From the north of England, Eccles cakes are not cakes at all, but sweet fruit-encrusted pastry disks. When I first made them, I was taught how to make the puff pastry to go with it, and if you really are planning to win a few cake competitions, you could do worse. But for those of us that have a life, use butter puff pastry instead.
And by butter puff pastry, I do mean that: It’s made with 100% butter and gives a lighter, crispier and altogether creamy flavour to the finished cake. Any other type of commercially prepared frozen pastry is not so generous.
The traditional recipe calls for currants and mixed peel but I had neither. Instead I used raisins and some of these cumquats and the result was terrific. In other words, adapt it to suit your pantry supplies, but do try to inject a hint of citrus. If you have nothing else, add some lemon and orange zest to the fruit mixture.
Makes 18 – 20
- 50g butter
- 1 cup currants (or use raisins or sultanas)
- 2 tbsp mixed peel (or 4 roughly chopped preserved cumquats)
- ¾ cup (140g) tightly packed soft brown sugar
- 1 scant tsp of mixed spice (or a combination of equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and ground coriander)
- 3 sheets frozen butter puff pastry, thawed but still cool to the touch
- 1 egg white
- 2 tbsp white sugar
Place the butter, fruit, brown sugar and spices in a saucepan and heat over a low heat. Dissolve the butter and keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 200°C (fan forced). Line two baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.
Cut 10cm circles from the sheets of pastry (you should get six or seven from each sheet).
Place one tablespoon of the fruit mixture in the centre of each circle. Moisten the edges of the pastry with a little water. Bring up the edges of the pastry circle and press them together in the centre to make a little pouch, then turn the cakes over so the sealed edge is on the bottom.
Use a rolling pin to gently roll the cakes thinly so the fruit starts to show through the pastry. Use a sharp knife to slash three straight lines in the centre of each cake. Place on a baking tray.
Continue until all the cakes are finished. Brush with lightly beaten egg white.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Remove the trays from the oven and while they are still very hot, sprinkle the extra sugar over the cakes. Cool on a cake rack then store in an airtight container for up to a week.