Thursday, 26 June 2008

Wakes Cakes

Following my visit to Bakewell in Derbyshire, I decided to put a recipe to test from my Favourite Peak District Recipes book. I chose Wakes Cakes, as they sounded intriguing with their combination of ingredients. They happened to turn out very well – nice and crisp with chewy currants and interesting little flavour hits from the caraway seeds.

This traditional recipe may originate from the time of the English cotton mill industry during the 18th and 19th centuries. During the industrial revolution, many cotton mills were built in the midlands and the north, using the rivers to turn the great water wheels, which in turn powered the machinery to weave the cloth. This part of England was chosen, as it’s known for it’s damp and rainy weather, which are perfect conditions to produce high quality textiles. A dry atmosphere made the thread prone to breakage.

The life of a mill worker was not an easy one, very long hours for low pay and poor conditions and precious little time allowed to take holidays.
Wakes were originally religious festivals that commemorated church dedications, a time when people normally would want to take time off work and be with their families. Mill owners, not being overly generous with rights for their employees, found that their workers would often be absent at this time, so eventually seeing sense, they agreed that all the mills should close for a week anyway to allow for this.
Eventually, the wakes were adapted into a regular summer break when the week would be the focus for fairs where these cakes were sold and eagerly eaten.

12 oz flour
8 oz butter
6 oz white sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 oz currants
½ oz caraway seeds
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Sugar to sprinkle

Set the oven to 375F or Mark 5.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, add the beaten egg and mix in all the other ingredients to make a firm dough.
Roll out thinly on a floured surface, cut into rounds with a 2½ inch cutter, sprinkle with sugar and place on a greased baking tray.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browed.
They should be crisp and sweet like biscuits.

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