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Recipes: Baking a slice of Fitzbillies' history

Christmas calls for sweet treats. Here, we share a pair of festive bakes from the Fitzbillies cookbook, released to mark 100 years of the Cambridge cake shop. Time to bake yourself a little slice of history

Meringue Snowmen

When running a bakery, you tend to use a lot of egg yolks, which in turn leaves you with a lot of egg whites as a by-product. Instead of letting them go to waste we make meringues to use them all up. The basic meringue recipe here could be used to make any shape you like. At Halloween we love to make meringue ghosts and at Christmas we make meringue snowmen – beloved

by adults and children alike.*


240g egg whites (240g is roughly the whites of 6 medium eggs)

420g caster sugar

400g 54% dark chocolate

Royal icing and food colourings to pipe faces and scarves (the sets of ready-to-pipe coloured icing you get at big supermarkets are a great shortcut here)


Preheat the oven to 120ºC (100ºC fan). Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

In a very clean bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy.

Keep the mixer on maximum speed and add the caster sugar, a teaspoon at a time. Continue to whisk until mixture is stiff and shiny.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (or a plastic freezer bag with the corner snipped off) and begin piping your snowmen onto the lined baking tray.

The classic snowman shape is a big blob with a smaller blob on top. You achieve this by squeezing the bag hard to make the body, then reducing pressure for the neck, then squeezing again for the head. Use the picture here as a guide. And remember, snowmen came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are all lovable.

Bake your snowmen for 1 hour 10 minutes and leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (give it 20 seconds on medium and stir, then another 20 seconds until melted), or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Dip the snowmen’s bottoms into the melted chocolate to form a neat little base and put them down on a sheet of baking parchment to set.

Use coloured royal icing to pipe on eyes, a carrot nose and a scarf.

* Adapted by Alison Wright from the Meringue Ghost recipe featured in the book.

Decorated Genoa Cake

Fitzbillies 100th Book - Genoa Cake (42908406)
Fitzbillies 100th Book - Genoa Cake (42908406)

This is the recipe that Fitzbillies has always given out whenever it’s been asked to contribute a recipe to a cookbook. It is the recipe included in Jane Grigson’s Observer Guide to British Cookery, first published in 1984. We still make it at Christmas for those people (and there are some) who prefer their fruit cake without marzipan and icing. We always love its beautiful, jewel-like topping.


150g caster sugar

150g salted butter, softened

3 medium eggs, at room temperature

175g plain flour

150g currants

150g sultanas

40g golden syrup

125g glacé cherries

75g blanched almonds

75g pecans


Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) and line an 18cm round cake tin with baking parchment so that it comes 2.5cm above the rim.

Cream together the caster sugar and butter in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in half the flour.

Mix the other half of the flour with the currants and sultanas, then carefully fold this into the rest of the mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 190°C (170°C fan) and bake for a further 30 minutes until the cake is lightly golden and just springs back to the touch. If the cake is starting to brown too much, cover the top with a double thickness of baking parchment.

Meanwhile, make the topping. In a saucepan, warm the golden syrup slightly to make it more runny, then gently mix in the glacé cherries, almonds and pecans.

When the cake comes out of the oven, spread this topping over the top of the cake and press it down evenly with wet fingers. Then place it back in the oven for a further 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Fitzbillies: Stories and recipes from a 100-year-old Cambridge bakery by Tim Hayward & Alison Wright, £15 or £20 to include a four-pack of Chelsea buns, Fitzbillies, Cambridge (42908604)
Fitzbillies: Stories and recipes from a 100-year-old Cambridge bakery by Tim Hayward & Alison Wright, £15 or £20 to include a four-pack of Chelsea buns, Fitzbillies, Cambridge (42908604)

Fitzbillies: Stories and recipes from a 100-year-old Cambridge bakery by Tim Hayward & Alison Wright is published in hardback by Quadrille. It’s available from both branches of Fitzbillies in Cambridge, Trumpington Street and Bridge Street, priced £15 or £20 to include a four-pack of Chelsea buns. See fitzbillies.com

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