Devout Puritan Oliver Cromwell imprisoned anyone found eating Eccles cakes. Oh! The unimaginable culinary terror. But what makes these cakes such a sinful delight? We expose the recipe.
Beware! Britain’s most famous dessert isn’t technically a cake, but it is a traditional puff/flaky pastry. Hailing from the town of Eccles in Lancashire, these round-flat buttery pastry disks are flaky-golden brown, spices and dry fruit-filled goodness. Typically enjoyed with afternoon tea, this pastry (or cake, if you will) is an absolute delight. But if you want to do things traditionally, serve Eccles cakes with Lancashire cheese to achieve that sweet-savoury crumbly flavour.
There have been many modifications in the Eccles cake filling over the years, but sweet currants, citrus peel, sugar and spices remain popular.
If you are in Britain, this is the most British dessert to try. The first Eccles cake was commercially sold in 1793 and continues to add taste to centuries-old culture. You won’t stop at one; the Puritans weren’t able to. For this reason, these cakes, along with mince pies, were banned in the Puritan reign.
Being a dessert, it is absolute, resulting in their massive export to the West Indies and the United States.
The Real Lancashire Eccles Cakes are available across stores, but nothing beats the buttery indulgence of homemade Eccles cakes. Today we are going to make the traditional flaky pastry Eccles cakes. Our quick Eccles cake recipe will beat the inferior taste of the ready-made ones right off your palate. Get to the kitchen; it’s time to bake.
For Eccles cake filling recipe:
- Currants or Raisins- 200gm
- Melted Butter - 25gm
- Chopped peel - 50gm
- Sugar - 100gm
- Ginger, cinnamon and allspice - 1 tsp
- 1 Lemon and 1 Orange zest
- Orange juice - 3tbsp
For Eccles cake pastry:
- Plain flour- 350gm
- Lemon juice - ½ tsp
- Iced water - 100ml
- Cold butter, cut into cubes - 250gm
- Beaten eggwhite - 1
To make Eccles cake filling:
- Melt butter in a pan.
- Mix the chopped peel in a bowl of currants.
- Add ginger, cinnamon, allspice and sugar to this mix.
- After this, add orange and lemon zest too and mix well.
- Pour 2-3tbsp of orange juice into it.
- Finally, tip the melted butter to the mix.
- Stir it well for one final time and set it aside to cool down.
To make the Eccles cake pastry:
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 8.
- Pour flour into a food processor. Add half (125gm) of diced butter cubes to it. Pulse the mix until it achieves the texture of breadcrumbs.
- Now, add lemon juice and iced water to the mix. Pulse again.
- Finally, add the other half of the butter but mix it only to attain a butter flecked dough. Remember not to pulse the dough because the pastry gets its flakiness from the specs of butter.
- Roll out the pastry mix on a flat floured surface in a rectangular shape.
- Fold the flaps of the rectangle in the middle and roll out this dough flat. Fold and refold the dough in the same way at least 3 times. Maintain a 15 minutes gap between each roll and fold. Allow this pastry to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Take the pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it flat to 5mm thickness. Using a cutter, cut as many 12-13cm rounds from this pastry.
- Pour a little less than 1tbsp Eccles cake filling mix to the middle of each round. After evenly dividing the mixture, lightly brush the edges of the pastry with water. Pinch the sides of the pastry to wrap the filling into a little packet.
- Place the wrapped pastry on a baking tray with the smooth side facing upwards. Make two small slits on this side with a knife.
- Glaze each Eccles cake with egg white mixture and sprinkle it with some cast sugar to finish off.
- Put them in the oven and bake the Eccles cakes for 15-20 mins.
- Enjoy the golden-brown cake cool or warm with a side of Lancashire cheese or cheddar.
- These Eccles cakes can be frozen and stored in an airtight container for up to a month.
In 2008 in England, the Salford Food and Drink Festival saw the world's largest Eccles Cake ever made. It weighed in at 123 pounds 14 ounces!
Mmh… The British really don’t mess with their cake, do they! For all you Eddie Izzard fans, death wouldn’t really be an option if you had one whiff of this sumptuous delight!
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Frequently Asked Queries
Q1. What's the difference between Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes?
Both Eccles cake and Chorley cakes are from Lancashire and may seem similar, but they have some differences. Chorley cakes are made from shortcrust pastry and are generally less sweet and are served with butter or cheese. Eccles cakes are made from flaky pastry and are served on their own, preferably with tea.
Q2. How do you eat Eccles cake?
Eccles cakes are best eaten warm and go well with a cup of tea. They can also be served alongside English cheddar for a sweet-savoury flavour.
Q3. Are Eccles cakes bad for you?
An Eccles cake contains 179 calories and is best when taken as an occasional treat or a cheat meal. The saturated fats in these cakes can be unhealthy if consumed daily.
Q4. Is an Eccles Cake a cake?
Eccles cakes are a flat puff pastry filled with currants rather than a traditional cake.
Q5. Why are they called Eccles cakes?
The sweet, flaky, currant-filled Eccles cakes get their name from the town of Eccles in Lancashire (now City of Salford, Greater Manchester) and date back to 17th century England.