The base is smothered with jam and raisins....
....topped with sweet sponge.....
I confess that what drew me to this recipe was its name. “Why?” I hear you ask - well because Loch Katrine was the subject of a William Topaz McGonagall poem. “Who?” I hear you ask - well he is widely acknowledged to be the world’s worst ever poet – clumsy word order, limited vocabulary, poor rhymes, lack of sensitivity – it’s all there! Definitely in the “so bad it’s good” category his poetry recitals often ended with him being pelted with rotten fruit and eggs brought along by the crowd who took grim delight in “poet baiting”. Most people would be deterred by this and start to doubt their talent but not McGonagall, oh no…spurred on by his talent he also decided he would be an actor. Somehow landing the role of Macbeth, he felt that the actor playing MacDuff was trying to upstage him so, in retaliation, he refused to die resulting in him being dragged off stage.
One of my favourite McGonagall stories is when he walked 60 miles during rain and storms to Balmoral to ask Queen Victoria to make him Poet Laureate. She wasn’t in so he walked home. Sadly, he didn’t try again meaning that Britain was deprived of the greatest potential Laureate.
But back to Loch Katrine. Many McGonagall poems were in praise of beautiful Scottish landmarks and scenery. Unfortunately he had a limited vocabulary so recycled couplets which can often give you a strange sense of deja vu when reading the poems – “trees and shrubberies green / most lovely to be seen” is a particularly common one.
While you are eating your Loch Katrine cake, you may like to ponder this interesting fact included in the poem, the word order in the second and last sentences being particularly representative of his work:
And as I gaze upon it [Loch Katrine], let me pause and think,
Nowadays, signed McGonagall works sell for more at auction than first edition Harry Potter books. I think such recognition would have pleased McGonagall greatly.
For the base:
125g self raising flour
60g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Milk, to bind – I needed 4 tablespoons
For the topping:
4 tablespoons raspberry jam
A generous handful of raisins
60g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
150g self raising flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Milk – if needed, I didn’t.
For the icing:
270g icing sugar
2 teaspoons butter, melted
Vanilla extract or lemon juice as required (if you’re using vanilla add 2-3 teaspoons and then water, if using lemon use the juice of 1 lemon)
How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease a 25cm x 18cm baking dish – ideally about 3cm deep.
- Make the base by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and then add enough milk until the pastry comes together. Mine took 4 tablespoons but add it gradually so the pastry doesn’t get too sticky.
- Roll out the pastry and use to line the greased dish.
- Spread the pastry with raspberry jam and then scatter the raisins on top. Ensure the raisins are well distributed so that every slice will get some!
- Now make the topping. Start by creaming together the butter and sugar. The mix will not go pale and light and fluffy as you might expect because of the ratios involved – there is hardly any butter to the sugar. Mix until the ingredients look well combined.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time and also beat in the vanilla extract, if using.
- Fold in the sifted flour and if the batter looks a bit dry add some milk. My mix didn’t need any milk.
- Spoon over the base and spread over so all the jam and raisins are covered.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took exactly 30 minutes. The cake has quite a thick crust on the top – don’t worry about this as it tastes lovely and gives a nice surface for the icing to adhere to.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cold cover with icing.
- To make the icing put the icing sugar and vanilla/lemon in a bowl and stir until all the lumps are removed and a thick paste is formed.
- Stir in the melted butter and spread over the cake. Work quickly as the icing sets rapidly.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.