Eccles Cakes for the Royal Wedding

We’ve been keeping so busy with Easter, Earth Day, building a chicken coop, and the arrival of spring to the back yard, that I hadn’t given much thought to the impending royal wedding.

Then last Saturday, over at my in-laws, my sister and I browsed a small stack of magazines dedicated to Will, Kate and big event. The ring! The story! The romance! I fell hard for the whole package.

The next day I bookmarked The Website, followed the Twitter account and even took a peak at the You Tube channel.

It’s pretty magical, you have to admit. A prince, struck with tragedy so young, forever in the public eye, now marrying for love.

My mother married a British man nearly 40 years ago, my dear dad. I was delighted when she told me today that she was making her wedding cake again – a traditional English fruitcake- in honour of the royal wedding. She was also planning to rise at 3 am, go over to her sisters (my parents don’t have TV) and watch the whole shebang. Mom, you are so cool.

Of course I’ve done a bit of baking of my own. Buttermik Scones are prepared for tomorrow’s breakfast and wedding viewing. Although I’ll be playing catch up online. No 3 am wake up for this mama.

If you’re looking for an accompaniment to your tea tomorrow, may I suggest Eccles Cakes? Imagine a layer of black currants and sugar pressed between two sheets of puff pastry and baked to a crisp, caramelized delicious morsel. They’ve been a favorite of mine forever. That British background working its influence on my palate, I guess.

This particular interpretation of a classic British tea-time treat is more of a Canadian version of the original tea cakes of Eccles, England. With only three ingredients it is fast to make and you can easily whip up a batch for afternoon tea. So put the kettle on.

Eccles Cakes


  • 1 ½ lbs puff pastry, chilled
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup currants

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Plump currants in hot water 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Roll chilled dough in a floured surface in to a rectangle 3/16 inch thick. Put aside for a moment while removing all dusting flour. Sprinkle the work surface generously with sugar and continue rolling dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

Trim the piece in to a precise rectangle. Cover half the dough solidly with currants in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Fold the remaining half of the dough over the top of the currants.

Gently press a rolling pin over the entire surface until the black currants show through the sheet of thin dough. The result is a nice speckled appearance.

With a knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2-inch squares and place 1-2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Place in the refrigerator to relax the dough for 25 minutes while the oven heats.

Reheat oven to 375F.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. When the bottoms have caramelized and are light brown, carefully turn the cakes over and finish baking. ( I forgot to do this step, so my tops are less caramelized.)

Place cakes on rack to cool. Enjoy!

Ed note: excerpts and photos from this post were previously published in October, 2007.

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon Part 3: Desserts

You may want to grab some of that leftover Easter chocolate before starting to read this post – or not. Chances are your Cadbury eggs will pale in comparison to this line up of deserts we recently enjoyed at a local sugar shack.

Here are the first two parts of our culinary adventure to bring you up to speed on our outing:

Read Part 1: Appetizers
Read Part 2: Main Courses

Desserts are, as all of you know, my weakness. Desserts featuring maple? Well, let’s just say we get along very well.

A little too well, perhaps, but who’s counting pancakes??

Crêpes Grand-Mère‘, I believed these were called, although I wasn’t paying much attention to our server at that point. I’m somewhat of a pancake aficionado, and these were among the best I’ve had.

Can one really call them pancakes, though? They were deep-fried in duck fat, deliciously hot and crispy and served swimming in maple syrup. Definitely a perfect marriage between pancakes and doughnuts.

Our table polished them off in no time.

I called our server aside to inquire about the house policy on ‘seconds’, to which she promptly informed me that they don’t accommodate. I remained calm, but firm, and managed to convey my deep and utter need for another tray.

Happily, another dish of pancakes arrived shortly in front of me, hot and devastatingly good. (Have I ever called anything ‘devastatingly good’ on this blog??)

OK, I’m going to get flack for this one, but this is my space, so I can say what I like. This banana split was just so-so. Sure it had banana’s (what’s local about those?) maple marshmallows (mine are better – just sayin’), some pretty kicking maple ice cream, and maple-glazed nuts, but I wasn’t as impressed as some of the other eaters. Go ahead, call me spoiled.

The split’s best feature was the maple cotton candy garnish, which was brilliant. I bought some to take home for the boys. Delish!

This was subconsciously what we had all come for: tire à l’érable, or maple taffy. This is a requisite treat for a visit to any sugar shack.

It is rolled up on a popsicle stick from it’s bed of crushed ice (packed snow works better) and enjoyed in all it’s teeth numbing, sticky sweetness.

(at this point, I almost had to hold onto the table when I stood up. Remember this was our third ‘wave’ of food. But there was one more…)

My second favorite dessert (pancakes were number one) was the maple mille-feuille, and easily the best of its kind I’ve ever had. Mille-feuille is a dime a dozen around here, but most of them are disappointing.

Not so here, Au Pied de Cochon’s version leaves nothing to be desired, except, perhaps, the residual longing that all mille-feuilles were maple.

Ah, in a perfect world, perhaps.

~Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon: adult $49 CAD, kids from 3 to 12 yrs old $15

Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Click photo to enlarge; do not lick the screen.

It never fails to happen that I entertain guests and forget to serve a dish. Be it a topping, a salad, a finale – something often gets left out.

I probably jinxed myself, when on the day of Mateo’s birthday (and the receiving of 40 – yes, FORTY- guests into our home), I said to Danny.

“Remind me to serve the ice cream with the cake. Let’s not forget the ice cream.”

Yeah, I probably don’t have to tell you that the birthday cake was enjoyed sans ice cream. Of course I forgot it in the general mayhem of things and there was enough sweets so the ice cream wasn’t missed.

It wasn’t until about eleven at night, when we were watching the Olympic closing ceremonies and relaxing with some wine dregs, that we looked at each other and said

“The ice cream!”

Not that there is anything wrong with leftover ice cream, it’s just that I had bought So. Much. of it.

Fortunately, I was receiving guests three more times that week (it’s kind of an open door around here) and figured I could use up the ice cream that way.

Still, I can’t serve just ice cream to guests; that kind of makes me squirm. It’s an accompaniment to a dessert, but I didn’t have time to make one. I needed a topping.

A quick poll of my Tweeps put me in touch with this recipe faster than you can say ‘Sundae’. Robin from Hippo Flambe sent me her caramel chocolate sauce, advising me to ‘forget hot fudge sauce’ and try her recipe instead.

I’m glad I did, because it’s pretty sweeeet. I ate so much of it with a spoon, it’s a wonder there was any left for our banana splits that night. It leaves regular chocolate sauce way behind with it’s multi-levels of flavor from caramelized sugar and a touch of salt.

You must try this sauce – for ice cream, waffles, crepes, or just drizzled over poached pears.

Head over to Robin’s site Hippo Flambe to get the Joy of Cooking recipe for Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce.

You’ll be glad you did, ice cream or no ice cream.

More Marshmallows

Yes, I made marshmallows. I boiled and beat, patted and sliced, and tossed them in toasted coconut.
Yes, they were amazing.
I just picked up ingredients to make another batch, this time with vanilla bean. Danny comes from a long ancestral line of marshmallow aficionados (me not so much), so we’re taking this homemade marshmallow step very seriously.

There’s the story -and recipe- coming sometime soon. Things have been a little nuts around here, (see my previous post).

This weekend I’m getting ready for Mateo’s 2nd birthday and the 45 guests that will join us for the event. The little fellow went through a lot last year and we want to celebrate him and his life.

The menu is still TBD, but one thing I know, there will be hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows.

My Mother’s Butter Tarts

I have three siblings, all of whom are terrific cooks, and when we left home I was lucky enough to make off with my mother’s handwritten cookbook. We all grew up learning to cook from its stained and tattered pages, so I’m surprised no one kicked up a fuss when I claimed it for my own.

Perhaps none of them know I have it, nevertheless, one of my favorite rainy day pastimes (who am I kidding, those don’t exist in 2010) is to leaf through it and remember how we ate as kids – and how I cooked.

There are many favorite recipes, recipes that got me started on this whole gastronomical adventure. How many hundreds of times did I mix up Easy Wheat Pancakes or Quiche Lorraine? Crazy Chocolate Cake was my go-to one bowl chocolate cake for every occasion, while Kate’s Never Fail Pastry stood by it’s promise every time.

Sometime, I’m going to have to get my act together, scan the entire cookbook and preserve it forever. It’s literally in pieces, but that doesn’t affect the recipes, nay, they are as good as ever.

Like my mother’s butter tarts, for example.

I can’t accurately compare them to any other butter tarts, because honestly, I don’t eat any other butter tarts but these. Years of disappointment left me wary, as all I encountered were overly sweet and gooey concoctions with no texture to speak of save a stray raisin, and I mean raisin, singular.

These ones are chock full of raisins, coconut, and walnuts, chewy, and yes, a little bit gooey. They are perfection. I don’t make my mother’s butter tarts nearly often enough because well, Oh My Heck! they are rich and I can’t stop eating them even after two or seven. It may be my mother’s cookbook, but since I’ve left home she isn’t around anymore to limit my intake!

Butter Tarts

2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

18 2-inch tart shells, or 36 mini, usually the equivalent of two double-crust pies*.

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light. Beat in eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix well. Mix in raisins, walnuts, coconut, salt and cream. Combine thoroughly.

Spoon into tart shells and bake until set. 12-15 minutes for mini tarts, 20-22 for large.
Makes 1 1/2 dozen 2 inch tarts.

*And a quick word about those crusts. Your pie dough is your business, whether you like it flaky or crispy, all-butter or all-lard, but please, don’t roll it too thick for these tarts. It should complement the filling, not overwhelm it.
If you’ve ever had a butter tart at a popular coffee chain in Canada, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say TOO THICK. I won’t name names, because people love it so much, but I will say that it rhymes with Jim Shmortons.