Eccles Cakes

Eccles cakes are part of a Lancashire food tradition. We buy them today in small packets of four or five without giving a second thought to their origin. 

Traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to Lancashire cheese, be it young and creamy, crumbly or mature, the Lancashire Eccles cake was named after the town in Greater Manchester.

Locals will know it as 'squashed fly cake' or 'fly pie'. It's probably best described as a 'cake' although both the Eccles cake and the Barm cake do not fit into the traditional form of a 'sponge'. 

The Eccles cake was first sold commercially in 1796 by James Birch from his shop at the corner of Vicarage Road and St. Mary's Road (now Church Street) in the town centre. Today, it's a dry cleaners in the shopping precinct. 

James Birch Bakers

Unfortunately, Eccles cakes do not have 'protected geographical status' so they are made anywhere and everywhere. The closest you'll get to the 'Real Lancashire Eccles Cake' is to buy the ones made by Edmonds, who have been making them since the 1930s using Vostizza currants from the west coast of the Peloponnese area of Southern Greece. 

Or, of could make these.....

But first, a quick note on pastry - making shortcrust pastry is straightforward but making flaky pastry is a 'bit of a faff'. Eccles cakes would not be what they are if they weren't made with flaky pastry. 

So, the decision is yours. Do you make your own flaky pastry or use ready made products?

If you want to make authemtic flaky pastry then try this:

If you want an easier, less fuss recipe, then try this:

or go out and buy yourself some ready made, ready rolled flaky pastry. 

INGREDIENTS (for 12 Eccles cakes)

Portion of flaky pastry - approximately 370 gms

for the filling

75 gms butter
50 gms dark demerara sugar
200 gms currants
1 teaspoon mixed spice
zest of 1 small orange
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon orange juice
cold water

and for the topping

2 level tablespoons of granulated sugar
The white of one egg

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  2. Take it off the heat and add all the other filling ingredients. 
  3. Stir thoroughly and then leave to cool. 
  4. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle approximately 40 cms x 16 cms. 
  5. With the long side towards you, cut the pastry lengthways and then cut each length into squares. Experiment here......with squares, I tend to end up with rather square Eccles cakes. You might find a large circular cutter easier. If you don't have one...improvise. Have a dig around in the cupboards - you might be surprised what you find. 
  6. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each square.
  7. Dampen the edges using a pastry brush and water. 
  8. Bring each corner into the middle and seal them together with water.
  9. Dust the board with a little flour.
  10. Turn each cake over so that the seals are at the bottom.
  11. Shape them into a 'round' using your hands. If you end up with a square - don't worry...just tell yourself you prefer square Eccles cakes. 
  12. Using a sharp knife, make three slashes across each one.
  13. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  14. Spread them out evenly on a baking sheet.
  15. Bake at 200 degrees C on a high shelf for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown.
I managed to make 12 Eccles cakes out of this mix. They're not very big, but they are rich and one is enough at a time! 

Who was it who said "a moment on the lips means a lifetime on the hips"? Ah, does it matter? 

Cool on a wire rack.

Happy baking....


Popular Posts