These cakes are one of my strongest memories from childhood. I remember making them with my gran and her showing me how you knew they were cooked when the sugar was bubbling and caramelising at the cut of the pastry. We’d then have them as a lunchtime thing, or a mid-morning cake for school.
Any local town you visit in the north of England will have a version of this cake. They are often called ‘fly pies’ (for obvious reasons) and there are lots of different versions from one town to the next, but I stick with the original from the town of Eccles.
No matter which way you put it together, we always slash the top three times, which is supposed to represent the Holy Trinity, but it also helps with the baking of the pie as the mix expands on cooking. I love the romanticism of the slashes on top.
Never put these in the fridge – you want them at room temperature to get the full taste of the spice. The sugar coats the currants and forms a hard crust, and the pastry should be crisp to the bite of the sugar.
We used to have them with tea at birthdays, although my gran would have them with port and Madeira, but she was renowned for having one glass too much of everything. Nowadays, I’ll eat them with cheese and a good port or dry sherry.
I put these little buns across all of our venues in Spring Street and they are matched with British cheeses. My good friend Fergus Henderson from St John, London serves his with a Lancashire cheese because it has a particular, sharp bite. My favourite way to have Eccles cake is served with a good British blue cheese like Stilton, as I like all the flavours of the sweet currants and the crunch of the pastry, the spice and the salt of the cheese. It’s just an amazing flavour.
The European’s Eccles Cakes
What you’ll need:
440g brown sugar
2 tsp all spice
3 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, separated
12 discs of puff pastry
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Melt the butter in a large pot, then add the sugar and spices. Mix in the currants and set aside to cool.
Fill the discs with the cooled currant mixture, then fold them up into little parcels. Place the parcels on the baking tray.
Dip the top half in egg white, then grate sugar over the top to make a glaze.
Make three slashes on the top and bake until the top is glazed and dark brown.
Serve with any really good British cheese.