Montrose Cakes, Angus and Dundee
If you have a prejudice that Scottish cooking as all robust porridge and haggis these traditional sweet buns may alter your perception. But it may be that they are not entirely dissociated with, say, haggis in that the name of that latter national dish is derived from the French hâché, or chopped, indicating the links political and culinary between Scotland and France. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Montrose Cakes share such a background, their use of rosewater perhaps pointing towards an outside (Gallic rather than Gaelic) influence.
Alternatively, or maybe in parallel, the cakes may have originated in the household of the Duke of Montrose, or to celebrate that figure, given both the second syllable of the name, and the coat of arms of the Duke which bears six red roses (along with six scallop shells). The Angus town of Montrose too can lay a claim to the things, the words “rosa decorat” in its motto reflected in the flavouring of these delicate little cakes.
The cakes are made with equal weights of self-raising flour, sugar, and butter, two large or three small/medium eggs to a quarter of a pound of flour; and half to three-quarters the weight of flour in currants or (better) sultanas. Another nod towards France is the use of brandy where Scotch might be expected, just a teaspoon or two; and the same amount of rosewater, a few years ago the Lord Lucan of flavourings but now readily available again, even in most supermarkets. A refinement is soaking the currants in a small amount of brandy before use to plump them (not needed with sultanas) and impart a little extra character. A pinch of nutmeg is the third flavour, but a tiny pinch only. The buns are baked the size of muffins or slightly smaller for the more delicate among us; they should not be overcooked, certainly with no hint of burning which would mask the fine flavour of rosewater.