Welsh Cakes

Mar 21st, 2011 by Gemma

While we were in England we visited a National Trust property (Castle Drogo for those interested). The National Trust is a British charity that protects and preserves historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments, opening them to the public. They also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves and villages. All in the name of preserving our history and heritage.

Being the world we live in today, most National Trust properties have tearooms and a gift shop. At least some of the gift shop, and where possible in the tearooms, will focus on local product and produce, supporting farms and local businesses. Well, after our wander around the castle and gardens we stopped by the gift shop on our way to get tea (it astounded Michael how much we actually lived up to the stereotype, drinking lots of tea at all times of day). Unable to pass up a cookbook I picked up Good Old-Fashioned Teatime Treats. Traditional breads, biscuits scones and the like gathered from round the country.

Today was the turn of Welsh cakes. Having lived in Wales for a few years before moving here Welsh cakes became a staple for me. In ingredients and mixing method they’re essentially scones, but they’re cooked on a griddle, like pancakes. Since they have to be cooked on a griddle and can not be baked they always have to be made by hand, no mass production possible here!

Initially cooked on a bakestone placed on the fire Welsh cakes were apparently a favourite of miners. Down in Devon they had tin mines so the miners couldn’t eat anything they touched (because of the arsenic compounds present) leading to the creation of pasties. In Wales it was coal mines. Coal is carbon based, just like us, so aside from the then unknown hazards of black lung there was no problem with touching the cakes with coal covered hands. Welsh cakes are the perfect size to fit in a pocket!

Welsh cakes can be eaten as they come, they’re sprinkled with sugar, and plain they’re always best hot. If you leave them to cool then I recommend serving spread with butter. Or, you can create a Jam Split, by splitting it in half and spreading with jam (they got all imaginative with the naming of that one).

Traditionally the cakes should use lard, but the store was so far away and I didn’t feel like the bike ride, so I used shortening. I will say, lard will always be better, texture and flavour wise… just not vegetarian! Anyway, rub the butter and lard into the flour and baking powder until breadcrumb like.

Stir in the salt, sugar and dried fruit. The recipe called for currants which are smaller and sweeter, but raisins were what I had on hand (again, not cycling to the store.. I know, I’m a lazy bum!). They worked fine, they just got in the way a little more when I was cutting the cakes out. Mix in the egg and then the milk until a soft dough is formed.

Roll out on a floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a 2.5-3″ round cutter, straight edge or fluted to your preference. I like fluted, it makes them look that teeny bit more fancy!

Warm up your griddle to a medium temperature. Or your heavy bottomed pan if a griddle is not to be had. I grease mine with a light smear of butter, a well seasoned griddle shouldn’t need greasing. Cook a  few at a time until a deep golden, flip and cook the other side. This is where the temperature is important, you want to make sure that the outside doesn’t get golden before the centre is cooked through. You might want to sacrifice the first cake to the cooking gods to make sure that it’s cooked properly and the temperature is right (and then, oh dear, you’d just have to eat it!).

This is also why it’s important that you have rolled them out to an even thickness. If they are all uneven then they’ll cook at different rates and you’ll have a blackened cake with a raw centre.

When both sides are cooked move them to a cooling rack, sprinkle both sides with some sugar, caster if you have it but granulated is fine.

Enjoy whichever way pleases you best!


  1. Gemma said:

    Think more the texture of a scone, you have the super very tasty part right though 😉

  2. Lisa said:

    They look like very tasty pancakes… super very tasty pancakes!