“I can imagine Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey making these for Northerner Mr Carson.”
I was given the recipe by my cousin Kelly who copied it from my grandmother’s (Nana) recipe book, which was very hard to read as the recipes were written in cursive writing by a left-hander using a purple fountain pen. The recipe was shared with Nana by her Lancashire neighbour and friend Ruby… and so it is with so many of the best and most treasured recipes that they are passed down from one person to another.
Eccles Cakes hail from Lancashire, England, and Ruby was a true Northerner. “I remember her favourite saying, “Put wood in th’ole and I’ll put the kettle on” (shut the door and I’ll put the kettle on),” recalls Wendy. “She always had Eccles Cakes in a big round tin with the Queen and Prince Philip on it.”
Origin of Eccles Cakes
The town of Eccles (now a suburb of Manchester) was once home to a church that was constructed in 1111 A.D. A fair would be hosted each year to celebrate the building of the church, and it is here that food and drink, including Eccles Cakes, was sold. In 1650 A.D., both the fair and the cakes that took the town’s namesake were banned for having “pagan connections.” Thus began the decline in popularity of this small, round flaky pastry, until it was made and sold commercially.
This recipe makes 10-12 Eccles Cakes.
400g flaky puff pastry (“Ruby and Nana made their own delicious pastry, but I use store bought,” says Wendy.)
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 ½ cups of currants (“The secret to this entire recipe is to soak the currants overnight in a good bottle of cider.”)
½ cup mixed peel (“Again, Ruby and Nana made their own mixed peel, drying mandarin, grapefruit, lemon and limes slowly in the oven, then cutting them up finely and keeping the mix in airtight jars.”)
1 tsp cinnamon (“Nana always favoured coarsely ground Sri Lankan cinnamon.”)
1 ½ tbsp of sugar
- Break up the pastry and knead with your hand for 3 or so minutes.
- Divide the pastry into 6 balls and set aside in the fridge.
- In a heavy pot, melt the butter and add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add cider, soaked currants, peel and cinnamon. Mix and leave to cool.
- Preheat oven to 200 (not fan forced).
- On a floured bench top, roll out the pastry balls and divide the filling between them, piling the mix into the centre. Pull out the edges of the pastry to cover the filling.
- Moisten the edges with water and draw them up to meet in the centre so the filling is completely closed in. Squeeze the edges together and turn over so the pastry joins in underneath.
- Brush the top of the cake with a little water and sprinkle with sugar. Make 3 slits in the top with a knife. If you can, put the cakes in the fridge for about ½ an hour before cooking so the cider soaked fruit permeates the whole cake.
- Put the cakes on a lightly greased tray and bake for 20 or so minutes (or until golden brown).