I hadn't heard of Eccles cakes before I moved to Tasmania. Which is a bit sad because it means that I had lived for 30 odd years without these little buttery fruity treats in my life. Seems such a wasted opportunity.
The Huon Valley however, seems to be rife with Eccles cakes and most local markets around these parts will have at least one homemade stall with a stack of them for sale.
Named after the English town where they originate, an Eccles cake is a small round treat made with buttery flaky pastry, filled with currants and topped with demerara sugar.
But it's a little cafe in nearby Cygnet called The Lotus Eaters that sets a lofty benchmark for theses little cakes. Their version is flawless. Made from crisp, flaky puff pastry, burnished and buttery to reveal a treasure trove of currents inside. There’s a sharp crack as you bite through the crystallised sugar, which gives way to a softer crunch from the sugary, buttery pastry flakes. Inside, a hint of spice and citrus is melded with plump buttery currants to make a juicy filling that is both rich and fragrant. Divine.
Sadly the Lotus Eaters don't make them very often, and when they do, they sell out really quickly.
Having missed out too many times, and a craving that just wouldn't go away, there was nothing for it but to try and recreate the Eccles for myself.
Mine turned out perfectly acceptable, the family loved them and I am happy with the result. Next time however, I will slash the pastry a little deeper, and try and get my hands on some demerara sugar to sprinkle on the top. I will need a lot more practice to get them close to the ones at the Lotus Eaters. It’s a challenge I’m quite prepared to rise to. I do have to make up for thirty-odd lost years after all.
500g flaky pastry (frozen, or make your own rough puff, I used an easy recipe from here )
generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
zest of one orange
60g brown sugar
beaten egg for glazing and demerara if you have it or caster sugar works just as well.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to a thickness of about half a centimetre
Cut into 10cm diameter rounds.
Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the sugar, currants, nutmeg and zest. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
Place a tablespoon of this mixture into the centre of each pastry round.
Dampen the edges of the pastry and press the edges together sealing in the currant mixture.
Place upside down on a greased baking tray and press them down a little.
Make three small cuts across the centre of each cake.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake at 220°c for 20 minutes or until golden.