Eccles cakes

Eccles cakes

By
From
The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes
8
Photographer
Bonnie Savage and Alan Benson

Years ago our friend Suzanne started a competition on Twitter to find the best Eccles cake in Melbourne. We had to make an Eccles cake as well as something to go with it, so I made potted Stilton to accompany mine – and won! Since then our Eccles cakes have become a bit of a cult item, and sell especially well at the farmers’ markets. They’re part of my culinary upbringing; we’d have them with tea as an afternoon treat.

These pastries originate from the town of Eccles in Lancashire and are traditionally served alongside hard Lancashire cheese. They are also excellent with a good strong cheddar or Stilton. The strong sharp or pungent cheese and sweet spiced fruit are a match made in heaven.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
65g unsalted butter
115g soft brown sugar
275g currants
1 1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
zest 1 lemon
juice 1/2 lemon
25g pedro ximenez
1/2 quantity see method for ingredients
1 egg, separated, both white and yolk lightly whisked
2 tablespoons raw (demerara) sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. To prepare the fruit, melt the butter and sugar in a small heavy based saucepan over a high heat, stirring until you have a smooth paste. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook slowly for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved in the butter. Take the pan off the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the currants, allspice, nutmeg and clove. Add the spiced fruit to the butter mix, and mix well with a wooden spoon to ensure that the spices, sugar and butter are evenly distributed. Add the lemon juice and zest and the Pedro Ximenez and give it all a good mix, then leave it covered in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C (370°F) and line a tray with baking paper. Take the fruit mix out of the fridge and divide it into 8 balls – they should be roughly 60 g (2 oz) each.
  4. Roll the puff pastry to 3 mm (1/6 in) thick. Cut 8 discs of pastry roughly 13 cm (5 in) in diameter, and brush the edges all the way around with the lightly beaten egg yolk. Place a ball of fruit mix in the middle of each disc then bring the edges into the middle and pinch them together so the fruit mix is sealed inside.
  5. Turn the Eccles cakes over so that the sealed pastry edges are on the bottom, and score the top lightly three times (be careful not to cut all the way through the pastry, or the Eccles cakes will split open during baking). Dip the top of each Eccles cake in the egg white and space them out evenly on your pre-prepared baking tray. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 175°C (350°F) and bake for another 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden and flaky on the top and bottom. Leave on a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes, then serve with the cheese of your choice, or on their own, enjoyed with a cup of tea.

Bakery notes

  • The fruit mix for this recipe can be made well in advance, and it will mature with age, developing wonderfully complex flavours. It will keep for months in a container in the fridge – just stir it through every couple of days for the first week or so, to ensure the liquid is evenly distributed through the fruit, not settled at the bottom.

    Pedro Ximenez is a sweet, sticky Spanish sherry. If you don’t have any you could use brandy, sherry or red wine instead. The result will have a slightly different flavour, but will be equally delicious.
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