Wales and Welsh Cakes

29 August 2011

Post image for Wales and Welsh Cakes

We’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go to Wales twice, both times for weddings of close friends. It is such a beautiful country, particularly if you head outside of Cardiff where you will see picturesque rolling hillsides, lush green farms and, if you make it that far, magnificent coast lines.

 

On the first occasion, I recall the bride telling stories of how she had stayed up the night before cooking batches of Welsh cakes to give to guests as wedding favours. If I recall correctly, they were even heart shaped! At the time, I happily consumed my wedding favour on the way back to our hotel room that evening, not giving another thought as to why it was called a Welsh cake or what significance it held, if any.

It was only recently – two weeks ago, to be precise – that I was gratefully re-introduced to these Welsh cakes when we went back to Wales for the wedding of a school friend of mine. After arriving at Cardiff airport, we hopped into our rental car and made our way out west, excited about our drive to the Welsh countryside and the fun and relaxing weekend that lay ahead. All was well until our GPS directed us off the highway and onto some narrow one-lane roads which produced several moments of sheer panic when we were confronted with cars approaching us. Tiny and slight shoulders (i.e. bushes) on the road allowed us to somehow pull over to let the other cars pass us. Escaping these narrow roads and finding our way back onto the highway was a welcome relief, until we saw the speed limit signs and weren’t sure if they were in kph or mph … hmmm …

Upon arriving at our B&B, a quaint country house near St. Clears, our host showed us to our rooms which had gorgeous views overlooking the Welsh countryside with glimpses of cows and sheep grazing in the distance; one could only feel relaxed in such surroundings. A quick peek around the room revealed Cath Kidston mugs and homewares, and even Molton Brown products in the bathroom – this city-slicker instantly felt better!

Either sensing our state of frazzledness or, more likely, as a sign of hospitality, our host offered to make us some fresh tea and Welsh cakes, and we happily accepted. And so if I didn’t appreciate the comfort of Welsh cakes before, I certainly understood them this time around. As a traditional tea-time snack, they are lovely with a cup of tea and will do wonders in helping you to unwind. That and the fresh, country air.

I happen to really love afternoon tea, that time when the day starts to wind down but isn’t quite over yet, that one cuppa and sweet treat to get you through until it’s time to shut-down your computer and head home. I also love morning tea, lunch, dinner … breakfast not so much because I’m always in a hurry so I never quite get to enjoy what I’m eating.

The next time you think about making scones, perhaps you might like to try your hand at these Welsh cakes. Both recipes require more or less the same ingredients but, with Welsh cakes, you make something more like a shortcrust pastry which is then pan-fried on the stove. The texture is somewhat like a scone, but a bit more crumbly like a shortbread biscuit. They are wonderful served warm from the pan with just a sprinkling of sugar or even with some jam, but they also taste great cold.

I was rather surprised that I didn’t have a recipe for Welsh cakes in any of my cookbooks, but thankfully I picked up a postcard in Wales which had a recipe for it on the front, and I adapted accordingly.

The recipe calls for lard, thereby guaranteeing that melt-in-your-mouth texture that you can’t always get with just butter. I had never bought lard before in Zurich so I wasn’t even sure what it was called in German, but sitting amongst the bottles of oil, I found this darling tub of Schweinefett and instantly knew that it was what I was looking for!

This is one of the things I love about travelling – discovering foodie treats that I can try to recreate when I get back home, a taste memory if you will.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia 29 August 2011 at 2:36 am

What a wonderful and beautiful photo filled blog. My welsh friend makes these often, I’m sure the key to her husbands heart, on a proper welsh stone. I’m going to direct her here asap. Off for another photo ogle.

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 6:28 pm

Hi Julia! Thanks for sharing this link with Lynne :-) I wish I could have shared more photos but silly me forgot to bring my battery charger for my camera!

Reply

Hazzer 29 August 2011 at 3:37 am

Beautiful blog Creme. I love Welsh cakes. It was one of the first things my grandmother let me cook by myself, probably something to with having to make 100s for a fund raiser ;)

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 6:30 pm

Thanks Hazzer! Sounds like both of our grandmothers believed in child-labour ;-) Given how wonderful they taste, I’m rather surprised that they are not more popular. But I guess that, in a way, this makes Welsh cakes just that bit more special.

Reply

Anita Menon 29 August 2011 at 7:17 am

You reminded me of my visit to Wales when I lived in England until a year ago. Surprisingly I never got around sampling any Welsh Cakes. But thanks for sharing the recipe. This is my opportunity to relive my time in the beautiful Wales.

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 6:34 pm

Hi Anita! As I mentioned above, I was surprised that none of my cookbooks had a recipe for Welsh cakes so I am more than happy to share what was on my recipe postcard :-) After this particular afternoon tea at the B&B, I anxiously awaited the next opportunity to sample these lovely treats again, which we did at a café in Laugharne. Let me know if you get around to making these at home!

Reply

Lynne Morgan 29 August 2011 at 11:11 am

My friend Julia directed me here to read your comments! I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to Wales, and especially our Welsh cakes. As Julia says, I have an old cast iron bakestone that I use to make them and my husband loves them. In soppier moments I’ve cut the odd one or two with a heart cutter.

Can I just say though, that they are not ‘fried’ in the traditional sense, you simply smear some oil/butter over your bakestone/griddle to oil it, much as you would with a cake pan. It takes some fiddling with the gas flame to get it ‘just-so’, to let them cook quietly without burning. As in all things though, practice makes perfect.

Like you, I like to sit down mid-afternoon with a cup of tea and a Welsh Cake – Earl Grey is my personal preference. They seem to suit eachother so well.

As we say at the bridge, Croeso i Gymru!

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 6:46 pm

Hello Lynne! Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I’m a bit nervous to have a Welsh person see my version of Welsh cakes so I hope they passed the test! Thank you for pointing out that the pan only needs to be smeared or wiped with fat – I probably used too much lard then … oops! For the first batch, I did wipe the pan with some lard using a paper towel, but I was worried that the cakes needed more fat in order to cook through to the centre. So I added more fat the next time which, of course, was all absorbed by the cakes! In hindsight, both methods produced similar results, though the former is probably more health conscious ;-) I will make a minor adjustment to the recipe.

Earl Grey is also my favourite so I’m happy that I already have the perfect pairing for these Welsh cakes.

It also makes me smile that I will always have fond memories of Wales whenever I make these :-) This is definitely a recipe which I will keep making again and again.

Reply

Lynne Morgan 29 August 2011 at 8:46 pm

Baking Welsh Cakes really is an art form – I think it takes longer to faff about with the pan heat than it takes to make and roll them out! Like I said, my bakesone is quite thick cast iron so I get it quite hot before I start baking and then turn the gas down – think simmering temperature. The middle of the cakes cook with the heat of the bakestone. They were traditionally made on the old fashioned ranges and just never morphed into modern cakes – a throwback to when our great grandmothers made them!

Your recipe is very similar to the one that I make. There are probably as many recipes as there are families – most a variation of the same basic one.

I am so glad you enjoyed your visit to Wales, and took a little bit of us back with you.

Reply

Sasha @ The Procrastobaker 29 August 2011 at 11:32 am

This post made me so happy :) I feel very lucky to live in Wales, it is indeed such a pretty place. And yes, we have welsh cakes! Cant really beat that now can you! :) Love the little things so much and i havnt made them in farfar too long, so thank you for reminding me that i simply must make them very soon indeed! (ps just a fact to throw your way, welsh cakes traditionally do not have sugar on top, die hard fans would recoil at this fact! But i too like the sugary topping like you have done and is more common than not these days :) )

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 6:57 pm

Hi Sasha! Oh dear … really?? Actually, come to think about it, the Welsh cakes I had in Wales were not sprinkled with sugar. But I wanted to stick to the recipe on the postcard because I (maybe foolishly?) thought that it was a “traditional” recipe! And also, I’m impartial to anything sweet so I sprinkled away!

You are indeed very lucky to live in such a beautiful country. Even though it rained everyday when we were there, I think we would have been disappointed if it hadn’t rained! The area out near St. Clears, Haverfordwest, St. David’s, Pendine is so, so pretty. We loved it so much that we hope to return again someday for another visit, especially since there are now direct flights between Zurich and Cardiff :-) Next time, I will bring my rain boots!

Reply

renee 29 August 2011 at 3:10 pm

What is the combination of spices in “mixed spice”? I have never been to Wales and these sound delicious but I am unsure of the authentic spice flavors. Thanks!

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hi Renee! The “mixed spice” which I use is a combination of ground cinnamon, ground allspice and ground nutmeg. If you can’t find “mixed spice” where you are, I would suggest adding a pinch of any or all of these mentioned spices. Or, you could probably also omit the spices. I have to admit that I was hesitant to add any at first because I didn’t recall the Welsh cakes I had eaten in Wales to be particularly aromatic. But it is such a small amount that I’m sure the cakes would still taste great without the spices.

Reply

Sara 29 August 2011 at 6:35 pm

What a lovely trip down memory lane during my lunch minute! Thank you for that! My grandmother was Welsh & taught us to make these as our first baking experience together – they are a family favorite I can’t wait to share with my daughter.

Reply

eat little bird 29 August 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hi Sara! It sounds like you and many others have wonderful memories of learning how to make Welsh cakes as a young child, and I think these are such lovely memories to have! I have no doubt that these Welsh cakes will also be a favourite in our home :-)

Reply

Reem | Simply Reem 29 August 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oh what a lovely post with amazing pictures and wonderful recipe!!!!
I have never tried these but will love to have some now.
Will make them for sure, They sounds delicious.

Reply

Len (from the urban peasantry) 29 August 2011 at 8:40 pm

We camped in Wales right on the border with England and swore we’d have to go back to drive deeper into Wales, I loved the countryside. The cakes sound very comforting. In North-Eastern Europe, where I come from, we’d make similar pan-fried cakes based on cottage cheese, which would probably be a nice substitute for butter in this recipe, in case someone is trying to limit the fats. I love quiet food, like these cakes. Have a lovely day!

Reply

eat little bird 1 September 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hi Len! These cakes are indeed very comforting, like any sweet bite to have with a cup of tea :-) I’m interested to hear about your cakes with cottage cheese – sounds really lovely!

Reply

mommytanya (@mommytanya) 29 August 2011 at 8:57 pm

Those look amazing. Just last week I had a twitter conversation with a friend in NY and another friend in England. I grew up in SE Asia and did a study abroad at Oxford and we were all talking about different foods from different parts of the world and welsh cakes came up as something neither I nor my NY friend had heard of before. I can’t wait to try my hand at making these!

Reply

eat little bird 1 September 2011 at 10:17 pm

Ooh please let me know if you do end up trying these! They are quite easy to make and even easier to eat :-) I’m rather surprised that these Welsh cakes are not more popular, though at the same time, the fact that they are not common do make them a bit more special.

Reply

At Anna's Kitchen Table 3 September 2011 at 6:04 pm

What beautiful photographs! I agree, there are some beautiful places in Wales (My brother lives in South Wales)
I’ve never made Welsh cakes, but enjoy eating them!

Reply

Phyllis Hunter 18 November 2011 at 2:57 pm

It was lovely meeting you last week. I lookforward to your pictures of The Spice Diva. Your blog is beautiful and very interesting.

Reply

eat, little bird 21 November 2011 at 11:59 pm

Hello Phyllis! It was lovely to meet you, also. Your spices travelled well back with me to Zurich :-) I hope to post a travel update soon … I’ll keep you posted!

Reply

Lydia 21 November 2011 at 10:38 pm

I like your blog, very informative !!!
BTW, I love Welsh cake!!!! One of my favorite tea time snacks.
xx

Reply

eat, little bird 22 November 2011 at 12:03 am

Thank you, Lydia! Happy to meet another Welsh cake fan :-) I must make them again soon!

Reply

Kris 20 March 2013 at 1:15 am

Dad makes Welsh cakes and they are a family favorite! We tried the commercial version when we went to Wales, but Dad’s home baking is so much better! You’re right, getting the griddle to the right temp is the tricky part of the recipe. Thanks for introducing these to so many others! Your blog is beautiful.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: