Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Banbury Cakes are my one weakness!

I've just finished watching the BBC TV series Lark Rise To Candleford a second time. This time with my sister and we just finished the last episode on Sunday night. It's a nice British period piece, if you are into those. Some laughs, some tears, and some characters who get annoying to listen to after a time :)
Banbury Cakes and Tea

"It's my one weakness", is a favorite saying of Dorcas Lane of the Candleford Post Office and Banbury Cakes just happens to be one of her weaknesses. Technically she has a lot of weaknesses, like milk baths and cashmere, but they don't happen to be something I can bake.

I was going to make Butter or Pecan Tarts this week, so imagine my excitement to come across a recipe for Banbury Cakes in my moms see that it's not a cake either, it's more of a fruit pastry made with currants (hahah, I thought it was a strange English countryside berry..banberry, not an English countryside place!).  I've never heard of this pastry before the TV series so I did a quick check online to see if the recipe in the 1938 Five Roses cookbook was somewhat similar to what Dorcas Lane might be been talking about in 19th century England, and it seemed to be so, so off to store to get the ingredients.

The lady at the checkout asked me if I was making a Christmas cake because I had all the fruity makings for one. I explained I was making Banbury cakes to which she just looked at me funny but the guy behind me in line asked me if I had ever been to Banbury or Oxfordshire because he grew up on Banbury cakes! I am more amazed every day how small the world is!

Anyone know the odds of a guy from England standing behind me in a grocery store in a town of 4000 people, who grew up on the not-a-berry-not-a-real-cake Banbury Cakes I was going to make after I stumbled across the recipe which I only knew about because I just watched a tv show that mentioned it???

Anyone??? I think very high winning the lottery odds :)

The filling for the Banbury Cakes is simple enough. I actually doubled the recipe - I wish I hadn't, because it doesn't sound like a lot, but it is! I tripled the pastry recipe and I still have a cup of the Banbury mixture left over!  Banbury Cakes are made with mixed peel and Currants. And, I just learned (by reading the package of currants) that they need to be put in the fridge after opening, odd - they look like tiny raisins.

I beat the butter... hahaha, mashed it about with a spatula is what I should of said...since it seemed a huge waste to try to use a mixer/blender for 4 tablespoons of butter. Then added the sugar and eggs.

The recipe calls for a few grains of allspice., I gave it a pinch since I had doubled the recipe after all and seriously...a few grains, the stuff looks like powder!

I then tossed in all the rest of the ingredients. It looks so pretty and festive! I had no clue what kind of crumbs to use, so I decided on a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and regular Premium Plus soda crackers. Also, my local store doesn't carry 'mixed peel' so I used citron peel and a bit of mixed fruit glace.

Banbury Cakes filling

Stir it all together. From pretty to pretty ugly in 2.5 seconds!

Banbury Cakes filling

I let that sit while I made up the pastry dough (there will be plenty of time for writing about that - just not today).

From what I saw online, Banbury cakes look more free form or at least like a big perogy where the dough is cut in a circle and folded over, but the recipe I have called for a round to be placed on a round and then sealed, so that's what I did :)  Follower of directions, that's me...somewhat, ha!

Putting the filling in the Banbury Cakes

I tried a few methods, first with the two rounds being the same size and then with the top round being a bit larger. I prefer the rounds being different sizes. With the top one being a bit larger, it folds around the filling better.  I have a dollar store set of stacking round cookie cutters, so it was easy since they all go up in size.

Banbury Cakes perogies!

I cut little slits in the top before baking and brushed with milk. Half of them I forgot to sprinkle sugar on, but I think they still turned out pretty.

Banbury Cakes out of the oven

Banbury Cake
Five Roses Cook Book - 1938 (pg 144)
Banbury Cakes and Tea

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed peel
  • 1 egg
  • 1 oz cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • few grains of allspice
  • Pastry

  1. Beat butter to a cream, add sugar, then add well-beaten egg.  
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. 
  3. Cut rounds of rich pastry and place spoonfuls of this mixture in the centre of half of them; moisten edges, cover with a second round of pastry. Seal edges carefully.
  4. Brush over with milk, prick tops, sprinkle with fine sugar, and bake in a hot oven (425 F) for 15 minutes.

Standard Plain Pastry
Five Roses Cook Book - 1938 (pg 135)

  • 1 1/2 cups FIVE ROSES flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water
  1. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Mix in shortening with tips of fingers or two knives.
  3. Add the water, a little at a time, using just enough to bind the mixture.
  4. Collect all the moistened particles into a ball of dough.
  5. With as little handling as possible, form dough into a round disk.
  6. Place disk on slightly floured board. 
  7. The dough should be soft enough not to break when it is rolled; it should be stiff enough not to stick to a lightly floured board.
  8. Handle the pastry as lightly as possible. Kneading will toughen it.
  9. Roll the dough from the center outward - always rolling wiht a light even pressure, to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.
  10. Line pie plates, tart shells, etc., and bake as directed.

Note: Enough pastry for 1 two-crust pie of average size, or 1 pie-shell and 6 tarts.
For a richer pastry, increase the amount of shortening to 2/3 cup. The amount of water required will depend on the type of shortening used.

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