The Traditional Welsh Cake
What is a Welsh Cake?
A Welsh cake is a traditional cake made with flour, butter and fruit. The baking of Welsh cakes dates back to one of the earliest forms of baking, where a flatstone, or bakestone would be placed onto an open fire. The cakes were cooked on the surface of the stone, then flipped to complete the cooking on the other side.
Traditionally they were baked when there was a shortage of bread or when expecting important visitors and would have been considered a poor persons food.
Historically the method of cooking varied from region to region, and this was sometimes reflected in the name. It is also known as the Bakestone/Picau Ar Y Maen or the griddle scone in some areas of Wales because of the way it is baked. In the book, Celebrating St. David's Day Elin Meek Gwasg Carreg Gwalchsome' it states that
'in parts of Glamorganshire they would be baked in a Dutch oven in front of the fire. These were cakes cut into small, circular shapes thus also giving them the name of round cakes or roun cakes.'
There are also references to them being called slashers and wheel cakes.
Welsh Cakes ready to be Flipped
Recipes for Welsh Cakes are often passed down through families. Some have butter or lard, others include a variety of fruits alongside the traditional currants. Whatever the ingredients you use, the secret is in the method.
Ingredients (recipe from Wales Cymru website)
100g/40z/ 1/2 cup of Butter
225/8oz/1 cup plain/all purpose flour
75g/3oz/ 1/3 cup of currants
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4sp mixed spice
a pich of salt
a little milk to bind if needed
1. Sift the dry ingredients(flour,baking powder, mixed spice) together into a mixing bowl.
2. Cut up the butter and rub into the flour.
3. Stir in sugar and fruit, pour in the egg and mix to form a dough, use a little milk if the mixture is a little dry.
4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a biscuit/cookie. Use a pastry cutter to cut out rounds.
5. Cook the cakes on a greased bake stone or griddle until golden brown.
Dough Rolled Out and Cut into Circles
Mix the Butter and Flour Mixture
Rub the Butter and Flour Mixture to form Breadcrumbs
Rubbing in the butter - this involves using your hands to rub the butter into the flour to resemble breadcrumbs. Be careful if you rub too much the butter will begin to lump together.
Heating the Bake Stone - you will need to keep the bake stone hot but not too hot. If the bake stone is too hot, the outside of the cake cooks too quickly and the inside will be under cooked. Traditionally as butter is the main ingredient, butter would be used to grease the bake stone.
Flipping the cakes - it is important to time the flipping of the cakes accurately. If you turn them too soon they will not be cooked enough and will not flip easily. This will lead to breaking and miss shaping. As a rule if you nudge the edge of the cake with a spoon or fish slice and it will not move easily then it is not ready. If you leave it too late to flip them they will be over cooked and start to burn.
Mixed Spice - mixed spice is a spice usually found in British supermarkets. It is possible to find in US grocery stores but a good alternative is pumpkin mixed spice. It is also easy to make your own mixed spice with the following ingredients.
- 1 tbsp cinnamon, ground
- 1 tsp coriander, ground
- 1 tsp nutmeg, ground
- 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
- 1/4 tsp allspice, ground
- 1/4 tsp cloves, ground
Egg for Binding - a little milk can be used if the mixture is too dry to form a dough when the egg is added.
Ways to Eat - Welsh Cakes can be eaten hot or cold, sprinkled with sugar. Enjoyed with a cup of tea.
Storage - Welsh Cakes can be stored in an air container successfully for about a week.
There are several different names used for Welsh cakes throughout the country of Wales. They often refer to the way the cake is eaten or the ingredients that are used.
Llech Cymraeg (Welsh Slab) - cooked with plain flour as the recipe above.
Jam split - common name in South Wales, the cake is cut on its side and jam or butter spread between the slices like a sandwich.
Apple Dragon- grated apple is added to the ingredients.
Myndd Cymraeg - popular in North Wales where the amount of baking powder is doubled. A coating of icing sugar/confectioner sugar is added after cooking.
So, although there are a variety of ingredients used to make Welsh Cakes, the method is similar for most recipes. Whether you add your own personal twist with ingredients such as dried fruit, tropical fruit, grated lemon or orange rind, always remember to use the correct method.
Jamie Oliver - How to Make Welsh Cakes
- Wales and Welsh Culture
What does it mean to be Welsh? What is Welsh Heritage? What traditions, language and food are important to Welsh people?