Are you familiar with Welsh cake? I wasn’t, but as soon as I read the name, my mind indulged in beautiful visions of a dense, decorated delicacy.
Welsh cake doesn’t fall in that category—not at all. The cakes look like a cross between a thick cookie and a small pancake. What they lack in looks, they make up in quantity, distinctive texture, and a taste that somehow reminds you of home. They are cooked on a griddle and have just the right amount of sweetness and substance.
Originating around the second half of the 19th century, Welsh cakes became popular at a time when pantries were stocked with flour, sugar, eggs, lard, and dried fruit. As a tasty tea-time treat, they are best when eaten warm but are hearty and last for a week in an airtight container. Since they are the perfect size to fit into a pocket, they became treats that miners carried to work and school children often had for lunch.
Over time, Welsh cake recipes had slight variations and have been called different names, such as cage bach, picau ar y maen, pice bach, tishan lechwan or tishan ar y mân, depending on the region of Wales where they were made. In English, they have been known as griddle cakes, Welsh tea cakes, and Welsh miner cakes.
“Welsh cakes are an example of a unique and traditional food that reflects the resourceful, wholesome, and practical nature of the Welsh people,” said Denise Carbone on her website, Welsh Baker.
The following recipe and directions are modified from the Daring Gourmet. I added a few of my own observations and increased the ingredients by half. This recipe made about 20 Welsh cakes.
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Welsh Cake Recipe
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup caster sugar (This sugar is made by pulsing granulated sugar in a blender until it is ultra fine but slightly grainy. Do not substitute powdered sugar—it will ruin the texture of the dough.)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground mace (Don’t substitute this spice. It is aromatic and flavorful and makes a huge difference in the taste of the cake.)
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons lard, chilled (Lard improves the texture of the cakes. It is available in most grocery stores.)
- 6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed
- 2 large eggs, beaten to a froth
- 3/4 cup dried currants
- Milk as needed
- In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, mace, and cinnamon.
- Mix in the lard and butter using your fingers, pastry cutter or food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add the currants, and stir to combine.
- Add the beaten egg, gently mixing but not over-beating. If needed, add a little milk. The dough should be soft but not wet or sticky. The less the dough is handled, the better the texture.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Dough can be made well in advance and chilled until ready for use.)
- Roll the dough out on a slightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut out rounds using a cutter or glass about 3 inches in diameter. (I used a jar ring). Take the remaining pieces, and repeat the process.
- Heat a griddle to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to sprinkle a bit of sugar on the cakes when they are finished, lightly butter the griddle. Otherwise, the cakes don’t stick so there’s no need to add butter.
- Cook on each side until lightly browned, about 3–4 minutes. Similar to pancakes, the cakes are ready to turn on the first side when they bubble slightly. When they are browned on both sides, they are done.
Serving: 1 Welsh cake
Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 72mg | Potassium: 102mg | Sugar: 7g
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