This delicious apple cake has been the calling card at local dances, birthdays and parties for the Draper family of Arthurs Creek and surrounds for generations. It is perhaps not surprising that they like their apples, as their ancestor, Charles Draper, was the pioneer fruit grower of the district.
Charles Draper, his wife Catherine, and their two children arrived in Port Phillip (Victoria) in 1853. In 1862 he was one of the first selectors to acquire land in Arthur’s Creek which he named ‘Charnwood’ after forest area of Leicestershire, England where he grew up.
In the 1880s when the Arthurs Creek district became a major source of Melbourne’s fruit supply it was reported that one of the best, and most extensive, orchards in the colony was situated at ‘Charnwood’. Not a bad achievement for a self-taught horticulturalist. As well as winning awards, Charles Draper’s fruit was exhibited internationally, including at the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873; American Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia in 1876; Paris Exhibition in 1878; and Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London in 1886. Prior to 1873 fruit was modelled in wax for display overseas. The Museum of Victoria’s collection includes forty wax models, made by Thomas McMillan in 1875, of apples and pears grown by Charles Draper.
Charles Draper was one of the first Victorians to export apples and introduced the Jonathan variety of apple from America under the name of Marston’s Red Winter. His official horticultural roles included being a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society of London, and of the Victorian Horticultural Society, and on the inaugural Board of Advice for the Management of the Horticultural Gardens at Burnley. When he died in 1909 his name was a household word among fruit growers who regarded him as an authority on the orchard.
The original recipe for the apple cake continues to be passed down through the family, sometimes with an individual tweak or two, and in 2011 Ross McDonald and Bruce G. Draper (both descendants of Charles and Catherine Draper) were invited to give a presentation at the Eltham District Historical Society where they hoped to introduce guests to the historic Draper Apple cake. The recipe was kindly passed to them by Rosemary Inglis, a descendent of the Glenburn branch of the Draper family (also descended from Charles and Catherine), and was generously baked on this occasion by a member of the Eltham District Historical Society.
3 large cups of plain flour.
3 teaspoons of cream of tartar.
1 ½ teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda.
1 small cup of butter or dripping.
½ a cup of sugar.
Apples stewed and well-drained.
To make the historic cake:
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Rub butter into dry ingredients. Add eggs (and a small amount of cold water if necessary). Divide pastry in half and roll out on a well-floured slab. It is very short and falls apart easily but can be patched.
Place on the oven try.
Spread apple on half the pastry and cover with remaining pastry.
Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
Set the cake on top of a wire rack which has been set on a rimmed baking sheet. Ice the cake using a small spatula to smooth and even it out. Let it dry at least 2 hours before slicing the cake.
To make the historic icing:
4 large egg whites
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Whisk in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until you have a smooth icing. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
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