Great Britain: Eccles Cake

Eccles cakes

The earliest evidence of what are now known as Eccles cakes is from 1769, when Elizabeth Raffald, housekeeper at the country house Arley Hall, wrote a best-selling recipe book which contained instructions for "sweet patties".

They were made from the gelatine extracted from a boiled calf's foot, as well as apples, oranges, nutmeg, egg yolk, currants and brandy. The whole mixture was then enveloped in puff pastry and either fried or baked.

It was James Birch of Salford who was credited with being the first person to sell them commercially. He began selling them in 1793 from his shop on the corner of Vicarage Road and St Mary's Road (now Church Street), Salford.

Eccles cakes are now well known throughout the world as a traditional English cake, though maybe not as well known as they were in past centuries. Then (as early as 1818) they were sold 'at all the markets and fairs around and are even exported to America and the West Indies'.

The recipe...

  • 1 lb (450g) Flaky Pastry
  • 3 oz (75g) Currants
  • 2 oz (50g) Mixed Peel
  • 1 1/2 oz (40g) Butter
  • Grated Nutmeg to taste

Pre-heat the Oven to 425F (220C). Melt the Butter in a small saucepan on a low heat. Take it off the heat and add the Currents, Mixed Peel & Nutmeg. Coat everything together well with the butter. Allow to cool while doing the next part.

On a lightly floured surface roll the Flaky Pastry out to a thickness of 1/3 of an inch (15mm). Using a cutter or knife cut rounds that are roughly 4 inch wide (100mm). Wet the edges of each one.

Place a generous teaspoon of the mixture in the centre of each one. Bunch up the edges of each one to the middle and pinch to seal. Lightly flour the surface a little more. Turn over each parcel bunched side down on this. Gently roll out and flatten each one until the currants peep through.

Make a shallow slice down the middle of each one. Brush with Water or Milk and sprinkle with Castor Sugar. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool.

More about Eccles cakes and how they're made: other local food info, too, at PrideOfManchester.com