The latest recipe instalment in the Golden Yorkshire Sock Club are Sly Cakes. Celebrating the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, Rachel Coopey designed the beautiful Dalez sock full of rippling cables in a yarn dyed by The Knitting Goddess, the colour of which you can’t quite put your finger on as it changes between a pale olive and light heather depending on the light, just like the Dales landscape…
When is a cake not a cake?
When it’s a Sly Cake!
Now, I cause enough confusion with buns versus fairy cakes versus cupcakes, so before I do the same with cakes, let’s get the record straight: Sly Cakes are not cakes in the risen sponge sense of the phrase and are something closer to a Lancashire Eccles Cake, which come to think of it is not a cake either! All clear? Excellent.
One of my favourite bakery treats as a child were currant slices. A solid square of short flaky pastry trapping a dense layer of currants, dusted with a good helping of caster sugar, and Sly Cakes appear to be the precursor to this childhood delight.
There doesn’t appear to be a definitive recipe for the Sly Cake filling and recipes tend to be more of a very loose list of ingredients that change from region to region so you can pick and mix from to suit your taste, wallet and what you find at the back of the cupboard. Very early versions contain currants and mixed peel mixed with sugar and a dash of milk, there are some which include walnuts (and I encourage you to do the same if you’re a fan – around 60g will be enough), others have some grated apple in them, but a good base is a combination of dried dates or figs mixed with currants and sultanas or raisins. Have a rummage in the kitchen cupboard and see what you find then adjust the recipe accordingly – so long as you have similar quantities of dried fruit (240g total) to sugar and water they will be delicious.
The recipe here is for my third test batch. What I thought were dates in the cupboard turned out to be dried prunes leftover from Christmas Cake baking so in they went. Oh, and if you’re not one for making pastry just use the ready-made shortcrust pastry available in the chiller aisle at the supermarket – life is too short to be judged on our ability to make good pastry. Ask me how I know!
(makes 9-12 squares or slices)
For the pastry:
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g diced cold butter, hard margarine or use 50g margarine, 50g lard
2 tablespoons of very cold water, to mix
or purchase a 320g pack of chilled shortcrust pastry
For the filling:
120g dried prunes
60g soft dark brown sugar
Grated zest of half a lemon
½ teaspoon of mixed spice
6 tablespoons of water
Caster sugar for the top
Firstly, make the pastry…
Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Add the diced butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Gradually add the water, using your fingers to bring the pastry together. Knead lightly, but do not overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge to chill for 15-20 minutes whilst you get on with the filling.
Put the prunes, currants, sultanas, sugar, lemon zest and mixed spice in a pan and add the water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until all of the water is absorbed and the mixture is soft and sticky. Take it off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Grease a 10 x 23cm shallow tin and preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan).
Divide the pastry into two and roll one half out to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. Carefully spread the dried fruit mixture over it and then top with the second piece of pastry. Dampen the edges and seal tightly to prevent the filling leaking out.
Bake for around 25-30 minutes until the top is a light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and dredge with caster sugar if you like.
Leave to cool completely and then cut into squares or slices. Perfect for elevenses with a mug of tea, they are best eaten within a couple of days.