These little pastries hail from the town of Eccles, just outside of the Greater Manchester area in the North of England. As with so many traditional recipes that have been around for years, their actual inventor is not known, but this is matter-less as they are still a much beloved treat in England.
The first time that I ever came across Eccles cakes was reading a recipe for them in my grandmother’s favourite cookbook. This was a book that contained no photographs or even drawings to assist the cook, so the only sense you got of the different recipes was by reading through the ingredients list and the recommended cooking method for each. I think that this is when my great love of cookbooks was awakened, because as a young child aged about 8 or 9 I loved reading this sturdy tome and imagining how the different dishes would taste. Eccles Cakes were something that always fascinated me, but I didn’t actually taste one until many years later, and I was hooked.
I love them. Yes… they are quite heavy and on the sweet side, but this is compensated for by the flakiness of the pastry. They are not something that I would necessarily bake regularly, but every time that I do, I always wonder why I don’t make them more often. Chorley Cakes are similar to Eccles Cakes but use shortcrust pastry and are not usually sprinkled with sugar prior to baking… but for me Eccles Cakes are the tastiest of the regional variations and are the one that I would prefer to make.
150g soft brown Muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
50g finely chopped candied peel
250g all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1tblsp milk
Some caster or nibbed sugar for sprinkling
Method:1. To make the filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add in the rest of the ingredients other than the puff pastry. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan Oven 200C/Gas Mark 7. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
3. Roll out the puff pastry to about 3mm thickness and cut out rounds of the dough using a 10cm cookie cutter. Put a teaspoon of the cooled filling into the centre of each round. Brush around the edge of the pastry round with a little of the beaten egg/milk mixture. Bring the edge of the pastry together in the centre encasing the filling and make sure that you seal it together well. Turn the sealed Eccles cake over flatten the cake with your hand until it is about 1cm thick and pat into an oval or round shape. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat this process with the remaining pastry and filling.
4. Using a small sharp knife, slash each Eccles cake twice, this is to allow steam to escape. Brush each cake with some of the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with caster or nibbed sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. When cool enough to handle remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.Makes 8.