Wednesday is St David’s Day, and in our household that means one thing: Welsh cakes. My husband’s family are Welsh, and so the cake’s appearance is not only non-negotiable but inevitably leads to cries of anguish from him that I only make them once a year.
At least in theory, Welsh cakes are simple: a straightforward, lightly spiced, fruit-studded dough, rolled out and cut into rounds, griddled until golden and firm. But like all theoretically simple and beloved dishes, there are endless variants: lard or butter, thin or thick? Sultanas or currants? How much spice is too much spice? Of course, the joy of these traditional bakes is that they not only stand up to all these permutations, but embrace them: recipes are personal to each cook, and then passed down through families, preserved in memories and notebooks. All of these variations are still recognisably Welsh cakes, made in the same spirit to scratch the same griddle cake itch. I like them thick, so that the crumb in the middle is soft, and with butter; personally I prefer sultanas to raisins or currants. But feel free to mess around with the recipe to make it the way you like it; it is, as these sort of recipes tend to be, tolerant to change and subbing of ingredients.
However you make them, these are best eaten warm, straight from the pan, but they stand up well to toasting – and although they don’t strictly need it, they are great split in two and buttered. But then, what isn’t?
Makes: 15 little cakes
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 10 minutes
350g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g salted butter
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
100g sultanas or currants
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1-2 tablespoons of milk
1. Rub the flour and butter together between fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs, and any lumps of butter are no bigger than pea-sized.
2. Add the sugar, baking powder and cinnamon, and stir through the mixture.
3. Add the egg and sultanas and bring the mixture into a dough. Loosen with 1-2 tablespoons of milk. The dough should hold together, because you’re going to roll it, but will be soft.
4. Flour a work surface and your rolling pin, and roll out the dough to 2-3cm thickness. Cut out rounds with a cutter or small glass. This is easier if you’ve floured the cutter. Re-roll and cut until you’ve used up all the dough.
5. Heat a dry pan to a low to medium heat. Place a small number of rounds in the pan and cook for 2-5 minutes each side. Don’t fiddle with the cakes: they need to form a crust on each side, so try to leave them alone. Once a golden crust has formed, flip onto the other side, and cook until golden. If the cakes are browning too quickly before the middle has cooked, adjust your heat.
6. Sprinkle the still hot cakes with caster sugar on both sides and leave for ten minutes. Eat straight away, or allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.