History of Eccles Cakes
History of World Cuisines
Eccles Cakes hail from Lancashire, England and get their name from the town in
which they were first sold.
Today they are popular worldwide with the Manchester-based
Lancashire Eccles Cake company making 600,000 cakes a week of
which thousands are exported to the USA, Germany and Spain.
Contrary to what the name implies, they aren't cakes but are more a
flat pastry filled with dried fruit. Many families have their own special
recipe which has been guarded and handed down through the generations, with some
containing fresh fruit such as apples in addition to the currants or raisins,
alcohol such as brandy and spices such as nutmeg.
The predecessors of Eccles Cakes often included the use of mincemeat (see
separate history of mincemeat), yeast, rum or brandy. Perhaps one of the first
recipes for something similar was published in Mrs Elizabeth Raffaid's
1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper, although they were
referred to as "sweet patties" in that publication.
It is thought that this was the recipe on which a shopkeeper called James
Birch based modern day Eccles Cakes, was he sold in 1796 in his cake shop in
Eccles. The delicious pastries became very popular and were even
being exported to America and other parts of the world, including the West
Indies, as early as 1818.
However, it wasn't all plain sailing for Eccles Cakes, as they were
actually banned when the Puritans took power in England in 1850, for being too
rich and extravagant to be served, particular at the church at Eccles which held
a yearly service known as The Eccles Wakes, after which a fair would be held
serving food and drink, including Eccles Cakes. When the monarchy was
restored, so were the cakes.
More recently, Eccles cakes were back in the news with proposals being put to
the European Commission to stop bakers calling items "Eccles Cakes" unless they
have actually been made in Eccles, much like the French with Champagne. We
believe the verdict is still out.
Traditional Eccles Cakes Recipe
Vegetarian Dried Fruit
Pastries baked fayre
teatime England British Europe
25g/1oz Butter or Margarine
25g/1oz Soft Brown Sugar
375g/13oz Puff Pastry
1 Egg White, lightly beaten
25g/1oz Caster Sugar
Preheat the oven to 230C, 450F, Gas Mark 8, and lightly grease 2-3 baking trays.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar then add the currants and
Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to approximately 6mm/1/4 inch then cut
into 12 circles using a biscuit cutter.
Place a teaspoon spoon of the
filling in the centre of each pastry circle, dampen the
edges with water then pull the edges together and pinch to seal.
the eccles cakes over (sealed sides down) and roll flat until the fruit can just
through the pastry.
Brush with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with the caster sugar.
Make 3 small diagonal cuts in the surface of each with a sharp knife, transfer
to baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire tray to cool.