Classic Cakes from Devon and Cornwall

Baking has a long history in Devon and Cornwall. From cream teas to cider and saffron cakes, the region has its own share of classics. If you feel like baking something that will take you to the Regency coastline and summer orchards of Devon or Cornwall, here are two favourites from the archives!

Scones and Splits

Visit Cornwall or Devon today and you’ll see signs for traditional cream teas, served anywhere and everywhere. The classic cream tea centres on Sweet Scones, with pots of jam and Clotted Cream served alongside – and plenty of – fresh tea. Both counties claim the origination of the cream tea, although evidence was recently found of scones being served at a Devonshire monastery – pre-dating any other citations.

Splits are more uncommon, but these old-fashioned buns have long been served in the same way. They are plain buns sweetened with sugar or honey, and leavened with yeast. Served with a spoonful of treacle and clotted cream, splits become Cornish ‘Thunder and Lightning’.

Cornish Splits

This is an easy, modern version of Splits, which would traditionally have taken more time to make. The advent of dried ‘instant’ yeast means we can put together a batch in an afternoon.

You need:

  • 1tsp instant dried yeast
  • 2tsp caster sugar
  • 120ml (4fl oz)warmed milk (at blood temperature)
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 225g (8oz) strong bread flour

Warm the milk to blood temperature (at which you can comfortably put in your finger) and add the butter. Stir to combine. In a large bowl, blend the yeast, salt, sugar and flour. Make a well in the centre and add the warm milk. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to gradually incorporate the flour. Knead until you have a smooth dough, adding a little more milk if the mixture looks too dry.

Cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel and put in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. (If you do not have an airing cupboard, put the bowl into the oven. Put a roasting tray on the oven floor and half-fill it with boiling water from the kettle. Shut the door, leaving it slightly ajar – don’t switch on the oven – and leave the dough to rise.

Once it’s risen, the dough can be punched down and formed into 8 buns. Put them on a greased baking sheet, cover, and leave to rise again for an hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C, gas mark 6 and bake the buns for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Devonshire Cider Cake

This classic recipe for cider cake was featured in Moira Babington’s 1970s show West Country Cooking (but also appears in an older Devon W.I. Compendium). Traditional Devonshire cider is more strongly-flavoured and less fizzy than modern versions; try to find a traditional dry cider if you can.

You need:

  • 110g (4oz) butter, unsalted, at room temperature
  • 110g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ pint Devon cider

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (170 fan), gas mark 4 and butter and line an 8” cake tin. Using an electric whisk, food mixer or wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs – the mixture may curdle at first, but just beat vigorously until it is smooth and creamy again.

Sift in the flour, ginger, nutmeg and baking powder. In a jug, whisk the cider gently until frothy, then beat it into the cake batter. Scrape into the lined cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean. The W.I. cookery book suggests that this Devonshire cider cake improves with keeping, so wrap in foil and put into an airtight tin for at least a day before serving.

Leave a comment

Cake Baker