Who ever thought that a small rounded cake made from flaky pastry with butter and currents could warm the stomachs and hearts of a town, a county and a nation?
The beloved Eccles cake was named after the town of Eccles, originally in Lancashire but now part of Greater Manchester.
Lancashire Day is celebrated on November 27 in commemoration of the day in 1295 when the Red Rose County first sent representatives to Parliament.
The exact origin of the Eccles Cake has been lost to the mists of time, but it is known that in the 17th Century, they were banned under Puritanical law as their rich, exotic flavour was considered to have pagan significance.
Eventually, history’s most infamous fun police lost power and around 1793, James Birch was credited as the first person to sell them commercially.
Again, the exact year of Birch’s enterprise isn’t exactly known. But the corner of what is now Church Street in Eccles was the venue, and by the early 19th Century they were exported to far-flung corners of the globe such as America and the West Indies.
— Seren Food Historian (@bubblingstove) October 21, 2018
Family recipes are closely guarded secrets so variations on the Eccles cake do exist. The Edmonds family have been making them since the 1930s, and their world-famous Lancashire Eccles Cakes business has pumped out pastries since 1979 at a rate of 600,000 a week.
The redbrick factory would go unnoticed if it wasn’t for the unmissable name ‘Lancashire Eccles Cakes’ decorated in curly, merry yellow letters like icing onto the side of the building, and the bakery smell wafts down the street like a warm hug.
Production Director Ian Edmonds told MM: “We think they are very important. We get many emails each year from expats who have emigrated as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA.
“They tell us how they have discovered our cakes in their local shops and they remind them of living in Lancashire as young children.
“They tell us how proud of their heritage they are and introduce our cakes to their friends who are so pleased to discover a little taste of Lancashire.”
The Eccles Cake hasn’t had plain sailing all the way. Having barely recovered from their ordeal with the Puritans, as recently as 2013 they were made examples of by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service after a number of house fires were attributed to their being cooked in microwaves.
So feel free to call up your favourite Grandmother and nab the family recipe – but if you like them warm, do stick to the oven.
Image courtesy of www.lancashireecclescakes.co.uk, with thanks.