Thursday, 9 April 2015

History Bakers: Bury Simnel Cake

This month’s recipe comes from Ada Hartley’s Recipe Book (C DIMH/1/3) and as it is Easter time and the start of spring I looked for a recipe that was appropriate for this time of the year. The only one I could find was for Bury Simnel Cake and it intrigued me as there were only a small number of ingredients listed and no instructions as to how to cook it.  I managed to put the instructions together by looking on the internet and at similar recipes, in the hope that they would work.

Simnel cakes have been known since at least medieval times, and different towns had their own recipes and shapes. I discovered that Bury, Shrewsbury and Devizes are the most well known of the different variations.

The Bury Simnel Cake is a Lancashire variation on the traditional Simnel cake typically eaten at Easter. They originate in the town of Bury and like most Lancashire specialities they are more biscuits than cakes.

The ingredients are: 
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
120g butter, diced
1 tbsp candied peel, chopped
4 tbsp currants
4 tbsp sultanas
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp blanched almonds, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2. Add the fruit and brown sugar and mix to combine. Add the eggs and mix to a stiff dough. If the mixture is a little too dry add a little milk.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and roll out to about 12mm thick. Cut into round cakes and sprinkle with the almonds.

4. Transfer to a greased baking tray then place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C, 170° fan assisted oven, gas mark 4, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.

Staff comments:

Claire             Yummy taste of Easter!
Elaine            A very nice substantial biscuit – can taste the spices
Martin             Fruity and delicious!
Elspeth          Very light and lovely crunch. I loved them!
Verity              Lovely and soft. Great biscuits!
Carol              Lovely and light – could eat the lot!

Christine Brown
Preservation and Conservation Manager

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