Baking recipes

Eccles Cakes – the classic British tea cake

January 12, 2009

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Something must be kinda wrong with me recently. Maybe Christmas screwed me up…. First, I go and decide to host a “meat party” for 16 guests, when I am really a seafood cook, and then I go and bake.

Me, bake.

Any long (or not even that long) term reader (hi Mum..) will remember that not only do I completely dislike baking, but I am rather rubbish at it.

Eccles cakes however are something different. It is almost required I think that every Englishman (and woman) know how to make an eccles cake.

I grew up eating these things. In the afternoon you would always have a cupp-a-tea, and some cake. It was a very, very good day when said cake had “Eccles” in the name.

Eccles cakes are an English classic. My mother baked them, her mother baked them.. and so on. Not quite sure how old the recipe and idea was, I decided to do some research. Looks like these are about as old as the modern-day US of A. Yep – records state that the first eccles cake sold on a commercial basis was in 1793.

They originated in Salford – which means they are Northern. As a southern British bloke, that would normally mean I would laugh it, make fun of its hair and funny accent, then run away like hell, because being Northern it could kick the crap out of me. This is one little Northerner that you don’t want to run away from however.

If you ask me, for a recipe to stick around that long, it must be good. Seriously good. Now, I am the first one to knock some English food. Anyone trying to deep fry a candy bar needs to be shot for instance. One thing however – don’t mess with us Brits when it comes to either cake, or semi-hard blue cheese (Stilton). Oh, and warm ale.

So this is some English nostalgia folks. Put on some Beetles, kiss your picture of the queen, wear your Union Jack underpants and get baking.

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Yes, as the picture obviously shows, I do own a pair, and no, Danika doesn’t think they are sexy.

OK, enough tomfoolery – what the heck are Eccles cakes?

Well, they are a spiced current mix which is surrounded in puff pastry, brushed with egg and topped with a little sugar. These get baked, and fluff up. They are a lovely light bite, with a little kick of cinnamon and nutmeg, balanced out by some orange zest.

They pair absolutely perfectly with a nice cup of tea. Preferably a light Darjeeling. My personal preference is for a 2nd flush – picked later in the year, the tea has a more robust flavor.

There are a lot of eccles cake recipes out there. This one is a modification of the recipe in Delia Smith’s “Delia Smith’s Cookery Course” – an age old cook book by “the English Martha Stewart”.

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Eccles Cakes

NOTE: I use a pre-made (not by me..) puff pastry here. My pastry skills aren’t great, and this does save quite a bit of time.

1 packet puff pastry sheets (I like the high quality all butter stuff the best)

FILLING:

3oz butter

5oz light brown sugar

5oz mix of sultana’s and currents

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

grated rind of 1 orange

TO FINISH:

1 egg – lightly beaten

white sugar (granulated)

Preheat oven to 425F

To make the filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Mix into this the other filling ingredients.

Roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick onto a floured surface. Use a 4” pastry cutter to cut discs of pastry.

Put a teaspoon of the filling into the middle of one disc. Brush half of the edge of this disc with water. Bring up all the sides of the disc to the middle (above the filling), and press tightly to seal. Turn the cake over on the work surface, and gently roll it to about 1/4” to 1/2” thick. Pat into a rough round shape.

Repeat for the remaining pastry discs. Place these on a non-stick baking sheet (a greased sheet, or with parchment paper). Using a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal cuts through the top of each cake. Brush the top of each cake with the egg, and sprinkle a little white sugar over.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cake has risen. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

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  • Tartelette January 12, 2009 at 7:54 am

    If that is what you call rubbish baking I can’t wait to see when you think you’re good. You are good at it Matt :) These are perfect!

  • Alex January 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Loving the pants. The cakes look pretty good too. Apparently the top is slashed three times to remind the eater of the holy trinity.

  • sue bette January 12, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    These are the recipes that encourage me to bake a bit more – and they sound delicious when paired with an afternoon tea. Thanks for turning me on to Delia – I just wishlisted a couple of her books, I am surprised I haven’t run across her work before! Pics look lovely!

  • Jesse January 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Huh? For a non-baker those pies turned out gorgeous! What exactly are you calling rubbish again?

  • Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. January 12, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    These look darn good and recipe seems pretty easy.
    Didn’t know you have a South/North issue over there in England (like soooo many other countries in the world. why is that?)

  • matt wright January 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Tart – thanks! I can promise you I will never be good at baking!! The fact that these came out is down to two things: luck, and the fact I didn’t make the pastry.
    Alex – ah hah, I just thought they were steam vents!
    Sue Bette: This one was actually really easy. Let me know how you find Delia – since leaving the UK 7 years ago, I haven’t seen anything of her – I guess she didn’t make it across the pond.
    Jesse: Rubbish is my baking skills.. These are really easy little cake things – so even I can make them.
    Nurit: The whole North/South thing is interesting.. The south is generally seen as the more educated, higher salary, higher tech end of things, the north of England is more industrial, more agricultural I guess (though there is a lot of agriculture in the south). It is also colder up North. Harder living if you ask me – breads harder people. Anytime you get a difference in people, there is always some cheeky divide… It is all just good fun really though.

  • cindy January 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    when i saw this i had to look twice to realize this post was by you…out of character indeed. but they turned out beautifully! i’d be proud if i were you.

  • helen January 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    My boyfriend speaks fondly of the eccles cake and Queen’s pudding that his grandmother use to make. Yours look delicious!

  • Food Woolf January 13, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Uh, hello handsome baker! Great recipe and amazing pictures. And it’s nice to see that you have baking fears too! I hate baking!

  • Y January 13, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Never had warm ale (not sure it would be my mug of beer..), but I love stilton and eccles cakes! Had a beautiful one at St. John on London, paired with cheese. MmmmMM! Yours look fantastic – I can’t believe you think you’re a rubbish baker!

  • brittany January 13, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Oh my GOD!! Eccles!
    I became dangerously addicted to eccles in culinary school. They are so simple and perfect.
    It’s been too long. Time to thaw some puff…..
    (I too, cheat with the puff.)

  • Judy January 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I LOVE eccles! Growing up with a Mum from England we grew up on these. With a hot cuppa with lots of milk they were a staple. I have to make these. Yes I will use pre made puff…and not by me!!!

  • Indigo January 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    As a Northern girl (living in Southampton at the moment – what am I doing here?!) I’m so qualified for these. I would do the crap-kicking thing, but, uh, I like cake.

  • mattwright January 13, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    cindy: thank you! they are rather simple to make though..
    helen: I have never had Queen’s pudding.. sounds, er, interesting!
    FoodWolf: Now I am blushing… and baking sucks, but I like to eat cake.
    Y: Warm ale is great, but is an acquired taste! Ohh, I never thought about these with cheese, what a lovely idea
    Brittany: YAY!!! so even top-notch pastry chefs cheat with the puff!!! They really are so simple and perfect aren’t they!!!!
    Judy: mmmm hot tea with milk
    Indigo: You would kick the crap out of me, and eat my cake? blimey.. you are Northern aren’t you

  • ts January 13, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    You can buy puff pastry from Columbia City Bakery – best to call first. I think it comes frozen. I like Eccles Cakes even though I say I don’t like raisin type things in sweets. Go figure.

  • Heather January 15, 2009 at 2:20 am

    I’m terribly sorry, but that shot of your knickers got me all aswoon and I couldn’t pay attention to the rest of the post.

    Also, I seem to recall you apologetically cranking out pretty cracking pasties not too long ago, with similar “me mum’ll be shocked” sentiments. You can bake just fine, even if it’s not your favorite thing.

  • Danika January 17, 2009 at 6:52 am

    That looks especially scrumptious! Oh and the cakes look good too ;)

  • Scott at Realepicurean January 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve never made eccles cakes but yours sound fantastic. I’m happy to have just discovered your blog – a fellow brit with, it appears, similar values to my own!

  • Maggie January 21, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Something new to me but they look and sound wonderful!

  • Teri Lyn Fisher February 8, 2009 at 3:52 am

    I Love that mug with the red on the inside! Such a nice splash of color. These look amazing. Im trying these. I am with you on the store bought pastry though, its so much easier. Making pastry is hard.

  • MoniMoni February 18, 2009 at 3:47 am

    I am a life-long fan of the eccles cake. If you are ever on Salt Spring Island, BC, there is a fantastic bakery called Embe Bakery. I’ve tried eccles cakes all over the globe, or at least whenever I’ve found one, and the Embe variation remains the cake to beat! Now, if only I can get up the guts to make them myself!

  • LDB February 25, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I’m originally from Eccles (unfortunately swamped by Salford a few years ago but still a distinct town). Sultanas in Eccles cakes…..never never never! Small vine fruit only which means currants, sultanas turn them into the rubbish they sell in the south of England as Eccles Cakes.

  • mattwright February 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    LDB: The last time I went to Salford (15 years ago), there was a teenager running around with a gun outside a school!
    I guess my recipe is rather South of England then! If you have a genuine Eccles recipe, I would love to hear it!

  • Berna Alvarez March 23, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Excellent information and recipes. Yum!!! thank you for sharing.

  • Kate March 27, 2009 at 1:32 am

    These look absolutely smashing. As a total Anglophile (at least when it comes to teacakes!) they’re totally going in my queue.

  • gladys August 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

    My mom came from England…I live in Texas and have dreamed of Eccles cakes for years…didn’t think of going on line until today…thanks for the recipe and pics …great!!! I want to have a proper British tea( is it high tea?) for my friends. I have her china cups…mom passed away…what woud that include? THANKS again. Just noticed you live in Seattle…am going there next week to visit my daughter in Bellevue…lovely country…do you have a shop there?

  • rick December 16, 2009 at 3:42 am

    hey, thanks for the recipe—-i first heard this item mentioned on ‘coronation street’.
    tonight deirdre is making ken a ‘cottage pie’. any help?

  • Christene December 17, 2009 at 3:21 am

    I am also from Texas, however my mother is from Manchester, (Salford). She just turned 80 in October and we gave her a surprise “tea”. We had about 80 people! So, for our family Christmas get together this Saturday, I asked her if she had any food requests-I am already bringing a trifle. She wants me to bring Eccles cakes, which is how I found this site. Imagine my surprise when I get: a great recipe (in ounces-which I need!), beautiful pictures so that I know what they’re supposed to look like, and to top it all off I get to see a hot guy’s undies. Wow!

    To Gladys: I am a member of the Daughter’s of the British Empire. We have tea about once a month. You should look up to see if there’s a group near you-Houston has an active chapter, I know.

  • Lydia (NYC) March 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    WOW! Haven’t had an eccles cake since I visited friends in Yorkshire back in 1990’ish……… They would toast them (top of the “cooker”) and put a wee bit of butter (Lurpac is Phenom.) on the bottom & enjoy with tea.. me, being of Italian descent enjoyed them just as much with my Cafe Latte…………..

  • Weekend Carnivore May 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I am an American that live in London (did we switch?) and I am loving your blog!

  • Vilma July 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I tried eccles cakes in Wales, in Porthmadog this february, I found them really good, I live in Mendoza, Argentina, a region that produces a lot of wine, and raisins of course, thanks for the recipe very clear and easy to do, hope they come out as yours,
    Muchas gracias, thanks a lot
    Vilma

  • George Halligan September 14, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    NO NO this will not do!! Having grown up in Liverpool, but now living in New Zealand, I remember just what an Eccle cake was! NO sultanas. NO peel NO spices. Just a lovely light flaky puff pastry, strewn with sugar and a tad of egg on the crust, and containing ONLY currants and brown sugar and butter, and with a hell of lot more filling than that shown.
    Don’t allow this dilution of a classic dish, it’s like making hollandaise without butter or egg yolks!…