Today’s baking is a scrumptious treat – a delicious lardy cake. A regional speciality from the south west of England, it’s a fondly remembered holiday memory for me, a rich melt in the mouth concoction stuffed with dried fruit.
It’s not something to have every day, and is likely to have those watching their weight (and vegetarians) running for the hills, but it makes for a great treat, especially during the winter or even the festive season.
The recipe is taken from the Dairy Book of British Food, produced by the Milk Marketing Board in 1988 for ‘British Food and Farming Year’. This book has its time capsule cooking disasters, but has its fair share of great recipes too. It’s refreshingly free of lifestyle guff too. You can pick it up pretty cheaply from the usual second-hand book merchants online. Here it is at Abebooks.
Disturbingly, the authors advise serving lardy cake spread with butter. For those who don’t wish to pile on the saturated fats, it’s lovely straight from the oven, or toasted by itself the next day for breakfast. If you’re worried by the amount of butter & lard, just think of a slice of it as a treat a bit like a Danish pastry. Or have a brisk walk afterwards… or both..
- 450g strong white bread flour
- 1.5 tsp dried yeast (or fresh yeast: 15g)
- 1 tsp salt
- 75g lard, diced
- 75g butter, diced
- 180g dried fruit: sultanas, currants, raisins, whatever you fancy.
- 50g candied peel, chopped (optional – if not, bung in some more sultanas)
- 25g sugar
- Sprinkle dried yeast into 300ml warm water with a pinch of sugar & leave somewhere warm for 10-15 mins until frothy. Or blend fresh yeast with 300ml lukewarm water. If you’re using quick action yeast, just add it after you’ve blended the flour & lard.
- Put flour & salt in a bowl and rub in 15g (1/2 oz) of the lard until all the lumps are incorporated in the flour. Make a well and add the yeast & water mix. Then beat together to make a dough which leaves the bowl clean. You don’t want it too sticky but you do want it soft: add flour or water to get the right consistency.
- Then either turn out onto floured surface & knead for 10 minutes or put in a food processor with a dough hook on the lowest setting for 10 minutes. It needs to be smooth and stretchy.
- Put the dough into a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for an hour until it has risen to about twice its original size.
- Then turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick. Dot the dough with a third of the butter & lard and then sprinkle it with a third of the dried fruit (and peel if you’re using it) and sugar. Press all this into the dough a bit.
- Now you need to fold it into thirds. Fold one of the short ends into the middle & then the remaining third over the bit you folded. Turn the dough through 90 degrees and sprinkle it with another third of everything. Fold it into thirds again, pressing down gently as you need to.
- Rotate once more, repeat the sprinkling and folding and then squish the parcel down gently with the rolling pin until it’s the right size for your tin.
- Now cover it loosely with a polythene bag and leave it to prove in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Halfway through this period pre-heat your oven to 220C / Gas Mark 7. The cake should puff up.
- Score the top with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern and bake for about 30 minutes until it’s golden on top. Check it after 20 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, cover it with some foil for the rest of the time. Take it out of the oven to cool.
- Serve in slices and enjoy every delicious sticky bite!