#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge – Recipe 32: Lardy Cake
This month’s recipe is an old classic, a cake my Grandad loved; Lardy Cake. It’s a speciality of the southern English counties although Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Sussex fight over who actually invented it. A local recipe, so part of my cooking heritage, and a useful one – chosen to use up the lard which was left over after making the pastry for the pie I entered into the local pub’s Pie Competition recently. Lard is not an ingredient I generally use (I suspect not an ingredient most of us generally use) and understandably it’s not popular in current recipes. However, there was a lot of left over lard and what better to use it for than Lardy Cake? Given my current obsession with baking, it also did me no harm to try out another dough recipe and get in a bit more practice at kneading.
So, as I said, my Grandad really loved Lardy Cake. In his younger years he worked in a bakery, so he knew how it should be made and as a result in recent years he moaned that you couldn’t buy a decent Lardy Cake anymore. As a tribute to a wonderful man who is very much missed, it was important to me to find a traditional recipe which would produce the kind of Lardy Cake he would have loved; sticky but not too sweet with flaky layers and just a handful of dried fruits.
Many of the current recipes available online seem to be pale imitations of this cholesterol laden treat. They’ve been ‘sanitised’, the lard content significantly reduced and therefore the flavour and texture totally altered. But I managed to track down this recipe, attributed to a 90 year old baker who does things the traditional way: https://hobbshousebakery.co.uk/recipe/lardy-cake/
I reckon this is probably how Grandad remembered Lardy Cake.
It didn’t sound too difficult to make, but the recipe was for two cakes which I felt would be a bit overindulgent so I halved it and just made one. This was a mistake – dried yeast only comes in 7g sachets so I had to use a whole one anyway and throw away half of the yeast/water mix. The trouble was I couldn’t be certain that I got exactly half of the yeast into my dough mix. It would have been just as easy to make two cakes. If you decide to try it, bake the whole lot. I guarantee you you’ll have no problem giving the cake away.
The mixing of the dough and the first proving stage were standard dough work. The variation was at the next stage. Instead of knocking the dough back, as you do with bread, I had to roll the dough out to form a circle and paste onto it a lard and sugar mix.
Then fold the dough in on itself, roll again and paste again, this time scattering with the dried fruit. Finally I had to re roll the dough, before placing it into the prepared baking tray (which was actually a pie dish lined with more the lard and sugar paste, plus extra sugar). It’s important to use a tin with some height because the lard/sugar caramel bubbles up as it cooks – so a pie dish is ideal.
After placing in the pie dish, the dough needed its second prove before being baked at a high temperature to both cook the dough and cause the lard and sugar to caramelise on the bottom of the tin. The base of the cake then becomes the top once it’s turned out. Covered in lovely, sticky caramel.
I didn’t leave my Lardy cake in the oven for as long as the recipe said because I was so concerned it was not caramelising but burning. Luckily I got it out just in time:
Just look at those layers – I was delighted with that. It was fully baked through despite the shortened cooking time. I had hoped for a better rise (it was a bit flat) but I wondered if that was due to my potential error with the amount of yeast used. It didn’t seem to affect the taste though. Definitely should have made two!
I took it to my local pub for the regulars to enjoy one Sunday afternoon and the consensus from my taste testers was that it was excellent – just the right side of burnt; crispy but not bitter. One old boy told me he hadn’t had Lardy Cake like it for 40 years (just before he had a second slice) so I think that’s an excellent recommendation and an indication that I had done my Grandad proud.
Healthiness – 0/10 (There’s nothing healthy about this, it’s 100% treat)
Ease of prep – 8/10 (Standard dough work, little other skill required. Just the time for the proving)
Flavour/taste – 10/10 (Loved it)
I don’t even want to think about how many calories are in a slice of Lardy Cake, but as a very occasional treat I’d highly recommend it. As with most things I much prefer to go for the full fat version occasionally rather than having a low fat (and generally low flavour) version more often! This is a recipe I will be making again.