Welsh cakes

by Karen Burns-Booth
Welsh cakes

Welsh cakes

(Welsh Cakes: in Welsh: picau ar y maen, pice bach, cacen gri or teisen radell)

With St David’s day (the patron saint of Wales) approaching fast on the 1st March, it seemed fitting to get my old griddle out and make a batch of Welsh Cakes one wet and miserable afternoon. I love baking on my old griddle, it is about sixty years old and was my grandmothers, and many a pancake, hot cake, Welsh cake or “Singin’ Hinny” I have seen my grandmother make on this much loved piece of vintage kitchen equipment.

Griddle cookery, or should I say Girdle cookery to use the Scottish and old fashioned English term for a griddle pan, used to be very popular all over the UK, with most housewives having a griddle to hand for easily made tea time treats.

With most people cooking on or over solid fuel, the heavy cast iron griddle pans were perfect for pancakes, quick breads and scone-like cakes, such as the Welsh cake and its North Eastern cousin, the singin’ hinny. In Wales, cast iron griddles are also known as “Bakestones”, and so these wee fruited cakes are often known by the same name in certain parts of Wales, as well as griddle cakes.

Welsh cakes are incredibly easy to make and if you don’t have a traditional griddle, then a heavy cast iron frying pan can be used instead – but do not attempt to make them in a modern non-stick pan, they can burn when cooked this way. They can be made in under half an hour and any that are not eaten on the day can be popped into the school or office lunch box as a treat the next day, although like all “scone style” bakes, they are always better eaten on the same day, and when warm too.

The recipe I am sharing today comes from one of my old Be-Ro cookbooks and is the ONLY recipe I use when I make a batch of Welsh Cakes; it’s the very same recipe that my grandmother used, as well as my mum, and the recipe never fails. I use my Be-Ro cookbooks a lot, and have a collection of all the editions going right back to the 1930’s. It’s interesting to know that in the older Be-Ro cookbooks I have in my collection that Welsh Cakes were called Girdle Cakes, and we often used to refer to them that way when I was growing up, and a term that is still used in North East England and Scotland.

You don’t have to be Welsh to enjoy these Welsh Cakes, and to all my Welsh friends out there, as well as all of the Welsh readers, all that remains for me to say is “hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi”, which is Happy Saint David’s Day in Welsh!

Ingredients

  • 225g of self-raising flour, or 225g plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 100g of butter, or margarine, plus extra for cooking
  • 50g of caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 50g of currants
  • 1 egg, beaten with 3 tbsp milk
1
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and rub in the margarine or butter. Add the sugar and currants and stir well
2
Pour the egg mixture in and mix until you have a stiff dough
3
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness and stamp out rounds with a pastry/biscuit cutter
Stamp out rounds with a pastry/biscuit cutter
4
Heat the griddle over a medium heat until hot and grease with a little butter – the baking griddle should be well-greased, and then heated until a little water sprinkled on the surface skips about in balls, evaporating. A heavy cast iron frying pan makes a good substitute. Cook the cakes for about 3 to 4 minutes each side, until they are golden brown and have risen slightly
Cook the cakes for about 3 to 4 minutes each side
5
Serve immediately sprinkled with a little extra caster sugar
Serve immediately sprinkled with a little extra caster sugar