WELSH CAKES RECIPE
“Val Griffiths was holding out a plate of what looked like squashed, sultana-studded scones…”
Welsh cakes make a fleeting appearance in The King Thing, but they deserve to take centre stage, so here goes…
As well as “squashed, sultana-studded scones,” you could describe Welsh cakes as a kind of thick, soft biscuit. In Wales, people also call them ‘pics’ (from the Welsh picau ar y maun – ‘pikelets on the stone’ – because in they old days they were fried on a hot bakestone placed on the fire).
However you wish to describe them, they’re delicious and very easy to make. Most Welsh mams and grans make them for their kids – including mine. They’re bloody lovely – and really easy to make. No baking!
So put your Treorchy Male-Voice Choir CD on full volume, and get cooking… (Recipe makes around 12 Welsh cakes)
Self-raising flour, 450g/16oz (sieved)
Salted butter, 220g/8oz
1 large egg
A very generous handful of sultanas
Milk, if needed
Caster sugar 170g/6oz
Mixed spice, 1 teaspoon (cake spice, not curry spice!)
Extra butter, for greasing
Large mixing bowl
Rolling pin (or floured wine bottle!)
Cookie cutter (or just use an upturned half-pint glass)
Frying pan (Some recipes will tell you to use a traditional thick griddle pan, but you can use any non-stick frying pan, as long as you keep the heat low)
CD or Spotify selection playing a Welsh male-voice choir.
How to make them:
Sieve the flour into your large mixing bowl.
Cut the butter into cubes then rub it into the flour with your fingers. This should end up looking like a bowlful of breadcrumbs.
Mix the spice in with the caster sugar, and sprinkle it all into the ‘breadcrumbs’. Throw in the sultanas. Then stir in the egg, and work it all together in the bowl with your fingers.
You’ll end up with a large ball of dough. If the dough ends up too sticky, your egg was too large. Remedy this by adding more flour, little by little, until the doughball stops being sticky. If your doughball is too dry, add a little milk or a tiny bit more egg and work it in again.
Sprinkle flour on your work surface, then use the rolling pin or wine bottle to roll out the dough to about a centimetre thick.
Cut out circles from the dough using a cutter or upturned half-pint glass.
Put your frying pan on the hob at the lowest heat. Melt some butter on the pan. Fry the cakes for about three or four minutes on each side.
They should rise a little with the heat, and be firm once they’re done. They should be golden brown on either side – even very dark brown is usually okay. I actually flip mine a few times on each side, judging them by eye, just to make sure they don’t burn.
You can’t go far wrong – even if you burn the outer sultanas slightly, the following steps disguise that mistake:
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Once cool, put them in a tin which contains a large handful of caster sugar and a half teaspoon of mixed spice. Shake the tin full of Welshcakes so they get a really good covering.
(The generous coating of caster sugar really makes the cakes special – you’ll see packaged Welshcakes in the supermarket with little or no caster sugar on them – this is WRONG!)
Serve cold, with a cup of tea.
Yes, that’s right – serve cold. Some recipes tell you to serve them while still hot. I think this is an abomination, as they’re not quite set yet, and are therefore a little bit sickly. And Delia Smith says to serve them with butter, but I was brought up in South Wales, and we never ever had them with butter. We also never had them with currants, but I guess you’re free to do what you want to do.
There was, however, a variation in which the sultanas were left out of the recipe, and when cool, the cakes were sliced in half and spread with strawberry jam – like a jam sandwich. These are lovely, but you can’t beat the simple sultana version, in my book.
And that’s exactly what’s featured in my book, as cooked by Val Griffiths.