I’m continuing my British baking kick. I’m in full-on fall baking mode, and the warm spices and flaky, buttery pastry of these Eccles Cakes fit the bill perfectly.
This classic British bake comes from Lancashire–now Greater Manchester– and was probably developed in the late 18th century. As you probably guessed, the Eccles cake hails from the town of Eccles but, contrary to the name, they are not in fact made of cake.
I’ve noticed that many traditional British baked goods do a great job at elevating humble, dried fruit. There’s sticky toffee pudding, mince meat pies and Chelsea buns, just to name a few. Each region has their own way to bake dried fruit in some sort of pastry. The Banbury cake, Chorley cake, and Blackburn cake are all pretty similar to the Eccles cake, but don’t dare mention that to any locals. Around here, the Eccles Cake is king. Traditionally Eccles Cakes are filled with currants, but in this recipe I’ve combined currants and golden raisins. If you can’t find currants, regular raisins can easily be substituted.
These golden little disks are made of flaky puff pastry. They’re filled with a mixture of warm spices and dried fruit that’s warmed and plumped up in a mixture of butter, brown sugar, and brandy making them the perfect for all those autumnal cravings. The flavors of an Eccles Cake reminds me a lot of a Fig Newton. These are like a spiced up, boozed up, more adult version of Fig Newtons. Yum.
For these Eccles Cakes, I decided to make a “rough puff”, which is a quick and more simple version of homemade puff pastry. Puff pastry can be intimidating, but this quick rough puff is super simple and way more delicious than the pre-made stuff. You can even freeze it to use whenever you want to make these little golden treats or any number of delicious puff pastry recipes.
Once you’ve got the pastry put together all you have to do is make the fragrant filling before you assemble your Eccles Cakes. Currants and golden raisins are mixed with warm spices, citrus zest, brandy and brown sugar until all the flavors meld together. The mixture is cooled and then spooned onto cut-out circles of pastry. The pastry is sealed together and rolled lightly before getting brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with crunchy sugar. As the Eccles Cakes bake they turn a deep golden brown and puff up as the layers of the buttery pastry rise. The fruit filling gets bubbly and hot. Once removed from the oven you’ll have to wait a few minutes to let the filling cool a little before eating, but it’s definitely worth it.
Eccles Cakes are a British bake that’s not as well known as many others. With their spiced fruit filling, they’re a great pastry to make in the fall and winter months. I hope you give them a try!
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These Eccles Cakes are a regional speciality of northwest England, originating in the town of Eccles. The outside is a buttery, flaky puff pastry. The filling is a mixture of currants and golden raisins combined with warm spices, citrus zest, brown sugar and brandy. These pastries are perfect for fall or winter baking!
Rough Puff Pastry
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes & very cold*
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
Eccles Cake Filling
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup dried currants (or regular raisins)
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
Assembly of Eccles Cakes
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons coarse sugar, such as demerara
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half batch of rough puff pastry (recipe below) to about 1/8" thickness. Cut out circles of pastry using 4" round biscuit cutter. You should get 9 or 10 circles.
Scoop 1 heaping teaspoon of Eccles filling (recipe below) into the center of each pastry circle. For each Eccles cake, fold the pastry up around the filling and pinch together until sealed (like a little parcel). Slightly flatten the little cake with your fingers. Turn it over and using a rolling pin, gently roll it until you can see the filling through the dough a little. Make two slashes in the top of each Eccles cake place on the prepared baking sheet.
Chill the prepared cakes in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry has firmed up. This will help the rough puff rise and be nice and flaky when baked.
While the first tray of Eccles cakes is chilling, prepare the rest of the cakes using the remaining dough and filling (you'll probably have some filling left over at the end). Once prepared, place the second batch of cakes in the fridge to chill.
Remove the first tray of Eccles cake from the fridge. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown and puffy. Repeat with the second tray of cakes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!
Rough Puff Pastry:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and kosher salt. Add the chunks of butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Cut the butter into the flour by rubbing it between your fingers until the pieces are all about the size of peas. Work quickly so that the butter doesn't warm.
Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the ice cold water in. Using your hand, or a wooden spoon, stir to combine the dough. Once all of the flour is hydrated, knead the dough together in the bowl until it's come together.
Tip the dough out onto a clean surface (not floured). It's going to be sticky but don't add flour. Knead the dough until it comes together, 5-7 times should be enough. You don't want all the butter to break down, you want to be able to see all the bits of butter in the dough.
After you've kneaded the dough, pat it into a square that's about 1" thick. Using a bench scraper (or a large metal spatula), lift the dough from the counter and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least thirty minutes, until it's firmed up.
Remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle. You want the dough to be about three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third of the dough onto the middle of the dough, then fold the bottom third over the middle. Press the dough firmly around all the edges to seal. Rotate the dough a quarter turn. Repeat all the rolling, folding and sealing 2 more times. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and return it to the fridge for thirty minutes.
Remove from the fridge and roll, fold and seal a total of 3 more times. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least thirty minutes or as long as overnight.
Eccles Cake Filling:
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, stirring until all the sugar is melted. Add the currants, raisins, lemon juice and brandy. Stir to combine everything. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook over low for about 7 minutes, until the fruit has plumped and everything is thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange and lemon zest. Let the filling cool, then refrigerate until ready to bake the Eccles cakes.
*I recommend using a European style butter for this pastry recipe. European butter has a slightly higher fat content and it makes a hugedifference to the flavor and pliability of the rough puff dough. You can buy European style butters in most supermarkets now. Plugra, Kerrygold, and Land of Lakes European Style are all good options.