Eccles cakes are sweet pastries filled with currants, spices, citrus zest and demerara and are encased in a light and buttery flaky pastry.
They take their name from the Lancashire town of Eccles in the north of England and are a popular British bake. They are sometimes called fly pies.
Eccles cakes make a perfect tea time treat served alongside a cup of tea or coffee. They are also great for picnics and lunchboxes.
In this recipe I will show you how to make Eccles cakes in a few simple steps. I have used Delia's recipe for quick flaky pastry which as the name suggests is quick and easy to make and produces a delicious light flaky pastry but you could use your own recipe or even ready made pastry if you prefer.
The quantities in this easy Eccles cake recipe are sufficient to make eight pastries made using 15cm diameter circles of pastry.
Ingredients for Eccles cakes
For the pastry:
- 220g plain flour - also known as all purpose flour.
- 150g butter - use either salted or unsalted depending on your preference and what you have in your fridge. Alternatively you could use a plant based margarine instead.
- Water - use just enough water to bind the pastry.
I have omitted salt from the pastry but you can add a pinch of salt if you wish.
For the filling:
- 25g butter - either salted or unsalted. You could substitute a plant based margarine if you do not wish to use butter.
- 200g currants - Zante currants are ideal for this recipe.
- 100g demerara sugar - light soft brown sugar could be substituted if you do not have demerara
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon - the quantity and mixture of spices can be adjusted to your taste
- Half a teaspoon ground ginger - the quantity can be adjusted to suite your taste.
- Half a teaspoon ground allspice - the quantity can be adjusted to suit your taste.
- Zest of 1 lemon - ideally use an organic unwaxed lemon, alternatively scrub before zesting in case the fruit has been sprayed with chemicals.
- Zest of 1 orange - ideally scrub before zesting.
For the glaze and topping:
- Around 1 tablespoon milk - brush milk over the pastry before baking.
- About 1 tablespoon demerara sugar - sprinkle over the Eccles cakes before baking.
Before starting this recipe
Before starting this recipe for Eccles cakes you will need to:
- Weigh 150g butter, wrap in foil and place in the freezer about 45 minutes before starting to make the pastry.
- Preheat the oven to 170oC, 350oF, gas mark 4.
To prepare the flaky pastry
Weigh the flour into a large bowl. Take the butter out of the freezer and grate into the bowl over the top of the flour. It will look as though you have a lot of butter when it is grated but this helps to create the flakiness and will add to the flavour.
Measure a tablespoon of water and add to the flour and butter mixture and mix with a knife. Add a little more water, just a small amount at a time, until there is just enough to bind the pastry. Form into a ball by hand.
Cover the pastry to prevent it drying out and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes before rolling out.
The pastry can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge or frozen until you are ready to use it.
To prepare the Eccles cake filling
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the demerara and stir.
Weigh the currants into a bowl. Add the orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger and allspice and mix. You can adjust the quantities and balance of spices to suit your taste but this is a good starting point.
Add the melted butter and sugar mixture to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix well.
To assemble the Eccles cakes
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 2mm to 3mm. Cut a couple of circles 15cm diameter and place on non stick baking paper on a metal baking sheet. Place one eighth of the filling in the centre of the pastry circles. Fold the edges of the pastry into the centre, sealing with water, to fully enclose the filling. Turn the parcel over so that the folded parts are underneath, press down to flatten the top. If the pastry parcel has any corners or is misshapen, mould by hand to form a circular shape.
Re-roll any offcuts of pastry, cut the remainder of the circles and form the remainder of the Eccles cakes.
Brush a little milk over the top of each pastry and sprinkle a little demerara over the top of each one. Using a sharp knife, form a few slashes in the pastry to allow any moisture to escape when they are being baked.
Bake the Eccles cakes at 170oC, 350oF, gas mark 4 for around 20 to 25 minutes but check regularly after around 15 minutes or so as the cooking time will vary from one oven to another. They will be ready when they are a light golden colour. Turn the tray around part way through the cooking time so that they bake evenly.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- The pastry can be prepared ahead of time, wrapped and stored in the fridge for up to a couple of days or can be frozen.
- The balance and quantity of spices can be adjusted to suit your taste.
- Eccles cakes are typically eaten cold but can be served warm if you wish.
- These pastries can be stored in an airtight container for two to three days or can be frozen.
- Why not make an extra batch of flaky pastry to make some apple galettes?
Eccles cakes are named after the Lancashire town of Eccles where they originate.
Flaky pastry is made with small pieces of butter mixed in with the flour which is then combined with water to form a dough. The pieces of butter melt when baked to create pastry with a light, flaky texture. Flaky pastry can be used for both sweet and savoury pastries.
Other sweet pastry recipes
Other popular British recipes
For the pastry
- 220 g flour
- 150 g butter
For the filling
- 25 g butter
- 200 g currants
- 100 g demerara sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 orange zest
For the glaze and topping
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon demerara sugar
To prepare the pastry
- Place the butter in the freezer for about 45 minutes before starting to make the pastry.
- Place the flour into a large bowl.
- Grate the butter onto the flour. Mix using a knife until all the butter is coated in flour.
- Add a tablespoon of water and mix. Repeat adding only 1 tablespoon at a time until you have added sufficient water to bind the pastry. Form the pastry into a ball using your hands.
- Cover the pastry and place in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
To prepare the filling
- Place the butter in a saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring regularly. Add the demerara sugar and stir until mixed.
- Place the currants, citrus zest and spices in a bowl. Mix well.
- Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of other ingredients. Mix well.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 2mm to 3mm.
- Cut out two 15cm diameter circles of pastry and place on baking parchment on a baking tray.
- Divide the filling mixture into eight and place one eighth of the mixture in the centre of each of the two pastry circles. Fold the edges of the pastry circles to enclose the filling, sealing the edges of the pastry with dabs of water. Turn the Eccles cakes over and gently press the top to flatten the surface.
- Roll out the rest of the pastry, including any offcuts, and cut out a further 6 circles. Form the remaining Eccles cakes as above.
- Glaze the top of each unbaked pastry with a little milk, sprinkle over some demerara and make a few slits in the pastry with a sharp knife.
To bake the Eccles cakes
- Preheat the oven to 170oC, 350oF, gas mark 4.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Turn the tray around part way through the baking time to help them bake evenly.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.