Auntie Florence


My Auntie Florence was quite the character, tiny in stature but a huge presence.  We used to call her Mrs. Tiddywinkle after the famous character in Beatrix Potter’s tales in the Lake District.

In her later years she seems to have shrunk in stature but certainly not in personality.

When she passed away recently at the age of 88, tributes poured in from all over the world from people whose paths had crossed with her in life and particularly from the students for whom she was a familiar presence at the Cookery School.

Numerous mentions of ‘a warm welcome from this colourful character’, ‘always ready to party’, ‘always up to mischief with a glint in her eye’. ‘A much-loved social butterfly’.

Always beautifully dressed in her imitable quirky style, she loved bright colours – pink, orange, rose, colourful beads, stripy socks, jaunty scarves, sun hats in Summer, furry hats in Winter, she even had a pink one…

All her life she had a passion for horses and the races – even in her last days, a mention of Cheltenham brought a smile to her face.

Her interests were wide and varied – she loved to entertain, play bridge, the archaeological society, the Georgian society, watching the stormy seas…

She travelled all over the world rekindling treasured friendships, making new friends everywhere she went and always genuinely interested in people.  She had an uncanny way, particularly in later life, of managing to get people to do things for her.  In one of the many memorable messages on Instagram, a past student wrote she even ‘had him and his friend washing her Yaris outside the school on the last day of exams’!. My response was ‘Just as well I didn’t catch her’!

Auntie Florence will be remembered for many things, but we’ll also remember her through her recipes, she loved to cook.  Auntie Florence’s Orange cake is the stuff of legends – it was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the European Parliament and is a favourite Birthday cake for many.  I can still see her standing by the Aga, flipping her famous crumpets, the standby treat for any unexpected guests.  She even made the occasional loaf of Soda Bread up to a few weeks before she passed away.

Back in the 1950’s, before electricity had arrived in the village of Cullohill in County Laois where I was born, she would peddle her little bike all the way from Johnstown (8 miles) with a brick of HB Ice-cream carefully wrapped in layers of newspaper and a pack of wafers.  You can’t imagine the joy and excitement when we saw her coming over the hill.  Later we’d made raspberry buns from ‘All in the Cooking’ together at the kitchen table, a perfect first cooking lesson for a child eager to cook.  There are so many memories connected to food.

I remember helping to clean the wild field mushrooms we collected together and then watching her stewing them in milk on the old ESSE cooker – I can still taste the flavour….

Another random thought – she loved lambs’ kidneys and would sidle up to the students during butchery class here at the school and say, ‘I’ll have those please’!  She loved them dipped simply in seasoned flour, seasoned with salt, a few blobs of butter, a little water and cooked in the oven between two Pyrex plates.  Try it – delicious! 

And of course broth, Auntie Florence loved broth and certainly knew the value of it, she made a few attempts to die in recent years but each time, we brought her back from ‘near dead’ with organic chicken broth.  Sadly it didn’t work this time, but, when we see the stock pots bubbling, they will always remind us of Auntie Florence as will these recipes which I joyfully share with you.

Aunt Florence’s Orange Cake

Here it is, the recipe for the legendary orange cake.

Serves about 8–10

225g (8oz) butter

200g (7oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange Glacé Icing

juice of 1 orange

300g (10oz) icing sugar

1 or 2 pieces of homemade orange candied peel, optional

2 x 20cm (8 inch) round cake tins or 1 x 28cm (11 inch) in diameter and 5cm (2 inch) deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Grease and flour the cake tins. Line the base of each with silicone paper.

Cream the soft butter and gradually add the caster sugar. Whisk until soft and light and quite pale. Add the orange zest followed by the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together and stir in gradually. Mix lightly, then stir in the orange juice.

Divide the mixture evenly between the tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake for 35 minutes or until cooked. Turn out onto a wire tray and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the orange cream. Cream the soft butter; add the sieved icing sugar and orange zest. Whisk in the orange juice little by little.

To make the icing, simply add enough orange juice to the icing sugar to make a spreadable icing.

When the cakes are cold, use a serrated bread knife to split each one in two halves.  Spread with a little filling and then sandwich the two bases together.

Spread the icing over the top and sides and decorate the top with little diamonds or heart shaped pieces of orange candied peel.


Single Orange Cakes

We sometimes just ice the top and sides of each layer with orange buttercream or glacé icing.  Decorate the sides with toasted flaked almonds and the top with candied orange peel – two cakes for the price of one…

Auntie Florence’s ‘Crumpets’

Another great standby, ‘Crumpets’ are made in minutes with ingredients you’d probably have in your pantry.  A perfect solution if you’ve got nothing ‘in the tin’ when a friend drops in for tea. The problem is one always eats too many!  If you can’t find Bextartar, substitute self-raising flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

Makes 15 approx.

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1 teaspoon Bextartar (cream of tartar)

2 eggs, preferably free range

225ml (8fl oz) milk

50g (2oz) castor sugar

25g (1oz) butter

To Serve


homemade jam or apple jelly


lemon juice and castor sugar

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter. Drop the eggs into the centre, add a little of the milk and stir rapidly with a whisk allowing the flour to drop gradually in from the sides. When half the milk is added, beat until air bubbles rise. Add the remainder of the milk and allow to stand for one hour if possible. *  Drop a good dessertspoonful into a hottish pan and cook until bubbles appear on the top. It usually takes a bit of trial and error to get the temperature right. Flip over and cook until golden on the other side. Serve immediately with butter and homemade jam or better still apple jelly.  Alternatively crumpets can also be served with warm lemon juice and sprinkled with castor sugar.

* They are usually lighter if the batter is allowed to stand but I’ve often cooked them immediately with very acceptable results!

Auntie Florence’s Soda Bread

Florence sometimes added an egg to the buttermilk for extra deliciousness.

Makes 1 loaf

225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda), sieved

1 tablespoon of fine oatmeal or bran or wheat germ

25g (1oz) of butter or 2 tablespoons fresh cream

1 organic and free-range egg

400-425ml (14-15fl oz) sour milk or buttermilk

wholemeal flour for the work top and baking sheet

First preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, rub in the butter.  Add the cream (if using) and beaten egg to the sour milk or buttermilk to measure 425ml (15fl oz).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the buttermilk mixture. Using one hand, stir in a full circle, starting in the centre and working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, in a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board (use wholemeal flour).

WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 5cm (2 inches) approx. Sprinkle a little of the spare wholemeal flour from the worktop onto a baking tray.  Lay the loaf on top of the flour. Mark the surface with a deep cross and prick in each corner to let the fairies out of the bread. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further 30 minutes approximately.   Turn the bread upside down on the baking tray and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes.  The bread will sound hollow when tapped on both sides.  Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Raspberry Buns

These buns were the very first thing I remember helping my Auntie Florence to bake. My grandchildren love filling the holes in the centre with jam, just as I did – I seem to recall that the recipe came from ‘All in the Cooking’.

Makes about 10

200g (7oz) self-raising flour and 25g (1oz) ground rice


225g (8oz) self-raising flour

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) butter diced

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon full cream milk

homemade raspberry jam

egg wash

caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Put the flour and ground rice, if using, into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Toss, add in the diced butter to the flour. Then rub into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with the milk and then use a fork to mix it with the dry ingredients until you have a softish dough.

Divide the mixture in two, roll each half into a thick rope and then divide each into five pieces. Form each piece into a round and transfer to a baking tray.  Dip your thumb in flour and make an indentation in the centre of each bun.

Drop a little spoonful of raspberry jam into the hole, then pinch the edges of dough together to almost cover the jam.

Brush the top of each raspberry bun with egg wash and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, sprinkle with caster sugar and eat while nice and fresh.

Kidneys on a plate

Another of Auntie Florence’s favourites.

Serves 2

4 young lambs’ kidneys

plain white flour well-seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

20g (3/4oz) butter

2 tablespoons water

2 Pyrex plates

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

Half the kidneys and remove the ‘plumbing’.  Dip each piece into well-seasoned flour.  Arrange in a single layer on a Pyrex plate, dot with little pieces of butter and add a couple of tablespoons of cold water.  Cover with a second Pyrex plate and cook for 15-20 minutes or until no trace of pink remains. Serve with bread and butter to mop up the delicious juices.  

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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