Sultana lover’s sultana cake

Photographer: Emma

If Florentines are airs and graces, then Sultana cake is deception and trickery!  Its name, so hopelessly dull and uninspiring, precedes its awkward, speckled exterior to make for a cake which, were first impressions always true, would easily be overlooked.  The truth however is that sultana cake is quite the antithesis.  Zesty orange and lemon flavours contrast with the plump, succulent sultanas which generously stud this sweet almond scented cake.

I think back to our trip to Otago, to the landscape, a patchwork of infinitesimal orange and brown’s above which float dusty, slate grey clouds in an ominous autumnal sky.  This is the perfect setting in which to settle down, wrapped up against the cold, to enjoy a generous slice of this sultana cake, a cup of tea and the endless vistas that could only belong to Otago.


1 kg sultanas
3 cups water
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 orange, juice and zest
1 1/2 tsp almond essence
225g butter, roughly chopped
¾ cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder


1. Grease a 25cm square cake tin and preheat the oven to 180°C on bake.
2. Place the sultanas and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and drain well. Add the butter, almond essence, orange and lemon zest and juice and stir until the butter melts and all ingredients are combined.
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and brown sugar and then add this to the sultana mixture.
4. Sift together the flour and the baking powder, add to the sultana mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Pour mixture into a square tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.