Classic Cakes from the Midlands

Why not try your hand at baking some British classics? The Midlands is a rich source of baking tradition, from humble oatcakes to delicious plum bread. Try our classic recipe for Bakewell Tart and give your family a taste of British baking history!

Regional Food in the Midlands

The heart of Britain is a rich, fertile stretch of land – perfect for all kinds of foodie enterprises. The popularity of cattle farming means that people in this region eat plenty of beef, milk and cheese. In general, traditional food is hearty – designed for those in manual industry – and includes the famous Melton Mowbray pork pie, faggots, gingerbread and ale. The region has lots of fruit orchards, and is the original home to the Bramley apple. And what better to eat with your Bramley than a chunk of cheese? You’re in luck, because the Midlands is also packed with cheese-makers! From stilton and Derby to Shropshire Blue, Midlands cheeses are the byproduct of a rich agricultural tradition.

And there’s one other important thing to note about the Midlands – it’s the regional home of British Chocolate! Cadbury, Fry’s and Bournville were all headquartered here. Strangely enough, this hasn’t influenced baking in the Midlands: the traditional recipes are mostly fruit and spice based. Classics like gingerbread, oatcakes, plum bread and bakewell tart are commonly linked to this region.

Bakewell Tart

Filled with sharp raspberry jam and a sweet almond topping, this Midlands classic deserves a modern revival. Make miniature tarts for an elegant Afternoon Tea – or a big, family-sized tart for tucking into after Sunday lunch! Contemporary versions feature flaked almonds or gold lustre on top of the tart. But we prefer to stick to the traditional glace cherry topping!

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 75g (3oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly
  • 110g (4oz) raspberry jam
  • 110g (4oz) butter
  • 110g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs and 1 extra egg yolk
  • 110g (4oz) ground almonds
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Optional: glace cherries, to garnish

First, Make the Pastry for the Bakewell Tart. It will need to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before being baked. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and salt, then make a well in the middle and tip in the egg yolk with 1tbsp cold water. Use a wooden spoon or the tips of your fingers to bring the mixture together to form a smooth dough, adding more water to bind if absolutely necessary. Pat the dough into a round, trying not to handle it too much. Wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Once the pastry has rested, roll it out to fit an 8” (20cm) fluted tart tin (or cut smaller circles using a fluted cutter that fits your tartlet tray). Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lower the pastry into the tin, gently pushing it into the corners, then prick the pastry base with a fork and put back into the fridge to rest again for 20 minutes. Now line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove the beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and extra yolk, stirring vigorously until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the ground almonds and lemon zest. Now spread the jam over the base of the cooked pastry case. Spread the almond filling over the jam, smoothing the top gently. Top with a glace cherry, or several, and return to the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the filling is set. Serve at room temperature or cooled.

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