolly herself, this was a fanciful confection of three layers. One a fruit cake layer, which then sandwiched itself with layers of red jam, between two layers of butter cake. This was then lovingly decorated with mint green icing and baby pink flowers, to thus commemorate a mode of dress inspired by Dolly, that saw frothy layers and over-embellishments, for years to come. Note Dollys mint green and baby pink outfit, pictured in the card illustration above.
I decided to recreate the Dolly Varden cake, giving it a more modern spin.
I started by baking two Butter Cakes, allowing them to cool, before splitting each in half.

I made a Raspberry Chia seed icing to mimic the jam, by simply making a batch of normal glace` icing (simply icing sugar/powdered sugar, and water), adding 1 cup of thawed frozen raspberries and 1/4 cup of white Chia seeds. This was refrigerated until it formed a nice spreading consistency, thanks to the Chia seeds.

I used this to sandwich my four layers of cake. I could have just used three, to keep things more authentic, but having thrown authenticity out the window, I really couldn't see the point.
My apologies for the lighting in these shots. I do my best cake decorating work at night ;-)

My cake layered with Raspberry Chia Seed Icing, was then refrigerated overnight.
The next morning, I make a batch of Buttercream Frosting, and tinted it palest mint green by using a tootpick, dipped into the food colouring, and adding it bit by bit.
I piled this atop my cake...

...and spread it quickly using a spatula, creating this whipped effect to represent the frothy layers of Dollys skirts...
...I then added pink edible pearls (Cachous), and pale pink pre-purchased flowers.

I thought Dolly's 'dress' needed more colour, so I also added these yellow flowers, reversing the pink ones with yellow centres. To me, Chintz is always yellow...

 I loved my pretty Dolly Varden Cake.
Are you tempted to make one?


  1. Pink and green are my favorite colors and I love the name of the cake. I'll add this to my 'when I get around to it file'. It sure is pretty. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love a bit of history mixed in with the recipe. My my Dolly's skirt was short for that era. I imagine those shapely legs and ankles made that card very popular. No I'm not tempted to make a Dolly Varden cake, I'll try the fish

  3. No Mimi, I am not tempted to make the cake but I can enjoy your photos and imagine what it tastes like. It looks fantastic.

  4. Mimi, your cake turned out absolutely lovely!

  5. That is simply gorgeous.

    But I would never have the patience, to make one. :-)

    Gentle hugs,
    Luna Crone

  6. I think the cake NEEDED those yellow flowers, as well. It looks so yummy! I was just reading Annabel's blog and her Armenian Nutmeg sounds yummy too...there is definitely a cake in my very near future!

  7. Lovely! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx