Eccles cakes

My parents have an old friend who makes the most wonderful Eccles cakes.  Since I was little I have looked forward to the appearance of Joan’s old Roses tin with a batch of the most sublime cakes inside.  Her pastry is wonderful, so delicate, and that combined with the crunchy caramelised sugar topping and the sweet spicy bite of the currants and you are transported to cake heaven.

As a result of Joan’s marvellous cakes I have always been a bit put off from trying to make my own Eccles cakes in fear that they wouldn’t even come close to comparing to hers with her years of experience and pastry skills.

This weekend though I thought I would jump in at the deep-end and give it a go.  The girls were asking to make mince pies and the mincemeat from Christmas has all been used up.  I thought these may be an acceptable alternative.

I am really pleased with how they turned out and to my surprise they were nearly as good as Joan’s.  My youngest daughter, at three, surprised me with her pastry folding skills, some that she made were better than mine. It was a lovely way to spend an early Sunday morning.

I used Delia’s filling recipe as a basis for mine, but this did provide a little too much filling for the amount of pastry I had.  This isn’t too much of a problem though as I have just put the leftover filling in the fridge and I will make some more cakes with it, hopefully later today if I get a chance.  I have fetched it out of the fridge in anticipation.

Delia and Rachel Allen both use mixed peel, so you could substitute 50g (2oz) of the currants with mixed peel if you wanted to, but as I was trying to recreate Joan’s wonderful cakes and I have never discerned mixed peel in her filling I kept to a currants only filling.

500g (1lb 2oz) ready-made all-butter puff pastry (fully defrosted if frozen)

For the filling;

75g (3oz) butter
150g (5oz) soft brown sugar
200g (7oz) currants
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
grated rind of 1 orange (or of 2 clementines)

For the glaze:

2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp demerara sugar


To make the filling, melt the butter and add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Leave to one side.

Roll the pastry to about 3 mm think and using a round cutter (mine is 8cm) cut out circles, re-rolling the dough as necessary.

Place a teaspoonful of filling on to each circle. Using a pastry brush, brush a little water all around the edge and fold one edge over to the other and seal well.  It should look like a little Cornish pasty at this stage.  Turn it over so that the seal is underneath and roll carefully with the rolling-pin to flatten it into a round.  Place on a baking sheet.  Repeat with all the other circles. Make three slashes in the top of each with a sharp knife and brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven at 220°c (gas mark 7, roasting oven of the Aga) for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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