First some History:
Welsh Cakes originate from Wales, a country of the United Kingdom that was a former principality of England in Great Britain. The cakes are a cross between a cookie, a scone, and a pancake but they are truly unlike any of these things when it comes to taste and texture. They are the size of chubby cookie, made from ingredients similar to a scone, but they are cooked like a pancake on a griddle, they are not baked. Sweet but not overly so, Welsh Cakes are an example of a unique and traditional food that reflects the resourceful, wholesome, and practical nature of the Welsh people. Made from simple pantry items like flour, sugar, milk and butter, Welsh Cakes are considered a special treat since they take a good deal of time and effort to make. Being griddled, they pretty much must be made by hand and this is why there are very few commerical makers of these cakes in the world. Traditionally they were cooked over a hot bake-stone but iron griddles were later used and are now the predominant method used to cook them. They have gone by a few different names since their inception including their Welsh language names “cage bach” or “picau ar y maen” but also they are known as “Griddle Cakes”, “Welsh Tea Cakes” and “Welsh Miner Cakes”.
Being an ancient Celtic country, Wales is historically known for agriculture and mining. It was once the largest coal producing nation on earth. Welsh Cakes were traditionally made by the lady of the household as a treat to serve at afternoon tea, and were also given to children with their school lunches. Since they are durable, filling and delicious, Welsh Cakes also became a favored treat of the coal miner husbands of many a Welsh housewife. Indeed they are the perfect size to be slipped into a coat pocket, these sweet reminders of home were often the only bright spots in a miners otherwise dark and dreary day spent toiling “down the mine”. Over time as world societies modernized, the need and patience for making foods by hand became scarce. Welsh hats and coal shovels were traded in long ago for business suits and computer keyboards. Such traditions as Welsh Cakes have almost all but faded away these days but thanks to the Welsh Baker, hand-made Welsh Cakes are apparently being introduced to America now.
225g plain flour
85g caster sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g butter, cut into pieces
50g lard cut into pieces, plus extra for frying
1 egg, beaten
2-3 Tbsp milk
Tip the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Then, with your fingers, rub in the butter and lard until crumbly. Mix in the currants. Work the egg into the mixture until you have soft dough, adding a splash of milk if it seems a little dry – it should be the same consistency as shortcrust pastry.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of your little finger. Cut out rounds using a 6cm cutter, re-rolling any trimmings. Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan with lard, and place over a medium heat. Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 mins each side, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through. Delicious served warm with butter and jam, or simply sprinkled with caster sugar. Cakes will stay fresh in a tin for 1 week.
If they’re not eaten, they will keep up to a week in an airtight container.