Traditions at Christmas in England –
My maternal Great Grandmother was from Coventry, England in the Midlands. Like any other region, they had their specialties. Eccles cakes are a speciality from this region. This recipe has been taken from a remarkable cookbook described under the tab “Browse Books.”
Good Things in England
Jonathan Cape, 1932 (current edition published by Persephone Books
From the cookbook:
Eccles cakes, Banbury cakes, Coventry Godcakes, Hawkshead cake and Chorley cakes all belong to the same class. They consist of pastry, short or puff as the case may be, round in the case of Eccles and Chorley, which are much about the same size, and in the case of the Hawkshead cake which is as large as a plate; but at Coventry taking the form of an isosceles triangle, and at Banbury made in the oval shape of a rather wide shuttle.
Each and all are filled with a special mixture partaking of the character of the mincemeat we put in pies at Christmas time.
Here is a recipe for Eccles cakes. These have been made for the Eccles “wakes” from time immemorial. A pretty story is told about these cakes. It is said Mrs Raffald gave her own recipe as a wedding present to a servant girl who had served her well and was going to live at Eccles, and that the girl made and sold the cake so successfully that she made a fortune.
Bradburn’s, Eccles, today is advertised as “The only Old Original Eccles Cake Shop. Never removed. On the site of these Premises Eccles Cakes were first made. Rebuilt 1835.” [They are at any rate about the best I have tasted, and those sold at the old cottage opposite Eccles Cross where William Deacon’s Bank now stands were made and baked at Bradburn’s. The cottage had no ovens].
Recipe: Lancashire, 1904
Some short pastry
For the filling:
1oz finely chopped peel
½ teaspoonful allspice and nutmeg
Time: to heat and cool mixture about 20 to 30 minutes; to bake cakes 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven.
1. Put all the ingredients for the mixture into a pan and heat for a few minutes, then turn into a basin to cool.
2. Roll out short pastry (this is nicest if made of lard) to about ¼ inch thickness.
3. Cut into rounds.
4. Place a good tablespoon of the mixture on each round.
5. Gather up the edges, turn over and press with rolling-pin into flat cake; make a hole in the centre of the top crust.
6. Place on baking sheet 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven.
7. Sprinkle with castor sugar when cakes are cooked.
• These extracts are taken from Good Things in England by Florence White (Persephone, £10)