I know, I know … Fruit Cake, the most hated cake in the world!  I’ve heard all the jokes . . .

“only good as a door stop”
“found one in King Tut’s tomb and it was still edible”
… “advice is like fruit cake, something everyone gives, but no one wants
… “a cake made during the holidays that’s heavier than the oven it was baked in

but I LOVE fruit cake.  There I said it!  And this Scottish classic is one of my favorites.  Why?  Because it is made with sweet, thick orange marmalade, giving it a wonderful orangey flavor.  And to be an ‘authentic’ Dundee cake, the marmalade should be made with Seville oranges from Spain.  If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Seville, you can’t help but gaze in wonder at the over 40,000 orange trees which line the streets.  At times, the trees are bursting with so much fruit, the streets are just littered with these brightly-colored orbs.

Sometimes referred to as ‘bitter orange’, the Seville orange originated in China and was among the many foods and spices traded along the spice route.  These trees were eventually cultivated in Spain and Portugal around the 10th century.  Interestingly, these oranges aren’t really eaten in Spain.  More than 15,000 tons are shipped to Great Britain each year.

How did the oranges end up in Dundee, Scotland?  Because of a storm at sea!  A Spanish cargo ship carrying goods and produce crashed into the rugged coastline in Dundee.  Among the many goods on the ship were oranges.  The oranges were ruined and couldn’t be sold, but a local  merchant, James Keiller, bought the load at a discounted price.  Keiller already sold jams in his shop and incorporated the oranges, fruit, pith and peel, into the recipe.  Food historians say it was his mother, Janet Keiller, who then took the marmalade and used it in a fruit cake, now known as the Dundee cake.

Keiller was the first to successfully commercialize his brand of marmalade using these bitter oranges and is responsible for the popularity of Scotland’s sweet breakfast treat.  When the British Trademark Registry Act came into existence in 1876, Keiller’s Dundee Orange Marmalade was one of the first brands to be formally registered.  In the 1920s, Keiller’s was purchased by Crosse & Blackwell, a name with which most of us are familiar.  That company was then sold to another very familiar name in the jam and preserves industry, Robertson’s.

Other historians say the Dundee cake is attributed to Mary Queen of Scots in the 1500s who didn’t care for traditional fruit cakes with all the glacéd fruits and cherries.  To please the Queen, her royal baker then made a cake which only had raisins, almonds and the bitter Seville oranges.  But the timelines vary too much for me.  The Dundee cake is made with orange marmalade which seems to have been created 100 years after Mary Queen of Scots would have enjoyed it.  Although marmalade has  been around since Roman times, it was almost always made with quince and honey, as a way of preserving the fruit.  The name “marmalade” actually originates from the Portuguese word “marmelo” or quince.  Believed to be the first published recipe for orange marmalade was found in a cookbook written by Eliza Cholmondeley in 1677.

However this spice cake came to be, by the 19th century, the Dundee cake was served in tea rooms across Great Britain and was the dessert of choice for  Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II.  As with many ‘historical’ foods, an application has been filed by Dundee bakers for protected status for this spice cake with the EU.  The bakers’ hope is to keep this centuries old cake from becoming a cheap imitation of the original.  Let’s hope the rights are granted.

If you’re a fan of OUTLANDER, I’m sure Claire and Jamie would’ve eaten a few of these almond-studded Scottish fruit cakes during their time at Lallybroch.  I may not be a time traveler, but I am a fruit cake lover.  And, if you are too, I hope you have an opportunity to make and enjoy this classic fruit cake over the holidays.  Its perfect with a steaming hot cuppa!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
References:  Walkers, Wikipedia, Food List, 196 flavors, IFoodTV, Daily Record, Scotsman Food and Drink, Andalucia


What a great name!  It tells you everything you need to know … for outdoor people everywhere, to go anywhere, at any time, over any sort of terrain.  And, if you are British, you either own one or you’d like to own one.  Well, my hubby doesn’t own one, but has always wanted to.  So, when I saw the Land Rover Experience while perusing activities available to us while in the U.K., I immediately booked it.

If you are unfamiliar with the Land Rover (which would surprise me), let me just say that it is probably, except for perhaps the Rolls Royce or Aston Martin, Britain’s best known automobile.  Marketed as the “go anywhere option for the farmer, the countryman and general industrial use”, it is and has been, since its introduction in 1948, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite vehicle.  Not only is this the Queen’s favorite car, it has been a favorite of other royals as well as well-known political figures and celebrities from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, Sean Connery and Paul McCartney.

Although Queen Elizabeth is not, by law, required to have a driver’s license, she did learn to drive in 1945 as a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) where she trained as a mechanic and military truck driver.  For official engagements, she often rides in the backseat of her custom-built Bentley, but her vehicle of choice is her Land Rover.  On occasion, the Queen can still be seen navigating the streets of London, or cruising across the fields of her Balmoral Estate in her 2015 Land Rover.

Queen Elizabeth II driving a Range Rover at the International Carriage Driving Grand Prix.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

This boxy 4-wheel drive, off-road icon was actually inspired by the then American Motors Corporation’s Jeep.  The AMC Jeep, created in 1940, was designed to be an off-road army vehicle specifically to be used in WWII.  It was so popular, the Jeep became even more in demand after the war.  Designers everywhere loved the basic utilitarian look of this vehicle, calling it a “masterpiece”.

Land Rover on Jeep Chassis 1948

Maurice Wilks was chief designer at the Rover Company, a British car manufacturing company known for high-quality vehicles.  Maurice’s brother, Spencer was managing director.  Inspired by the American war vehicle, on his farm in Anglesey, Maurice and Spencer built a prototype in 1947, using a Jeep chassis, and military surplus supplies from the war.

I don’t think I need to go over the Land Rover‘s unique features and specifications, nor do I think I need to cite all its military capabilities and its combat tours with not only the British Armed Forces, but also the Australian Armed Forces.  You might be interested to know, however, road accident statistics show the Land Rover to be one of the safest cars on British roads.  But, what I do want to talk about is the Land Rover Experience.

It is one thing to buy a Land Rover.  It is quite another to know how to drive a Land Rover.  Established in 1990, Land Rover organized a network of centers throughout the world to help customers learn how to get the most out of their vehicles’ on and off-road capability.  Not only do they instruct customers in driving their cars, they also offer a fun, exciting adventure in off-road driving for those of us who do not own one of these all-terrain automobiles.

We booked the experience in the beautiful countryside of North Yorkshire.  Pulling up to the castle, there they were, a fleet of white vehicles all lined up and ready for you to take out.  After all the necessary paperwork, licenses, waivers, etc., we were introduced to our co-pilot and handed the keys.  Our personable instructor could not have been more experienced or a better host.  Fully versed in all the vehicles capabilities, off we went onto Mother Nature’s “track”, with our qualified co-pilot up front, hubby nervously driving and me tucked safely away in the back.

Starting the drive, you’re taken in by the beauty of the area, from dense, lush forests to open fields and pastures.  You can spot deer who perk up when they hear the automobile coming.  Pheasant and grouse dart across the terrain.  It’s quite beautiful.

The terrain was, however, challenging to say the least.  With typical British weather, the recent rains had certainly added an element of breath-taking moments, negotiating the rivulets that ran through the forest.  There were times I was sure, while balancing on a rock, that we were going to topple over, but the automobile took on each obstacle with the tenacity of a warrior.  If you want to pull over, take photos, swap drivers, that’s not a problem.  It’s your day to enjoy.  Now let’s be clear, this is not a ‘test drive in the hopes that you are going to purchase this car’ ride.  This is a bonafide adventure course with an experienced instructor who, with his guidance, takes you over some of the most difficult terrain you’ll ever come across while driving.  It was exhilarating, challenging and so much fun!

This British icon has always been ‘a car of the people’, from Royals to the dairy farmer and there are very few vehicles which can actually wear that title.  If you are traveling in England and looking for something a bit different to do, I  recommend this experience to everyone.  We chose North Yorkshire for our drive, but there are other centers around the country.  And, they offer half-day to full-day experiences.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely!  And now I’ve learned that Land Rover offers the Land Rover Experience here in the States, as well as longer adventure travel packages.  From the warm welcome to the confidence boosting off-road driving challenges, I couldn’t recommend this unique adventure more.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
References:  Jeep-Wikpedia, Cheat Sheet, CNN, LandRoverUSA, Yorkshire Experience, Wikipedia Rover,



“Dollar Princesses” … until today I had never heard that term before.  Fascinating when you consider I’ve watched every single episode of Downton Abbey (maybe twice) and thought I had a very good grasp of every character and plot line.   But, today I learned about “dollar princesses”, and I am fascinated.

Lady Grantham, Cora Crawley

Lady Grantham, Cora Crawley

Cora Crawley was a “dollar princess” … coming from an extremely wealthy American home, “new” money or the “nouveau riche” as they were often called, yet with none of the social standing that the aristocracy or “old money” could provide.  Cora may have been a fictitious character, but she was based on a composite of many American heiresses who could not find acceptance at home.

After the Civil War, from about 1870 to 1910, America changed quite drastically.  With the rapid growth of railroading, mining and the steel industry, simple men who saw the future, worked hard and invested wisely became millionaires. The American wage rose much higher than those in Europe and Europeans from impoverished countries started flocking to the shores of the United States.  Termed the “Gilded Age” by Mark Twain, a man who was appalled during this time of extremes –  from abject poverty to excessive wealth.  Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, said about The Gilded Age, “This was a vivid time with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”   

If the now ended British series, Downton Abbey, is new to you, I’ll give you a little bit of a background on Cora.  She was (as we have now learned) an American Gilded Age “dollar princess“, who at the age of 20, was pressured by her very rich Jewish father into marrying Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham and member of aristocracy.  Cora’s dowry was controlled through the marriage contract by the head of the Grantham family (a man, of course).  Cora and Robert had three daughters, but not a son (who would eventually be heir to the fortune). It’s 1914, the world is in conflict, the Grantham estate’s money is beginning to run out, and so the story begins …

There were quite a few “dollar princesses” who had a large impact on Great Britain. And, it seems, that today every old aristocratic British family has a connection to at least one of these young American women … from Prince Charles on down.

One of the most important “dollar princess” who, without question, made the biggest impact not only for Great Britain but for the world, is Jennie Jerome.   Born in Brooklyn, New York (before Brooklyn was part of New York City), Jennie was the second of Leonard and Clarissa Jerome’s four daughters.  Through his successes in business and investments in this Gilded Age, Leonard became one of the richest men in New York.  But despite his wealth he was shunned by the New York elite, known as the Knickerbockers.  These “old money” families were run by the matriarchs, none of whom would have anything to do with Clarissa.  Having had enough of this snubbing, Clarissa decided to take her daughters to Europe, where she hoped they would be welcomed by the upper levels of society and perhaps gain a title.

Jennie Jerome

Jennie Jerome

Europe opened her arms to the Jerome’s and the other American “swells” who began to cross the pond looking for social acceptance.  It was at a grand ball in 1873 where the beautiful, dark-haired Jennie, aged 19, met the dashing and handsome, 24 year old Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill. Lord Randolph fell for the dark-haired beauty immediately.  After three days they considered themselves “engaged to be married”, but the wedding wouldn’t take place for another year.

During their marriage, Jennie gave birth to two sons, Winston and John.  The name, Winston Churchill, may sound familiar to you as he later became Prime Minister of England and one of the most powerful men in the world.

Although Jennie was the first and probably most well known of the “dollar princesses”, she wasn’t the only one.  Young American heiresses, mostly prompted by their families, we eager be introduced to European aristocracy and to started consulting publications like The Titled American, a quarterly magazine which listed all the eligible bachelors from British noble families.  Europeans knowing these newly minted fortunes would help prop up their costly estates were also eager to participate.  Ultimately many other young, rich American women found their lives and loves in Europe. Jennie’s husband, Randolph’s brother became infatuated and later married the wealthy American widow, Lily Hammersley, to become Duchess of Marlborough.  Jennie’s close friend, Consuelo Yznaga, whose father owned several plantations and a sugar mill, married George Montague, 8th Duke of Manchester to become the Countess of Manchester.

Minnie Stevens

Minnie Stevens

Daughter of the famed hotelier, Paran Stevens, 20 year old Minnie Stevens left New York City bound for Europe in 1872 and found love with Sir Arthur Henry Fitzroy Paget, later to become Commander-in-Chief of Ireland.  Minnie was actually responsible for introducing quite a few American heiresses to wealthy European suitors and earned the nickname “the American Queen of British society” playing the million dollar matchmaker to British men.

Not every marriage was built on love, however. One very famous arrangement was that the wealthiest of the “dollar princesses”, heiress to the Vanderbilt railroad millions, Consuelo Vanderbilt.  Ms. Vanderbilt, whose godmother, Consuelo Yznaga, and for whom she was named, married the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Charles Spencer-Churchill, at the insistence of her mother.  Although she loved another, Ms. Vanderbilt couldn’t stand up to her powerful mother and the ‘deal’ was made.  As part of the marriage contract, Charles Spencer-Churchill collected a dowry worth approximately $2.5 million (about $67 million today).

Other “dollar princesses” included:  Mary Leiter, Lady Curzon and Vicereine of India; Mary Goelet, the Duchess of Roxburghe; and Cara Rogers, Lady Fairhaven.  Even Princess Diana was descended from New York heiress Frances Ellen Work.  I’m sure quite a few of us remember the American socialite (and twice-divorced) Wallis Simpson and her powerful love affair with Edward, the  Prince of Wales, who abdicated his throne as King of England.

Many of these women went on to make solid contributions to society.  They were active in politics, social and charitable causes, establishing schools and raising funds for hospitals.  They participated in the war efforts, started magazines and were the inspiration for many novels, as well as a musical play.

Americans were fascinated by British Royalty and British Royalty was fascinated by the impulsive, free spirited, and very wealthy young American beauties.  “Cash for Class” as it was called.  During this period between 1870 and 1905 approximately 350 “dollar princesses” married into British aristocracy contributing over £40 million to the British economy.  Today the equivalent would be more than £1 billion.  Is it possible these young British men, most of whom had never worked a day in their lives, would be considered fortune hunters?  Yes.  But it is also possible that these young American “dollar princesses” wanting to wear a tiara and be presented at court were able to save country estates struggling with debt and dilapidated castles, many of which would have just shriveled up and died?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
References:  Edwardian Promenade, Newsweek, Smithsonian, Scandalous Women, Wikipedia