Eccles cakes aren’t really cakes, they are small currant filled pastries naked after Eccles, the town in Greater Manchester. Like all regional dishes their origins are unknown but were sold commercially in the town as Eccles cakes from the end of the 18th century.
They are sweet and comforting, perfect for fresher autumnal days and teas around the fire.
It’s worth making the pastry yourself – rough puff is not so bad or tricky really. It just needs a bit of time.
Rough Puff Pastry:
- 8oz/225g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3oz/75g butter or marg
- 30z/75g vegetable fat
- 1/4 pint cold water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Measure the flour and salt into a bowl. Blend the butter and fat together and form into lumps the size of walnuts. Add these lumps to the flour and stir in the water and lemon juice. Mix with a knife and turn out onto a floured surface and bring together into a ball of dough but do not knead.
Shape into a rectangle and roll into a strip. Fold into thirds (bringing the top down and the bottom up). Give it half a turn,and seal the edges. Put in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes. Repeat the rolling and folding 4 more times, resting in between each turn. Leave for 30 minutes before using.
- Rough Puff pastry as above
- 1oz/25g butter
- 1oz/25g soft brown sugar
- 1 oz/25g chopped peel
- 4oz/100g currants
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
Roll the pastry very thinly (about 1/4cm) and leave to rest while preparing the filling.
Melt the butter, stir in the sugar, peel, currants and spice. Mix well.
Cut the pastry into about 16 rounds (8 – 10cm). Place a spoonful of filling into the centre of each, Damp the edges with water , then draw up the pastry edges and seal.
Turn over and roll out into circles about 8cm across so the fruit starts to show through. Make three slits with a sharp knife across the top. Brush with milk and sprinkle with more sugar,
Place on a wetted baking tray and above centre in a very hot oven (220 degrees/Gas 7) for about 15 mins or until brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Of course there is no definitive recipe for Eccles Cakes. although the one from a recent find: ‘Recipes from an Old Farmhouse’ by Alison Uttley, is very similar. She has this to say:
“Margarine was unknown, and butter was plentiful, so we bough few cakes or biscuits and made all at home in an oven ever ready.
Although a Lancashire and Cheshire dish, Eccles cakes were a favourite in our county (Derbyshire).“
She then adds this:
“We often had a variant of this. The fruit was put in a huge flat pasty and covered with paste (pastry presumably). It was baked on a flat tim and when cold cut into narrow fingers.” Now that’s worth trying!
By the way – Alison Uttley was best known as the author of the Little Grey Rabbit books. But she also wrote this and other memoirs of growing up in rural Derbyshire. She featured in a blog post back in 2014 on the subject of patchwork quilts. Her books are worth hunting out.