Welsh Cakes for St David’s Day (Picau ar y Maen am Dydd Gŵyl Dewi)
Making St David’s Day Welsh cakes with my grandmother is one of the few kitchen memories I have of her that doesn’t involve me being actually turfed out of the kitchen. I think an early love of these small, sweetly spiced discs sealed my affection for that old Marmite of baking staples – dried fruit. This recipe is adapted from a very old one involving the use of lard; my grandmother, who was also vegetarian, changed it by using white vegetable fat instead. I’d be fibbing if I said she made them religiously every year – she didn’t, and was perfectly happy buying a bag from the local market. Welsh cakes are sold in bakeries throughout Wales every day of the year – it was quite an eye-opener when I moved to London and realised, to my dismay, that I couldn’t buy them anymore. I quickly learnt to make my own, and make them every year; although if I’m perfectly honest, my Welsh mother-in-law makes the best Welsh cakes I’ve ever had.
Traditional Welsh cakes are made on a bakestone or a griddle; a large, heavy frying pan would do the job though.
Makes about 16 cakes.
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g cold butter, cubed
50g cold Trex
75g caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 medium egg
2 tbsp milk
In a mixing bowl large enough to hold everything, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cubes of butter and use a teaspoon to add manageable blobs of Trex. Rub the fats into the flour until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture; you can do this by hand or use a processor or mixer as you please. It only takes a couple of minutes so I usually do it by hand, purely because I’m too lazy to wash unnecessary Kitchen Aid attachments!
Sprinkle in the sugar and mixed spice and stir until thoroughly combined. Now add a lightly beaten egg and use a wooden spoon or spatula to bring everything together. If it seems too dry, add a tablespoon or so of milk. You are aiming for a firm but pliable dough. Lightly knead in the raisins until evenly dispersed.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1cm. Use a round cutter to cut out discs. I use a 6cm fluted cutter, but a round one is better as it cuts through the raisins better!
On a low-medium heat, cook the Welsh cakes for about 3-4 minutes on each side. It is better to take your time, as you don’t want a burnt cake with a raw centre! Aim for a nice golden colour and remember they firm up as they cool. When removed from the heat, sprinkle each cake with a little caster sugar. Allow to cool completely before storing; they will keep for a few days in an airtight tub.