Eccles cakes

Norfolk Scone

Norfolk scone

One of my favourite things to do is to  look through the cookbook section of our local charity shop. I don’t know why, but this particular shop seems to receive some very good cookbook donations. I always come out with one or two new books for my ever-growing collection. One of my most recent acquisitions was Cakes, Pastries and Bread by Jennie Reekie, first published in 1977. It’s a wonderful book full of the staples that you want to cook again and again. The recipe that really caught my eye was the Norfolk Scone. This filled scone is a cross between a  scone and an eccles cake, and, quite frankly, that appeals to me on so many levels. My mother-in-law had come for lunch and I offered to make her some scones to take home with her. I remembered the Norfolk Scone and thought I would give it a whirl. It was a great success. The crumbly scone contrasts beautifully with the rich, sweet, sticky filling. Next time, I am going to make it with mincemeat as the filling, because, well you know, it’s that time of year and I want to try it.

For the scone:
400g self-raising flour
1 scant tsp salt
100g unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten lightly
200ml milk

For the filling and topping:
25g softened butter
100g currants
100g demerara sugar
½ tsp grated nutmeg or mixed spice
Milk for brushing the top of the scone


Preheat the oven to 200°c, 400°f, Gas Mark 6 or use the Aga roasting oven with the grid shelf on the floor of the oven. Grease and flour a baking sheet that will fit a 20cm circle easily.

I used my food processor to whizz together the flour, salt and butter until it resembled fine breadcrumbs. Then added the egg and milk and whizzed again briefly until the dough just begins to come together. Empty the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead briefly to a soft dough.

If you don’t have a food processor you can rub the butter into the flour and salt mixture using your fingertips. Then add the egg and milk and using your hand like a claw mix to a soft dough.


The key to a light scone is minimal handling. Split the dough in half and roll out one half quickly to a circle of about 20cm. Spread the softened butter over the circle. Mix together the currants, all but 1 tbsp of sugar and spice and sprinkle over the scone. Roll out the other half to the same size and place on top of the currant mixture. Brush with milk and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden on top and well risen. Leave to cool for ten minutes then serve warm with a cup of tea.

Norfolk scone

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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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