Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ruby Wedding Cake - the Winner!

Finally,  I can post about the recipe that won my vote for my parents' celebratory Ruby Wedding cake.  Their anniversary fell towards the end of September, but for various reasons we did not have a family hurrah for them until the end of October.  We met up at a country house hotel in the Cotswolds for a lovely lunch and then a stroll around the house gardens enjoying the autumn colours.

Afterwards we travelled the short distance to my parents' home and had a light tea with the much anticipated (by me at least) anniversary cake.  The recipe suggestion I had gone with came from Kate Noble, who recommended the recipe she had used for her own wedding cake, no less.  It originated from BBC Good Food, who entitle it 'Hot Toddy Fruit Cake', and list it as a Christmas cake.  I chose it because I liked the idea of a very moist cake, and as my parents are keen tea drinkers I thought it apt to go with this recipe.

I made it a month ahead, and then fed it a couple of times with a little more whisky, and possibly some rum too.  A week before D-day I added a layer of marzipan, and then a day or two before the final eating I added some royal icing coloured a splendid shade of ruby red (you should have seen my hands after adding the colouring - attractive for meeting my child from nursery...).

Finally, I added the piped wording and the piped heart embellishment, along with some edible gold glitter, the day before.  I mixed some of the glitter with the icing in the piping bag but as this didn't give the full twinkle I added some more afterwards.  I was actually quite impressed by my restraint with the glitter.  You know, sometimes less IS more...

The cake was a perfect travel companion on the three hour trip from here to there.  The weight of it stopped it from sliding about on the cake board and the simplicity of the decoration meant no tears on that front either.

Now, I should confess that I was a little nervous about the moment the cake was cut into.  It had seemed very moist when I transferred it from the tin to the board, and despite reinserting a skewer several times and coming back with a dry reading, I was worried that the centre of the cake would prove to be soggy.  The moment of truth came and a sigh of relief was issued.  The cake had cooked perfectly, and I hadn't ruined it all with that final tot of brandy (for medicinal purposes).

Yes, it was as good as it looks here, managing to pull off the trick of being both light and dense, and kist as importantly, moist and tasty.  Scrum-tiddly-dumptious.  In fact, my only disappointment was that I only got to have one piece of it.  I plan to make a Christmas cake using this recipe, and as Christmas cake is not so popular with my husband, this cunning ruse should ensure that I get to eat a whole heap of fruit cake in just over a month's time.  Roll on Christmas.

Happy anniversary, Mum and Dad!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ruby Wedding Cake - A Call for Recipes!

My parents are to celebrate their Ruby Wedding Anniversary (40 years) next month and I would like to bake for them a special cake, reminiscent of their wedding cake which was an iced rich fruit cake in the tradition of most British wedding and celebration cakes.

Naturally I have pages and pages of recipes for such cakes, and have one that I am fond of from a Nigella Lawson book and that I have made twice (once as a Christmas cake and once as a birthday cake).  However, whilst the recipe in question produces a very good cake I would love to know a recipe for a grand old fruit cake that would really blow your socks off.  I have fond memories from my time at work of a Christmas cake brought in by a colleague and made by his Grandma.  This was also a fruit cake, not as dark as some, but it was moist, not too crumbly, flavoursome, packed with fruit, nuts, peel, and topped with homemade marzipan and then royal icing.  If I could only eat one type of cake until my dying day, then this would be this one.  I might die 40 stone, but I would have spent my cake eating time wisely.  Somehow it just ticked all the boxes and was superb eating.  Rather than bake dozens of recipes to try and find an equivalent, I wondered if anyone out there might have a recipe that hand on heart they could swear would also put me (oh, and my parents too) into raptures?  All recipes gratefully received (to annaweller at me dot com), and I have a new hardback copy of Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery' to pass on to the sender of the recipe that I choose to bake.

Thanks to everyone who sent me recipes.  I have gone with Kate Noble's recipe for 'Hot Toddy Fruitcake' from the BBC Good Food website, partly because I love a really moist fruit cake but also because my parents are big tea drinkers, so it is appropriate that the fruit soak and the 'feed' are based on black tea (don't suppose they'll mind the whisky input either).  I have baked the cake a month ahead of time - we are having a family get-together later in October - so I shall feed the cake weekly and ice closer to the time.  Pictures to follow.  Of the other recipes sent, well, so many sounded darn good that I shall be trying them out for Christmas cakes for me and to give as gifts.  Thank again to all you bakers kind enough to take the time to let me know your favourite recipes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shooting Cake for the Glorious Twelfth

Hello again, at long last I am here to bring you more baking and this time I am here with my junior chef, Ellis.  I confess that I have been motivated by the arrival on my doorstep of a book sent by Grub Street, Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery'.

It seemed churlish, if not rude, not to give them a quick puff and bake a few goodies from it.  I do have a copy already and indeed have baked from it previously on these pages, but this splendid hardback copy looked at me with authority and said 'Stop shirking, and get back in the kitchen'.  By serendipitous chance I chose to bake Shooting Cake yesterday - the 'Glorious Twelfth' (August the 12th, like it or not is the start of the shooting season) - so I'll take that as an auspicious sign that the Blog Gods are smiling on my return...

Shooting Cake, although Elizabeth David doesn't mention in this book, was part of the spread produced by the Edwardian country house kitchen either to greet the hungry back from a day's shoot on the moors, hills, great estate or as part of a heaving picnic luncheon to fortify the hunters.  The Glorious Twelfth being the start of the game season I can presume would have been an occasion for a particularly splendid feast to mark the day.

David's recipe comes from 'Ulster Fare', a booklet produced by the Belfast Women's Institute Club, 1946.  The original recipe uses 1lb flour, 1/2lb brown sugar, 1lb raisins, 1/2lb butter, 2 eggs, peel and juice of two lemons, 2 teaspoons of carbonate of soda mixed with warm milk.  The cooking instructions were to bake in a slow oven for two hours.  Elizabeth David adds the comment, 'I cannot help thinking that two hours' baking for a cake containing just three pounds of ingredients would be excessive.  It would be a good idea to try the cake in half quantities and for a shorter cooking time'.  In a footnote on the same page she then gives her own version of the recipe: 'I now make the cake with 1/2lb flour, 1/4lb Demerara sugar, 1/4lb raisins, 1/4lb butter, 2 eggs, peel and juice of one lemon, 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.  Bake in 6 and a half to 7 inch round tin, 3 ins. deep, for 50 minutes at gas no. 5, 375 degrees F, 190 degrees C'.

The recipe is also mentioned in a previously unpublished essay by Elizabeth David (written in 1978), that is printed in 'Is There a Nutmeg in the House?  Essays on Practical Cooking with Over 150 Recipes'.  In this text the cake is called Lemon and Brown Sugar Cake:

'As an alternative to the rich and leaden fruit cake of Victorian tradition I think this one might prove popular.  It has a most refreshing flavour and attractive texture.  There is nothing in the least troublesome about it, even to a reluctant cake maker like myself.

Ingredients are 250g (1/2 lb) of plain white flour, 125g (1/4 lb) of butter, 125g (1/4 lb) of Demerara cane sugar, 125g (1/4 lb) of seedless raisins, the grated peel and strained juice of one lemon, 125ml (4 fl oz) of warm milk, 2 eggs, 1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.  To bake the cake, a 17-18cm (6 1/2 - 7 in) round English cake tin, 8cm (3 in) deep. (I use a non-stick tin).

Rubbing butter into flour is tricky with hot hands...

Crumble the softened butter into the flour until all is in fine crumbs. Add the grated lemon peel, the sugar, and the raisins. Sift in the bicarbonate. Beat the eggs in the warm milk. Add the strained lemon juice. Quickly incorporate this into the main mixture and pour into the tin. Give the tin a tap or two against the side of the table to eliminate air pockets. Transfer immediately to the preheated oven (190° C/375° F gas mark 5). Bake for about 50 minutes until the cake is well risen and a skewer inverted right to the bottom of the cake comes out quite clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning it out of the tin.


The Demerara sugar is important.  Barbados is too treacly for this cake.  The raisins I have been using of recent years are the little reddish ones, seedless, from Afghanistan. They need no soaking, no treatment at all.  Just add them straight into the cake mixture.  They are to be found in wholefood shops.It is important to put the cake into the oven as soon as you have added the eggs, milk, and lemon juice mixture. This is because the lemon juice and bicarbonate start reacting directly they come into contact.  If the cake is kept waiting, the rising action of the acid and the alkali is partially lost and the cake will rise badly.

Under the name of 'Shooting Cake', the recipe on which mine is based appeared in 'Ulster Fare', a little book published by the Ulster Women's Institute in 1944 (sic).  I was struck by the composition of the cake - the Demerara sugar, the lemon juice replacing the acid or cream of tartar necessary to activate the bicarbonate and the grated peel instead of the more usual spices.'

My assistant chef found the sugar 'fuzzy' and the raw cake mix 'sour'.  He was keen to try a slice but not overly impressed.  I could see a few dry spots in the cooked cake indicating that we needed to have made a few more turns of the bowl with the spoon.  The mixture also could have done with the milk that David omits from the revised instructions in the 'English Bread' book, but includes in the recipe set out in 'Is there a Nutmeg...?'.  I came to this second recipe only after I had baked to the first.  However, it was a tasty cake and I liked the lemon flavouring alongside the addition of dried fruit.  Within a smidgin of butter the slight dryness could be overlooked, and very nice it was too with a cup of coffee.  Ellis was happy to lick the butter off his slice, but did at least nibble enough to qualify as a test portion.

Spot that sneaky finger. It was one of a party of them lying in wait to snatch the cut slice.

If you fancy something savoury as a starter, have a look at this blog featuring a recipe for the truly excessive Shooter's Sandwich, created for gentlemen (it does appear a very masculine sort of sandwich) to take out on the shoot with them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm still here... only now I'm over here!

Hello to readers old and new. It has been an AGE since I last posted, but with good reason. For the last, ooh, well over a year, I have been in the process of setting up an online bead shop Big Bead Little Bead. Ever since our son was born I have been looking for work that I can do from home and around him, and within a creative area that I can really enjoy getting stuck into. Beads and beading essentials fit the bill for many reasons: 1. They are twinkly and pretty and hard it is hard to get bored of looking at them; 2. I have always enjoyed jewellery making and working at a small and intricate scale; 3. They take up not too much space (although in bulk they do seem to have established themselves pretty extensively) and far less than if I decided to work from home selling handbags/cheese/second-hand cars; 4. Unlike cakes, you can leave a bead at a moment's notice to tend to a cry of 'Mummy. Build me a dinosaur' and the house is not in danger of burning down. If you have a whim or a passion for beads, please do check us out. My husband took all the photographs used on the site, and we used a local web design team for the site construction - who did a great job - The Right Design.

The aspects of the site we are most proud of are the online Project Tray - you can add items into a 'tray' and move them around to try out layouts or simply to view beads side by side. All our images have been painstakingly scaled, so you can place beads next to each other in the Project Tray and see exactly how proportions will look. We are pleased to have a growing repertoire of artists make one-off beads just for us, so we have unique porcelain, polymer clay and shortly have lampwork and decoupage makers too. If you are looking for vintage items for a little je ne sais quoi, then we have those too. All this is wrapped up with an image-led, visually clear presentation. Well, we like to think so!

The planning, designing, researching, purchasing, stock data entry, labelling, bagging etc. etc. has taken up so much of my limited spare time, that Baking for Britain has sadly been placed on the back burner, but I hope that it hasn't been taken off the hob for good. My son loves cooking and baking and I would like to think that together we may be able to soon return to Bake for Britain! In the meantime, thank-you for all the comments that I continue to receive. I am flattered by how many people still take the time to read through my writings and enjoy them enough to leave their thoughts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Shetland Bride's Bonn/Bun or Bridal Cake

Shetland bride's bonn/bun or bridal cake was traditionally baked by the mother of the bride. It was broken over the bride's head as she entered the marital home after the wedding ceremony and was intended to bless the marriage with prosperity and fertility. This breaking of cake was a wedding tradition observed in many parts of the country, and indeed is also a feature in the wedding traditions of other countries.

In Shetland, the bride's bonn/bun was also known historically as either infar-cake or dreaming-bread. F. Marian McNeill has a note regarding infar-cake or dreaming-bread: ‘A decorated form of shortbread is still [1929] the national bride’s-cake of rural Scotland, and was formerly used as infar-cake. The breaking of infar-cake over the head of the bride, on the threshold of her new home, is a very ancient custom, having its origin in the Roman rite of confarratio, in which the eating of a consecrated cake by the contracting parties constituted marriage. (Scots law, unlike English, is based on the old Roman Law.) Portions were distributed to the young men and maidens “to dream on”.’ At christening feasts a dreaming-bread may also be distributed to guests, for the same purpose of giving maids and young men a sneak preview of their future partner - dreaming-bread is also known as dumb-cake.

Mark Morton in 'Cupboard Love', further explains the Roman roots of the cake-breaking act: 'Romans solemnized marriages through the rite of confarreatio, a word literally meaning to unite with grain-cake (the far in the middle of confarreatio is the Latin far, meaning grain, a word that also appears in farina and farrago). In contrast, the English infare literally means to go in, deriving as it does from the words in and from the Old English verb faran, meaning to go or to travel. Before it was specifically applied to cake, infare could also refer to a feast provided for guests when someone, newly married or not, took possession of a new home.'

Although Shetland Bride's Bonn is generally classified as a shortbread, when cooked on a girdle (griddle), as it would have been historically, it is closer in form to a bannock or scone. When oven-baked the bonn would be crisper and more biscuit-like. My recipe comes from 'A Cook's Tour of Britain', by the Woman's Institute and Michael Smith (pub. 1984), and I have gone with the girdle cooking option.

110g/4 oz. plain flour
50g/2 oz. butter
25g/1 oz. caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
a little milk

1. Rub the butter into the flour.
2. Add the sugar and caraway seeds.
3. Mix to a stiff consistency with milk (get your hands in the bowl to achieve this, and add only a little milk at a time - start with a generous splash).
4. Roll out into a round shape. Now at this point the book suggests that you roll a round 5cm/2 inches thick, but this is way too thick for this small quantity of dough, plus it would never cook in the time given. My dough was about 2cm thick. Cut the round shape into triangles.
5. Bake on a fairly hot girdle for 3 minutes on each side, or in an oven at 180C/350F/Gas 4 for 20 minutes.

I gave the caraway seeds to my junior helper to sniff, but he promptly stuffed a few in his mouth and demanded more. That's my boy! He was less enthusiastic about the finished cake, but then he had just finished a rather large lunch. I must teach him the benefits of pacing your food consumption, and that chocolate buttons don't always have to be downed in one hand/mouthful. I found the cake pleasant enough, but as a cross between a pastry and a scone it is best eaten fresh. I forgot to sleep with a morsel under my pillow, but I would only have had to disappoint Johnny Depp by explaining I am already married.
For more information on the Shetland Islands and local food and drink - click on The Shetland Food Directory, or take a look at this site if you want to be completely seduced and find yourself moving north (west/east/possibly not south).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Deddington Pudding-Pie, Oxfordshire

Earlier this month I was in Deddington, Oxfordshire. Deddington is a small market town with many interesting old buildings, houses and much history. I was there for a family get-together, so I had little time to explore - only enough for a short walk, and to take two scene-setting photos (taken with one hand whilst straddling a struggling toddler). During my walk I found a shop selling Banbury cakes as per my previous post. The picture below shows the town hall (front left) and the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul. It also shows how, sadly, many old country towns have become overwhelmed by the motor car. Contrast this (carefully cropped) scene, with the second image. Spot the car park.

Deddington Market Place - image taken between 1860 and 1922

Historically, Deddington had two annual fairs. One on the 10th of August (St. Laurence's Day) and the other held in November. This latter fair was known as the 'Pudding-Pie Fair' after the pudding- or pudden-pies sold there, and was held principally for the sale of livestock and the hiring of servants/labourers. The date was originally the 11th of November (St. Martin's Day/Martinmas), changing to the 22nd (St. Cecilia's Day), and then reverting back to the 11th of November in more recent times. The Pudding-Pie Fair was still being held at the beginning of the 20th century, but by the 1930s it had diminished and since has evolved into a fun fair. The pudding-pie is now as rare as a Deddington parking space.

The Deddington pudding-pie appears to have been a hard pastry case (the pie) with a pre-cooked filling that included fruit (the pudding), the whole was then baked. Pudding-pies are known elsewhere in the country and often had an association with Lent.

An early mention of the Deddington Pudding-Pie is in 'Notes & Queries' (1869). This records that the pies 'are made by setting up a crust composed of flour mixed with milk or water, and mutton suet melted and poured into it hot. These crusts, which are set up like meat-pie crusts, are then placed in the sun for a day or two to stiffen. They vary in size from about three to four inches in diameter, and are about one inch deep. When thoroughly hard they are filled with the same materials as plum puddings are made of, and when baked are sold at twopence, threepence and fourpence each.'

In the archive of the Deddington News, November 1976, Monica Sansome writes of the Pudding-Pie Fair, drawing on the personal reminiscences of a Mr. Lewis.

From its early days the Martinmas Fair was known as the Pudding-Pie Fair because of the pies made specially for the occasion. Mr. Lewis bought these pies in the early 1900s. They were about the size of a small pork pie, consisting of plum pudding surrounded by pastry. The pastry was made with mutton fat and formed an extremely hard crust "like thick parchment" according to Mr. Lewis, who doesn't remember them as being outstandingly palatable! He thinks they were sold for 2d and 4d depending on size.

Just after 1900 the only bakers in the village to make these pies annually were Thomas and Ruth Fowler. The family had their bakery originally on the premises of Mr. Lewis' shop, then in the Old Bakery, New Street, finally moving to Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley's house next to the Crown and Tuns in New Street... Thomas and Ruth Fowler, like their family before them, guarded the pudding-pie recipe carefully and their recipe died with them.

However, a recipe IS then supplied in this same article, courtesy of Mrs. Ella Marshall who has provided a recipe from 'Traditional English Cooking' (pbl. Angus and Robertson Ltd. 1961) This recipe creates a shortcrust pastry case, but the filling is of cooked ground rice over jam or coconut, and the whole is dusted with ground cinnamon. Quite different to the description of the pudding-pie as a plum pudding in an hardy pastry piecrust.

Shortcrust pastry:
1/2 lb. flour
4 oz. mixed lard and butter
4 tablespoons cold water

To make the filling:
Heat 1 & either 1/2 or 1/4 cups milk (it is impossible to decipher the precise measurement from the original article), add 2 rounded tablespoons caster sugar. Mix 3 level tablespoons ground rice and 1/2 (? same problem) teaspoon salt with 3 tablespoons water. Stir this into the warm milk. Cook and keep stirring until it thickens. Continue cooking "pudden" mixture for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat two eggs in a bowl and stir into rice mixture. Flavour with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence. Roll out pastry and line greased saucers with the pastry. Cover pastry with jam or dessicated coconut, then pour gently a little of "pudden" mixture over. Bake 20 mins. in medium oven 325F until pastry is cooked underneath. Remove from oven and if liked dust very lightly with ground cinnamon. Nowadays these could be made in an 8" flan about 2"deep. Serve hot or cold.

Born in 1903, Fred Deely, a life-long resident of Deddington, had his boyhood memories recorded by Dorothy E Clarke:

Fred once saw the famous 'Pud', which featured at Deddington's Pudd'n & Pie Fayre, held in November and continued until shortly before the Second World War. It was about 9 inches across, fruit inside, and pastry outside. The lad next to the Three Tuns - Fowler was his name - used to be a baker. He had a sister, Ruth Fowler, she was a cripple, and it was common talk she had the recipe, and when she died nobody ever found it.

Mary Van Turner, in researching 'The Story of Deddington' (1933) spoke with Ruth Fowler, holder of the secret recipe and by this date an elderly lady. From her we learn how the pies were made in the early twentieth century.

Pudding pies have not been made in Deddington for the past six years. Miss Ruth Fowler of 'the Old Bakery', whose family had the original recipe from the Bennetts, who were baking in 1852, undoubtedly made that historic delicacy just as it should be, for in sampling one I found it corresponded exactly with the jesting descriptions which every elder Deddingtonian, including Miss Fowler, delights to give.

'They say you could tie label to one and send it through the post a hundred miles - so hard it was.'

'Deddington folk were supposed to save up all the scrapings from the candle drippings in the lanterns and put them in the pudding pies.' This was also repeated to me by another baker, Mr. W. Course.

Miss Ruth Fowler, herself, quotes a story that gives a quaint, medieval flavour to their peculiar character - a King was journeying from Woodstock to Banbury through Deddington. At Woodstock they gave him gloves and at Banbury light cakes, but in Deddington something between the two, like leather but to be eaten.

Actually they contain a sort of glorified bread pudding in a very hard case. Miss Fowler told me that the outer crust has suet as an ingredient, this is filled with boiled plum pudding, the whole being afterwards baked. Once all the bakers here made them and they were sold at the Stalls. Boiled and baked like Simnel cakes, but with what a different result!

So, according to Mary Vane Turner's account, Deddington pudding-pies have not been made by local bakers since 1927. In the 1970s a version of the 'pudden pie' was baked for the Deddington Festival, held in late summer. In an archived piece from the Deddington News from June 2007, recalling an item from the Deddington Society's Newsletter dated September 1973 and focusing on the Deddington Festival held that month, it was reported that:

The highlight for gourmets at the Festival was the sale of Deddington Pudden pies specially made from a centuries-old recipe by the local baker. The pies, which were made in saucers and sold at the annual Deddington Fair many years ago, have a sweet filling of nuts, ground rice, chopped fruit and eggs and are served with cream. The baker, Mr. B. Wallin, figured in the Festival and a bread book used by his forefathers in the baking trade was displayed in the history exhibition at the parish church.

The pies described here are clearly very different to the robust pies created by the Fowlers and other Deddington bakers at the turn of the twentieth century. They certainly sound more appertising. Curiously, the only other recipe I could find for the pudding-pies is pretty close to the the description of the saucer-baked puddings. I have a sneaky suspicion that the local baker may have seen a copy of Florence White's 'Good Things in England', which is where the recipe I cooked is from. It is here called Deddington Pudden Pie, and although the 'pie' is made of puff pastry, the filling is first boiled and then baked. Perhaps the inedible pastry crust was done away with for the purpose encouraging bakers to revive the pudding.

'A Deddington Pudden Pie was.. made by Miss R. F. Fowler and exhibited at the first English Folk Cookery Exhibition... on January 16th, 1931. The following recipe was published in the Daily News in 1930.

Ingredients: Puff pastry: ground rice 4 oz. [110g]; milk 1 quart [2pints]; eggs 3; lump sugar 6 oz. [175g]; lemon 1; currants 4 oz. [110g]
I baked with half of this quantity of ingredients.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes to boil and 15 to 25 minutes to bake in a moderate oven [180C/350F/Gas 4].

1. Grease some large saucers and line them with puff pastry.
2. Make the rice into a cream with 6 tablespoons of the milk.
3. Add the eggs well beaten to it.
4. Boil up the remainder of the milk with the lump sugar, and the thinly pared rind of a washed lemon.

5. When this boils add the rice mixture and keep stirring for 10 to 15 minutes; then
6. Lift out the lemon peel, and add the currants.
7. Pour into the lined saucers to within one inch and a half of the edge of the crust.
8. Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely coloured and the mixture set. They can be eaten hot or cold.

Although Florence White does not say whether she has managed to get Ruth Fowler to divulge her family recipe, I wonder if the recipe she gives, leaving aside the pastry element, is close to it. A 19th century recipe for Folkestone Pudding Pies given by Mrs. Beeton in her 'Book of Household Management'(1861) is so very close to the Deddington Pudden Pie recipe in 'Good Things in England', that I would like to think that Florence White's recipe is authentic. My theory on the rock hard pudding-pie casing is that it was not designed to be eaten, but was to transport the filling home from the fair where it could be consumed. I believe that the pastry casing on the Scottish Black Bun served a similar purpose, keeping the cake from going stale, but intended to be discarded.

I imagined that the 'pudding' would be solid, but it was a cross between a wet cheesecake and a stodgy custard tart (hmm, that will get you all rushing for the kitchen). Maybe I needed to cook the filling for longer, or maybe that was the desired consistency. I baked my pudding-pie for 35 minutes, with another 10 minutes in the oven whilst it cooled - plenty long enough to get a 'set'. Whilst baking the filling rose like a plump Chesterfield, but became the cushion favoured by the dog when it hit cold air. It wasn't unpleasant to eat, just a tad bland and a little too mealy in the mouth for my liking. On the positive side, the currants were nice and juicy and had imbibed the lemon flavouring. Maybe mid Lent or after a hard day flogging cattle it would hit the mark.

Deddington has the most comprehensive and exhaustive website of local information that I have ever come across during my web research. If you have any interest in learning more about the town and its history, then I do urge you to take a good look at

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Banbury Cakes Revisited

Whilst in Deddington, Oxfordshire, and already feeling inspired for my next post (I am obviously on a roll at the moment!), I came across a shop that sold genuine, 100% authentic Banbury Cakes. Banbury is just up/down the road from Deddington. Having previously made these, I bought myself a packet so that I could see how the original compared to the home-baked.

From a visit to the Brown's Original Banbury Cakes website, I was delighted to learn that the current owner/baker, Phillip Brown, is related to Banbury Cake bakers dating back to the early 19th century. He himself is a direct descendent of E.W. Brown who ran 'The Original Cake Shop' from 1868 - her name appears over the door in this photo from 1902. Phillip Brown hand bakes his Banbury Cakes, and they are available for purchase online, and from a select number of shops (including A. Gold in London).

Since I wrote my earlier post about Banbury Cakes I bought Florence White's book 'Good Things in England'. She has a 'modern' recipe (dated 1929) for Banbury Cakes (alongside Gervase Markham's recipe from 1615), that is apparently for the 'same type of cake as those sold by E.W. Brown'. An indiscreet plug for the cakes reads, 'Anyone who wants to buy the best Banbury Cakes ever made can buy them from E.W. Brown, 'The Original Cake Shop', 12 Parson Street, Banbury, Oxfordshire. The recipe given is almost identical to the one that I baked for my Banbury Cakes.

My purchased Banbury Cakes were oval in shape but lacked the three slashes on top that my recipe had instructed I cut (as does the one in Florence White's book). The tops were crusted with sugar, but differed from my efforts in that they were most likely brushed with egg white and then dusted with caster sugar. I used demerara, but this may have been an embellishment of my own devising.

The pastry was, unfortunately, a little travel weary. The Banbury Cakes had only a short excursion in Ellis' changing bag, but this did compress the cakes a little. I felt that the cakes were probably best enjoyed as fresh as possible, and although they had a best-before date of almost four weeks hence, the pastry was a little dry. However, the filling of fruit, spices and sugar was positively fudgy, my only complaint was that there wasn't more of it. All in all I felt my own efforts were pretty decent - certainly in terms of the outer (hmm, to be fair I bought my pastry), and if I were to remake the cakes I would make the fillings with a little more sugar so that they could melt on the tongue in the way Mr. Brown's cakes did.