Up until the age of about 17, I never thought about Wales. I had never been, knew nothing about it, didn’t know anybody who’d spent more than a rainy childhood weekend in the Brecon Beacons. I had never eaten a Welsh cake.
But then, at 17, I won a writing prize for teenagers, and the prize was to spend a week writing with the other winners, all holed up in a rickety old house right at the back of Shropshire, towards the left, behind the cheese. And one of the other young writers there was from Swansea.
She was a garrulous, slightly nervy blonde girl named Isobel, who loved running and tea and Wales, and hated an alarming number of seemingly unconnected things (tinned squid, wheat, anything to do with WB Yeats). She is still one of my very dearest friends.
So Wales had a big thumbs up from me at this point. And then, at university, I met another Welsh person. He shared a tupperware box of his grandmother’s Welsh cakes with me. I now live with him. And I think that pretty much sums up how much I like Wales.
Welsh grandmothers are notoriously reluctant to give up their family Welsh cake recipes. Luckily, Mary Berry is everyone’s backup grandma, and she came to the rescue for me this St David’s Day. Make these to win over the dragon in your life.
Some notes: yes, you can buy these in a shop, but they are so easy and fun to make, and so much tastier than shop bought ones, that why would you? These keep for a few days in an airtight tin. It is essential to have them with tea, and highly recommended to have them still warm from the pan.
350g self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
175g unsalted butter
115g caster sugar
3/4 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or thereabouts
and extra caster sugar for sprinkling on at the end
Put the flour and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Add sugar, currants and the spice. Beat the egg with the milk, add to the mix and combine to form a firm dough. Add some more milk if it’s not combining enough for your liking (eg if your egg was a bit small).
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to a thickness of about half a centimetre. Cut into rounds with a cutter. There is some debate in our house as to whether to use a plain or scalloped edge cutter, but the resident Welsh person’s grandmother used plain, so plain it was for us.
Cook on a hot griddle (or heavy-based frying pan) on a low heat, in batches, for 3 or 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Make sure the heat is low, or they’ll cook too fast and stay doughy in the middle.
Cool on a wire rack, and sprinkle with caster sugar to serve. Eat warm, with a cup of tea, for best results.
Dydd Dewi Sant hapus!