Tuesday, 30 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal, home of the mint cake, which is not really a cake, its a minty slab of sugar.  Kendal is known as "the auld grey town" but this is because of its grey limestone buildings not its mint cake, which comes in white, brown or chocolate covered slab.  The complete recipe is supposed to be a secret and the story is that Joseph Wiper intended to make some glacier mints in 1869 but left the mixture boiling, and when he returned it had started to 'grain' and become cloudy instead of clear, the rest, as they say, is history.

Wiper retired to Victoria in British Columbia in 1910 and his son set up a shop and sold Wiper's Mint Cake, which was supplied to Shackleton's 1914-17 Transarctic Expedition. In the days before energy bars and isotonic drinks this was the ultimate sugar energy hit.

The most famous of the expedition carrying Kendal mint cake was Sir Edmund Hillary's to Mount Everest where, as it says on the back of Romney's Kendal Mint , it was carried to the summit on 29 May 1953 and eaten by him and  Tenzing Norgay.  The original order for the mint cake was last minute request and was supplied in seven days, in high altitude packs.  Sweets were still rationed after the war and the staff gave up their sweet ration coupons to comply with the law, which the Ministry of Food later refunded.

In the shops of Kendal and the Lake District there is always Kendal Mint Cake in gift packs, usually with pretty pictures of the Lake District on the front, ready for people to buy and press on unsuspecting friends. It is something you either love or hate, depending on your love of sugar.

There are three main manufacturers of Mint Cake each jostling to claim themselves the authentic one.  Romney's (named after the painter),

Wilson's which is called the Original Kendal Mint Cake who started production in New Inn Yard in 1913 and which is still hand produced by boiling slowly in open copper pans.

It says on the back it is "delicious, nourishing and sustaining".  Yes I got this from Booths Supermarket today, I have not had it for years. My tooth rot of preference is Clarnico Mint Creams for the energy boost of morning mountain climbs.

Lastly we come to Quggins, "The Home of Kendal Mint" cake

"suppliers of energy and therefore very popular with outdoor pursuits like climbing and walking"
 They also produce rum butter, another Lake District delicacy, which is a whole other story.

Here is Jack Dee's take on Kendal Mint Cake.

Keen to see more words beginning with the letter K?  Jump over to ABC Wednesday for lots more.


Sylvia K said...

Always interesting and fun to learn about something you had never heard about before! I love it! And what an interesting post for the K day! Hope your week is going well!


Amy said...

Jack Dee is hysterical - very entertaining, so thank you!

Paula Scott said...

What a fun video to go with your post! I've never had Kendell mint cake. I'm wondering if it comes with chocolate on it.

jabblog said...

Great post! I like Kendal Mint Cake but a little goes a long way. It can be a bit tooth-achey ;-)

Carol said...

Keen post, Joy. I've never even heard of Kendal Mint cake. I'd like the chocolate dipped variety!

Tumblewords: said...

I'd never heard of the Kendal Mint Cake but it certainly has a long history. Of course, I'd love to try it!

Roger Owen Green said...

I did not know this. I suppose "cake" is a better term than "slab of sugar".

On behalf of the ABC Wednesday team, thank you!

Sheila said...

I hadn't realised there were so many varieties! I have tasted it some years ago but I can't remember my reaction, but it was probably favourable - I do love mints.