5,000 hungry WI delegates? Let them eat cake!

A long-standing member of the WI is cooking up a plan to feed the 5,000 delegates at the Federation’s annual meeting to celebrate the movement’s centenary.

Patricia Tulip, treasurer of Howick WI, is one of two trustees on the National Federation of Women’s Institutes’ (NFWI) board who are baking 5,000 pieces of fruit cake in their own kitchens in celebration of 100 years of the WI in 2015.

Patricia Tulip with one of her cakes.

Patricia Tulip with one of her cakes.

As part of the celebrations and to honour the WI’s expertise and heritage in baking and cooking, the NFWI launched a competition among members to find the best fruit-cake recipe.

After much careful baking and tasting, the winning recipe was selected, and now Patricia, chairwoman of the national Cookery Committee, and Anne Harrison, chairwoman of the WI’s iconic Denman educational college, are using the winning recipe to bake all 5,000 portions in their homes ahead of the NFWI Annual Meeting in June. A serving of cake made to the winning recipe will be given to each of the 5,000 WI members who attend the meeting, which will be held at the Royal Albert Hall.

Anne said: “The winning recipe has an excellent flavour – it’s nice and moist, bakes well and it cuts nicely, which is really important when you’re making 5,000 pieces!

“My kitchen is completely upside down right now – my husband thinks I’m crackers to have taken this on, but I’ve not regretted it yet!”

My husband thinks I’m crackers to have taken this on, but I’ve not regretted it yet!

Anne Harrison

Patricia, from Bilton, near Alnmouth, added: “Although this has been a daunting task, we all work better with a challenge. It all boils down to being organised – I’ll be making two cakes a day for 11 days.”

A whole host of special activities and projects are taking place throughout 2015 to celebrate the centenary of the WI, which is the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK.

Integral to this year’s celebrations, the centenary fruit cake competition is a nod to the WI’s well-renowned home-baking heritage. WI members have been creating and sharing recipes since the organisation’s inception back in 1915.

The winning recipe was written by Julie Clark, of North Yorkshire West Federation. It takes a total of 30 minutes to prepare and four-and-a-half hours to bake.

Centenary Celebration Cake Recipe


225g (8oz) butter, slightly softened

225g (8oz) soft dark brown sugar

4 large free-range eggs

175g (6oz) plain flour

55g (2oz) self-raising flour

80g (3oz) ground almonds

80g (3oz) glace cherries, cut into quarters

400g (14oz) currants, small pinhead

170g (6oz) sultanas

55g (2oz) mixed cut peel

½ tbsp marmalade

A wineglass of rum


1. Line a 20cm square tin with a double layer of non-stick baking parchment

2. Make a collar of folded newspaper for the outside of the tin, plus a thick piece of newspaper for the cake to sit on

3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

4. Beat in the eggs, then stir in the flours and ground almonds

5. Fold in the fruits, followed by the marmalade and the rum. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed

6. Transfer to cake tin and smooth the top

7. Bake the cake at 160°C /fan oven 140°C gas mark 3

8. Turn down the heat after ½ - ¾ hour to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/gas mark 2 and bake until cooked - anywhere between 2-3 ½ hours

9. Use your common sense and turn down the oven as necessary if the cake is getting too brown