Eccles Cakes

HERE is a good old English recipe for you to try. In 1793, James Birch's shop on the corner of Vicarage Road in Eccles began selling small flat raisin filled cakes and they sold quite literally like hot cakes.

The word Eccles means church and is a derivative of the Greek Ecclesia which means assembly. Therefore is reason to assume that the town takes its name from the old church constructed in 1111AD around which it grew.

In 1769, Mrs Elizabeth Raffaid the house keeper and owner of a confectioner's shop in Arley Hall in Cheshire wrote an influential cookery book called The Experienced 'English Housekeeper.

The book contained a recipe for sweet patties, with ingredients similar to the Eccles cakes of today.

Could this have been the recipe seized upon by a cookery mad service girl who took a copy of the book with her when she went to live in Eccles?

However it wasn't all plain sailing as Eccles cakes were actually banned when the 'Puritans' took power in 1850 for being rich and extravagant.

They were served at the church in Eccles which held a yearly service, known as Eccles Wakes, after which a fair was held serving food and drinks including Eccles cakes. When the monarchy was restored, so were the cakes.

More recently, the question of origin of Eccles cakes has been raised in Parliament. Could the cakes made outside of Eccles to the same ingredients still be referred to and sold as Eccles cakes?

Some nicknames for the cakes included dead fly pies, fly cemeteries, squashed fly biscuits and church cakes.


6-8 cakes

flaky pastry or (buy all butter puff pastry)

500g plain flour

pinch of salt

250g best butter (frozen then grated)

50g butter

150g currants and raisins

50g Demerara sugar

¾ tsp mixed spice

1 egg white

4 tbsp caster sugar for decoration


1. Place the flour and pinch of salt into a bowl then grate the butter toss around evenly into the flour. Add enough water to make a dough be gentle with it the more you handle pastry the tougher it becomes. Leave to rest for half an hour.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 220c gas mark 7 sprinkle the baking tray with water.

3. In a small saucepan over a medium heat melt the butter stir in the fruit Demerara sugar and mixed spice. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is coated and plump, then cool.

4. On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry to a 5mm thickness, cut out circles using a saucer as a guide. Divide the fruit mixture up evenly between the circles, moisten the edges of the pastry, pull the edges to the centre and seal, invert filled cakes on the floured surface and roll out gently to make wider and a flatter circle, but do not break the pastry.

5. Brush each cake with egg white and sprinkle generously with caster sugar, make three parallel cuts across the top of each cake then place them on a baking tray.

6. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes until golden.

Serve warm with butter on the top if you want to be naughty and a cup of tea.