I absolutely love Eccles cakes! In my opinion they are certainly not cakes as the name suggests but more like parcels – whatever their title they are delicious buttery flaky pastry ‘cakes’ packed with succulent currants and a joy to eat. I have come across the nickname ‘dead fly pies’ which are more than a discredit to these scrumptious cakes as they are so tasty it doesn’t really matter what they look like.
They are definitely a now-and-again treat as obviously the butter-laden pastry makes them highly fattening but Xmas time is no time to be worrying about calories. For an even more indulgent treat, I have served these as a dessert – warm from the oven and with a big dollop crème fraiche on top. Heavenly.
With Xmas fast approaching I wanted to put a Xmas spin on my Eccles cake although I’m sure purists which shriek in horror at my tampering with the recipe. The filling is more like mince pies with a hint of orange and spice and is encased in light, but butter rich, melt in the mouth flaky pastry. They are divine. Selling it to you yet? I have tried this recipe both with shop bought puff pastry and home made. Is it worth the effort? It sure is – by a long way. Making rough puff pastry might seem daunting but it really is straight forward to make. Yes, it takes a bit of time but it’s not as delicate to handle as shortcrust pastry and once you’ve got the hang of the rolling, folding and turning process you’re away. There are many recipes out there and I’ve tried a few but I would recommend following Valentine Warner’s recipe available on the BBC food website as I had good results. I used half the quantity for the Eccles cakes and froze the rest.There is also a useful video on how to make rough puff pastry here:
Why not have a go at making these instead of the usual mince pies? If you don’t want to eat them all (and there is a real danger of this!) then take them into work and I guarantee they’ll be gone in a flash to the sound of appreciative comments from your colleagues.
500g puff pastry
1 egg white, beaten with a fork
Caster sugar for sprinkling
50g light brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
50ml sherry or brandy
Zest 1 orange
30g mixed peel
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mixed spice
- To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and add the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat, add the alcohol and allow to simmer for 1 minute.
- Pour this mixture onto the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well to combine. Allow to cool.
- Roll out the puff pastry to about 1/2 cm thick and remove 12 discs using a 10cm/4 inch cutter.
- Place a heaped tbsp of the filling mixture into the middle of each disc. Brush water around the edge of the pastry and then gather the pastry into the middle around the filling and pinch to seal. Make sure it’s sealed well as the filling will ooze out.
- Turn the sealed parcel over and shape it into an oval using your hands and then gently flatten. Put each one in the fridge as you go along so the pastry doesn’t get too sticky.
- Cut each cake diagonally a few times and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Then brush the egg white all over the top of the cake and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 200/390F/gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack (although they are delicious still warm from the oven) and devour at the earliest opportunity with a nice cup of tea.