Traditional Welsh Cakes

Unforgettably flaky, tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s punctuated with sweet currants and laced with a wonderful hint of mace, these Welsh cakes are simply irresistible!  A thoroughly authentic Welsh Cakes recipe from generations past.

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

What Are Welsh Cakes?

Welsh cakes, also known as bakestones or “picau ar y maen” in the Welsh language, are popular, traditional Welsh baked goods that are flat, round, and resemble griddle scones.   They are traditionally made from flour, lard, sugar, and dried currants and often a hint of warming spices like cinnamon and mace.  They’re cooked on a griddle or heavy skillet which gives them their characteristic slightly crispy exterior while keeping the interior soft and meltingly tender.  Once cooked they’re coated in sugar and served warm.   An important and beloved part of Welsh culinary heritage, Welsh cakes are enjoyed as an everyday treat or served on special occasions like St. David’s Day.

A Brief Introduction to Wales

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk just briefly about the beautiful country that is home to these delicious Welsh Cakes.  Wales is a breathtakingly scenic country with mountainous national parks, glacial landforms, rugged coastlines, some of the most striking fortresses in the world, picturesque villages, and steeped in a rich Celtic culture.

And then of course there is the Welsh language which is near maddening to anyone who can’t speak it (99.999% of the world).  Yet even the mind-boggling, tongue-twisting language is an endearing aspect of this beautiful country.

welsh flag

I visited Wales regularly during the 6 years I lived in England and my husband also lived in Wales for nearly a year as a young adult.  There’s a small village in Wales that has the longest place name in the UK and second longest in the world.  Todd prides himself in being able to say the name, all 58 letters, at break-neck speed and without even the slightest hiccup: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

And just in case you don’t believe me, we visited the village this Summer and I took a picture of the sign:

wales

So you have these charming quirks in Wales and then you also have the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring landscapes and architecture.  Todd and I both absolutely love Wales and just got back from a recent vacation there with our kids, focusing this time on North Wales.  Here are just few representative pictures of the area.

Below left:  The Great Orme.  Below right (top and bottom):  Snowdonia National Park.

snowdonia

Below are a few of Wales’ most striking and famous castles, all built by Edward I in the 13th century.

Below top left:  Caernarfon Castle, where historically the Prince of Wales was crowned and that tradition was resumed with Prince Charles.  Below top right:  View from Harlech Castle.

Below bottom left:  Beaumaris Castle, considered the finest textbook example concentric castle design in the world.  Below bottom right:  Harlech Castle, also considered an example of the finest medieval castle designs in the world.

wales castle

Below:  Conwy Castle, considered one of the finest defensive castle designs in the world.

wales

The Killebrew’s at Beaumaris Castle.

beaumaris castle wales

Wales also has a special place in my heart because it’s home to many of my ancestors.  My great grandparents on my father’s maternal side were from South Wales and I also have a long line Welsh ancestry in North Wales that goes back to Roman times.

It was my great-grandparents, the Thomas Family from Glamorganshire, Wales, who immigrated to the United States, to Utah, in the late 19th century.

welsh family

I’ve always wished some of my great grandmothers would have left some journals or recipes to pass down.  What a treasure that would be!  Nevertheless, I like to imagine my Welsh great-grandmother, Dinah, making these Welsh cakes in her kitchen and her children enjoying them hot off the griddle and dusted in sugar.

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

So in honor of the beautiful country of Wales and my Welsh heritage, I’m sharing a very authentic recipe for traditional Welsh Cakes.  In Wales these are also known as “bakestones” because traditionally they were cooked on a bakestone which is a cast iron griddle that was placed on the fire or stovetop.

If you’ve never had Welsh Cakes before, I think you’ll agree once you try them that they’re quite different from anything you’ve had before.  With their unforgettably flaky, tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s punctuated with sweet currants and laced with a wonderful hint of mace, Welsh cakes are simply irresistible.

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

And if you have had Welsh cakes before but your opinion (whether or good or bad) is based solely on store-bought ones, set that opinion aside because I promise you you’ll form a whole new opinion once you’ve tried homemade ones.  I’ve had store-bought Welsh cakes on a couple of occasions and I don’t care for them.

storebought welsh cakes

But…HOMEMADE…that’s an entirely different story.  I am IN LOVE with these traditional homemade Welsh cakes!!  Let me say it again:  NOTHING compares to the traditional homemade version of these cakes using real lard and mace!  They are FABULOUS.  Just trust me on this enough to give them a try.

How to Make Welsh Cakes

Use lard.  Do not substitute with additional  butter.  Lard makes ALL the difference in the texture.  I repeat:  Lard makes ALL the difference in the texture.  I highly recommend making your own lard – it’s super easy!  Learn How to Render Lard.

Use mace.  Don’t substitute nutmeg.  Mace is a wonderfully aromatic and flavorful spice that was commonly used generations ago but is unfortunately less common today.  Its really adds a special and nostalgic touch of old-fashioned flavor.

Use caster sugar.  This is also critical for the texture.  Since these Welsh cakes are cooked pretty quickly, regular granulated sugar will not have time to dissolve and the texture will be grittier as opposed to that smooth, almost melt-in-your mouth consistency we’re after.  Caster sugar is ultra-fine sugar and dissolves very quickly.  You can buy caster sugar or very simply make your own by running regular sugar through the blender until very fine.  Do NOT use powdered sugar – it contains cornstarch and is not the same thing.

Traditional Welsh Cakes Recipe

Let’s get started!

In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, mace and cinnamon.  Mix in the lard and butter using your fingers or a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

combining flour spices butter and lard

Add the currants and stir to combine.  Add the beaten egg and work it into the mixture adding a little milk as needed until you have a soft dough.  It should not be wet or sticky.

adding currants and egg

Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  (Dough can be made well in advance and chilled until ready to use.)

Roll the dough out onto a floured or non-stick surface about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out rounds using a biscuit cutter.

Gather up the scraps, knead together and roll out again to cut the remaining rounds.

welsh cakes recipe traditional authentic currants lard wales

Heat and lightly butter a cast iron pan over medium heat.  (I use and love my Lodge cast iron pan for these Welsh Cakes.)

Add the cakes and cook on each side until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes (lower the heat if needed to prevent the outside from burning before the interior is done).

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

Once the Welsh cakes are done, remove them from the pan and let them cool for a minute.

While the Welsh cakes are still warm, place them in a small bowl of sugar to coat all sides.

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

Best eaten while a little warm.  Reheat Welsh Cakes in a pan, toaster, or warmed oven (or if in a hurry, in the microwave for a few seconds).

Enjoy!

welsh cakes recipe authentic traditional best griddle cakes dried currants lard butter

Be sure to also try our traditional Welsh tea bread, Bara Brith!

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet October 30, 2018

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