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.
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.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
- Take it off the heat and add all the other filling ingredients.
- Stir thoroughly and then leave to cool.
- Roll out the pastry into a rectangle approximately 40 cms x 16 cms.
- 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.
- Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each square.
- Dampen the edges using a pastry brush and water.
- Bring each corner into the middle and seal them together with water.
- Dust the board with a little flour.
- Turn each cake over so that the seals are at the bottom.
- 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.
- Using a sharp knife, make three slashes across each one.
- Brush with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Spread them out evenly on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 200 degrees C on a high shelf for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown.