You can’t beat a load of currants wrapped in pastry!
Today’s blog was first published last year – but as we’ve just learned that we’re in the midst of The Eccles Cake Festival (7th – 13th October), we felt it was time for another airing!.
Guest writer Sarah Mac is someone with more than a passing yearning for the ‘fly pie’!
I saw some Eccles Cakes in the supermarket the other day. Bizarrely, and for reasons that I’ll explain shortly, they reminded me of Bermuda.
I was telling my friend in London about this experience, and her Australian boyfriend made the pleasing observation that towns in the north of England are really good at naming cakes after themselves.
It was hard to argue, really, given that Eccles, Chorley, Kendal and Pontefract have spawned cakes, Bakewell, Manchester and Liverpool have their tarts (leave it…), Chester and Yorkshire have their puddings, and so the list goes on.
Anyway, back to the Eccles Cakes. I have never bought Eccles Cakes in the UK. I have spent much of the last decade living a few miles away from where they originated but not once have I either made or bought them. Then last year, something changed. I spent a year living and working in Bermuda, and when you are 4,000 miles from home for a long period of time you find yourself doing things in order to feel closer to home.
For me, this involved the happy discovery that the Lindo’s supermarket in Bermuda sold a range of imported British goodies, among them Frazzles, Soreen fruity malt loaf and Eccles Cakes. One homesick evening I found myself forking over the equivalent of nearly £7.00 for a packet of the little raisiny darlings, and that, I am ashamed to say, was dinner taken care of!
Fast-forward 10 months, and I am now back in Manchester, once again living just a few miles from the home of Eccles Cakes. Once again, I can’t imagine buying them ever again, unless – bizarrely – I want something that will remind me of Bermuda!
Which made me wonder: how can I make my potential binge-eating of Eccles Cakes into something a bit different? This in turn morphed into a slightly strange conversation with our Editor, Alison. So here, in no particular order, is or Top Ten favourite ways to enjoy an Eccles Cake:
Straight up. Just scarf it down and enjoy the sugar-rush you get from all those squished-up raisins.
With a cheeky glass of dessert wine. Suggested tipples include a smooth Vin Santo (the Italians’ weapon of choice for dipping their biscotti), a classy Canadian ice wine, or possibly a Brown Brothers Orange Muscat, with its sticky citrus notes.
Cracking cup of tea, Gromit. Like the archetypal Little Black Dress there are some things that will simply never go out of fashion, and for me one of those things is a nice cup of tea. Wash your Eccles Cake down with a nice brew and a sit-down. Luckily they come in packets of four: one for when you put the kettle on, one while it boils, one for while you’re waiting for your cuppa to cool to optimum drinking temperature, and then one to have with your brew. (Or is that just me?)
With a slice of cheese. Serving cheese with fruit cake or a fruit chutney is a traditional pairing, so we think that a tasty piece of Lancashire cheese would go down a treat with the sweet, fruity pastry.
Eccles Mess. Inspired by Eton Mess (cream, meringues and strawberries/raspberries) we created a Manc spin on the summer favourite. I was a bit concerned that it looked like a bowl of coronation chicken (or worse…) at one stage so our esteemed Editor had to do a bit of ‘food styling’ using assorted garden herbs, spices, and plenty of arty lighting and camera angles! The bottom line is that it was quite tasty and makes a quick and comforting store-cupboard pud without the need for any effort or skill in the kitchen:
- Take a large cooking apple, chop and blitz in the microwave for a couple of minutes until it begins to soften but is still chunky. Add a pinch of cinnamon, ground cloves and sugar/sweetener to taste.
- Take half a tin of ready-made custard and mix with a small pot of double cream.
- Roughly chop a pack of Eccles cakes. Stir into the custard mixture, along with the apple sauce.
- Finish with sliced apples, a dusting of cinnamon and a wedge of Eccles cake to garnish.
- Experiment with the quantities and ingredients until you find your perfect Eccles Mess combination!
Hot and cold. Warm them in the oven for a few minutes and serve with a big dollop of vanilla ice-cream. Try Snugbury’s or the Cheshire Ice-Cream Farm for the full North-West gourmet treat.
Eccles Ice-Cream. Simply chop them up and fold into slightly softened ice-cream before devouring. I think rum & raisin would work really well…
In Chorley. Live dangerously: take your Eccles Cake to Chorley and taunt the locals with the flakiness of your pastry compared to their biscuit-like Chorley Cake cousins.
With cocktails. I know it would be a bit weird, but why the heck not?! (Also, YOU try coming up with 10 ways to eat Eccles Cakes – it’s not as easy as it sounded when I volunteered to write a Top Ten…)
On a beach in Bermuda. I don’t think we’re in Manchester, I mean Kansas, anymore, Toto. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…..
For more information about the Eccles Cake Festival visit visitsalford.info/ecclescakefestival
Sarah Mac x
Photographs: Alison Staples