The Eccles Affair
When a cake is centuries old, people feel strongly about it
There were some objections to the modernised Eccles cake in our "Best of British" issue (July 29).
Eileen Matthews wrote: "Which genius invented your faux Eccles cake? Here is my lazy way of making them. For the filling, beat 30g butter and 30g brown sugar until fluffy. Add 30g mixed peel (optional) and 60g currants. Cut frozen flaky pastry into 8cm rounds. Place a spoonful of filling inside circle, wet circle all round, pull up sides, scrunch together, turn over onto floured board and roll fairly flat. Score top with lattice pattern, brush with egg white and sugar. Bake at 210°C for 15 minutes or until golden.
"How do I know about Eccles cakes? I was born in Eccles, where there was an Eccles cake shop, that had been there since the 1700s, operating from a terraced house. According to my sister these cakes are no longer made in Eccles, but in Bolton."
And we received this from Ann Shone: "First my mother and then I have made many Eccles cakes. I even taught my Home Economics students how to make them. Your recipe looks delicious but sadly it is NOT the traditional English Eccles cake."
Ann's husband Dick Shone added: "I concur with Ann's comments - I wouldn't dare do otherwise, but I also consider myself something of an expert on Eccles cakes, having practically existed on them in the NAAFI [Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes] canteen during my army service in the 1950s. An important thing to remember, which She Who Must be Obeyed omitted to mention, is that they should always be eaten in pairs, like kippers."
This is the traditional recipe Ann uses.
400g ready-made flaky pastry
300g mixed cake fruit, or prepared cake mince
20g brown sugar
3ml mixed spices, including nutmeg and cinnamon
1 egg, beaten with a little milk
Preheat the oven to 220°C (slightly lower for a fan oven). Roll out the pastry fairly thinly and cut into rounds 12-14cm in diameter. Layer the remaining pastry (to keep the flaky texture), re-roll and cut more rounds.
Mix all the filling ingredients together. Place a rounded tablespoonful of the filling in the centre of each round of pastry and top with a sliver of butter.
Dampen the pastry edges with water and pull up the edges towards the centre. Pinch together to seal at the centre. Turn the shape over, sealed side down, and roll flat until the fruit just shows through. Place on a greased baking tray and slash the top with a knife three times. Glaze with egg and milk wash and sprinkle with caster sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Delicious - they won't last long!