Travel with us to the north of England for a plethora of delicious traditional baked goods. From the spicy Eccles cakes of Lancashire in the west to Yorkshire’s Fat Rascals, there’s something to please most people.
Many of the traditional local recipes have survived for centuries and are still made in homes or commercially today. Be warned though, if you’re tempted to sample a shop-bought parkin or Manchester tart: choose the shop carefully! While there are plenty of local bakers who still employ old-fashioned methods and quality testers, many of the large-scale-produced cakes will bear little resemblance to the original recipe.
Traditional Lancashire cakes
- Eccles cakes are believed to be based on a recipe from the late eighteenth century. They’re small round puff pastry packages, filled with dried fruit, sugar and spice. The cake traditionally has three slashes across its sugar-coated top.
- Goosnargh cakes are associated with Easter. They originated in the village of Goosnargh in Lancashire and are flavoured with caraway seeds.
- The original Manchester Tart or Pudding came from a Mrs Beeton recipe and includes shortcrust pastry, jam and custard.
Ginger is both a preservative and aid to digestion and has been used in baking since the Middle Ages.
- 225g (8oz) plain flour
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 175g (6oz) butter
- 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup
Preheat the oven to 170oC, gas mark 3. Grease and line and 8” sandwich tin.
Sieve the flour, bicarb, cream of tartar and ginger into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Stir in the brown sugar and golden syrup.
Heat the spoon first and the syrup will slide off easily. Place the mixture in the tin and level off. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden-brown. Sprinkle with extra sugar while still hot and then leave in the tin to cool.
Gingerbread keeps well in an air-tight tin.
Traditional Yorkshire cakes
- Yorkshire has its own version of Gingerbread in parkin. Thought to have been invented by Viking settlers, parkin is particularly associated with 5th November, Guy Fawkes night.
- Although going by the name of cake, Pontefract or Pomfret cakes are really sweets flavoured with liquorice. A Liquorice Festival still happens each year in July in Pontefract, The Liquorice Capital of England.
- No-one seems to know how fat rascals got their name but everyone agrees that the best place in Yorkshire to sample these scones laden with almonds and cherries is Betty’s tearooms in York.
If you can’t get that far, try this recipe.
- 1 egg
- 150g (5oz) plain flour
- 150g (5oz)self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 130g (4½ oz)butter
- 110g (4oz)caster sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 110g (4oz) sultanas
- 50g (2oz)raisins
- 50 ml (2fl oz)milk
- 1 egg yolk
- pinch of salt
- glace cherries
- blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 200ºC, gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray.
Sieve the flours and baking powder into a bowl and add the butter. Rub in with your fingertips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the sugar, the zest of the orange and lemon, spices and dried fruit. Mix and add the beaten egg and as much milk as you need to make a soft but not sticky dough. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and shape into rounds about 2 cm deep.
Mix the egg yolk and salt with about a tablespoon of water and brush over the tops of the scones. Decorate with cherries and almonds. Place on the baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden.
Serve as fresh as possible.