A recipe for Welsh Cakes comes later, but for a moment let us pause in 1888.
A Welsh Tea, Machynlleth, 1888
Tea-time was fixed for 4 o’clock, because our only possible return train started at 5, and it would never do to hurry a meal. A cup of tea would certainly have been welcome, but behold there was a sit-down affair. The main dish was ‘light [or welsh] cakes’. This famous Welsh concoction is a kind of pancake, made with flour and eggs and buttermilk. You eat them hot, with sugar and butter, they are very thing for a winter tea after a long tramp. But for a summer afternoon, hard upon such a massive dinner! The cook kept sending in fresh relays, straight from the pan, and they were piled on our plates, with the warning, ‘Remember there is a journey before you’. I could only be thankful that the train started too early to permit a supper to follow.
From M. Vivian Hughes. A London Girl of the Eighties, 1936
We are never too sure about ‘look how funny the locals are’ as an authorial position and we rather think this illustrates Welsh hospitality at its best and a fear the guests would go hungry on their long journey. We found the extract in one of our ‘go to’ books, English Yeast and Bread Cookery by Elizabeth David (1977) and M/s David goes on to give several recipes for Welsh cakes from various sources including the late Hon. Mrs William Stanley of Penrhos, Anglsea . We went to the BBC Good Food website and Visit Wales too and reassuringly they give basically the same recipe as Mrs William Stanley’s but a bit easier to follow.
Traditional Welsh cakes recipe
A delicious little cake flavoured with spice and dried fruit, baked on a griddle and best served warm and sprinkled with sugar. A real Welsh treat.
Welsh cakes ingredients
- 225g/8oz plain flour
- 100g/4oz butter
- 75g/3oz caster sugar
- 50g/2oz currants
- ½tsp baking powder
- ¼tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg
- A pinch salt
- A little milk to bind
How to make Welsh cakes
Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice) together into a mixing bowl. Cut up the butter and rub into the flour. Stir in the sugar and fruit, pour in the egg and mix to form a dough, use a little milk if the mixture is a little dry. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a biscuit. Use a pastry cutter to cut out rounds. Cook the cakes on a greased bake stone or griddle until golden. The heat should not be too high, as the cakes will cook on the outside too quickly, and not in the middle. Once cooked sprinkle with caster sugar and serve with butter.
If you don’t have a griddle the cakes can be cooked in a heavy frying pan greased with a little lard.
I would like to pretend that the folks from TheBigForest eat so healthily that we gave Welsh Cakes a miss, oh and Bara Brith another Welsh delicacy, but that dear reader would be a big lie!
Image copyright: Visit Wales