Wednesday is St David’s Day, and in our household that means one thing: Welsh cakes. Sam and his family are Welsh, and Welsh cakes are a staple all year round for them. Of course this meant that the prospect of trying to pull together a recipe that stood up against those of Sam’s childhood was a daunting one.
Welsh cakes are simple, at least in theory: a straightforward, lightly spiced, sultana-studded dough, rolled out and cut into rounds, griddled until golden and firm. But like all theoretically simple and beloved dishes, there are a hundred permutations.
And as Sam stood over me, back-seat baking, I questioned myself. Was I bastardising the recipe beyond all recognition? Was it OK to use sultanas just because I preferred them to the more traditional raisins? If I added more spice to my taste, does it cease to be a Welsh cake?
I realised as I was stirring the mixture that the smell, the taste I was chasing, was that of my grandma’s sultana scones, because that is the smell of my childhood. A smell and a taste that I’ve been trying and failing to recreate for years and years. Perhaps I’ll never get it right, but it feels appropriate that if I can’t quite get those right, they are reborn in a version of my partner’s childhood cakes.
We’re getting married in December and I’m not taking Sam’s surname, and he’s not taking mine. We’re squashing the two together into a hybrid name, something new that incorporates both of us, neither taking precedent. These cakes are a little like that: a mishmash of our separate histories, brought to life in a new form. They are Welsh cakes, but they’re my Welsh cakes, for better or worse. And I hope my not-quite-in-laws will forgive me for it.
It goes like this:
Makes: 15 little cakes
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 10 minutes
350g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g salted butter
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1-2 tablespoons of milk
1. Rub the flour and butter together between fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs, and any lumps of butter are no bigger than pea-sized.
2. Add the sugar, baking powder and cinnamon, and stir through the mixture.
3. Add the egg and sultanas and bring the mixture into a dough. Loosen with 1-2 tablespoons of milk. The dough should hold together, because you’re going to roll it, but will be soft.
4. Flour a work surface and your rolling pin, and roll out the dough to 2-3cm thickness. Cut out rounds with a cutter or small glass. This is easier if you’ve floured the cutter. Re-roll and cut until you’ve used up all the dough.
5. Heat a dry pan to a low to medium heat. Place a small number of rounds in the pan and cook for 2-5 minutes each side. Don’t fiddle with the cakes: they need to form a crust on each side, so try to leave them alone. Once a golden crust has formed, flip onto the other side, and cook until golden. If the cakes are browning too quickly before the middle has cooked, adjust your heat.
6. Sprinkle the still hot cakes with caster sugar on both sides and leave for ten minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cook completely.
7. Ta dah!
Icing on the Cake
We ate these spread with butter, which is fast becoming my only modus operandi.