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.
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.
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”.
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)
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
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.