Toni enters the room and it’s a sudden bust of energy as she greets me in her unique American English flavored with subtle British inflexions! She settles with a cup of coffee and the air becomes almost fizzy with her energy. Her laughter is infectious as she announces: “I’ve hopped on the coffee train since I’ve been in Finland, even though we Brits usually prefer our tea!” In Finland for 9 years and just moved back from Pori to Helsinki, her musical family clearly influenced her career choice! Daughter of Black Sabbath lead guitarist Tony Iommi, there is no doubt that music is at the centre of her life! While cutting into the crumbly and delicious cake filled with dried nuts and fruits, the solo Singer explains the process of what she calls her “Organised mess” and how Finland has influenced who she is as a person and an artist:
“Finland is such an important place for me! When I moved here, through the silence and space, I found myself. This is the one place that allows you the time and space to explore who you truly are. Once I had this time, my music changed.”
When prompted to share her food story, she starts: “I like everything; even the most unusual food like frog legs or squid; for a while I was a vegetarian but it requires a very structured approach and I was doing it all wrong, so for health reasons I had to turn back to eating meat”. Living with a professional athlete and his children, she admits that cooking can become a bit of a challenge to accommodate everyone’s individual requirements. Her love of food makes up for it though as she adamantly claims the importance of food and its olfactive memory.
This recipe comes from her Stepmom Maria Sjöholm, lead vocalist in the all-girl Swedish metal band: Drain STH. She is the one who conveyed Toni her love of food:
“She is my food hero”
“She is a fabulous cook and this cake is her recipe. Making it is one of our Christmas traditions and is so dear to me as it reminds me of family time, eating it until the last crumb is gone and complaining later that we should have been more moderate! I bake it all year long, being away from home, the taste of it instantaneously brings me back home.”
One of the key learnings from her Step-mom is to respect the process, to not try and rush things that cannot be rushed.
“When making food you have to be patient; if a stew needs 5 hours, then it does. The result will only better at the end”.
Toni is a resilient and charismatic individual- A few minutes with her, and one cannot help but be charmed by her storytelling abilities and the unique way she imitates a voice, a movement, re-enacting the situation to bring her audience closer! When she recalls a moment, she tells the story and immediately leads her auditor to experience that instant with her.
As the last crumb of the cake lingers on the plate, the reminiscing of cosy winter evenings sparkles in a hundred evanescent memories, the soft sweetness of the dried fruits accompany her stories and I am transported.
“All year long” Christmas cake recipe
This Nut & fruit cake is sugarfree and can be made in advance. As it is fairly rich it serves between 6 and 8 people
- 250g of unsalted Butter
- 2 1/2 dl Plain Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 20 Chopped dried apricots
- 10 Chopped dried Prunes
- 2 dl Raisins
- 2 dl whole Hazelnuts (~125g)
- Preheat the over to 150 degrees Celsius
- Mix together the flour the salt and the baking powder – set aside
- Chop roughly the fruits, and add the flour with the nuts whole
- Beat the eggs with a fork and add to the flour & Fruit mixture and add the melted unsalted butter (if using salted butter , omit the salt)
- Pour the batter into a cake form and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until nice and golden on top
- If you can be patient, Let it sit for 2 days as the ingredients come together nicely
Enjoy with tea like a proper Brit and serve with some whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream on the side!