Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

There is nothing more inviting than a freshly baked Eccles Cake, warm from the oven, the pastry beautifully flaky and the spiced plump fruit just short of bursting through its buttery trappings.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I have always made Eccles Cakes regularly, they are both my mum’s and Luke’s favourite teatime treat so if either of them are ever in need of spoiling or cheering up then there is no better place for me to start than by whipping them up a batch. I can never make too many, they always seems to disappear as quickly as I can produce them.

Eccles Cakes are more pastries than cakes really and have a history dating back three hundred years. They hail from the town of Eccles in the North of England and like a lot of traditional recipes are remarkably similar to the Banbury Cake and the Chorley Cake with little discernable difference. It’s the Eccles Cake though that is the most familiar since its commercialisation in the 1970s means you can pick up a dry doughy sub-par version in a packet at most supermarkets. If these are the only versions you have tasted then you absolutely have to try your hand at making your own.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

As like most old recipes there is debate about how a real Eccles Cake should be constructed. To my mind they are best when they are made from flaky pastry, rather than puff, to encase a luscious filling of spiced juicy fruit. I use currants and sultanas and also include a couple of tablespoons of Homemade Mixed Peel in my filling. If I don’t have any Homemade Mixed Peel knocking around the kitchen then a tablespoon of marmalade also gives a lovely citrus taste (since our family is not a fan of bought mixed peel). The fruit is sprinkled with orange zest, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg then held together with melted butter and sugar. Once it has been tucked inside its pastry casing it is baked until golden brown with a sprinkling of crunchy demerara sugar on top.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Really there is no substitute for the homemade Eccles Cake, in particular if you time it perfectly and can present your offerings straight out of the oven. The scent of spice as you bite in is intoxicating, the fruit oozing from within as the pastry flakes at the corners of your mouth. If you’re especially lucky the buttery filling might have made a bid for freedom outside of the pastry during the bake so the sugar has caramelised chewily around the opening.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I think Eccles Cakes may have been one of the first recipes I cracked when I had my own kitchen many years ago and I have found over the years there is a definite knack to getting them absolutely perfect. Of course the game completely changed when I became gluten-free a few years ago and I had to find a new pastry to make my Eccles Cakes with. I have tried a few gluten-free flaky pastry recipes but the one I have listed below is the closest to the real deal and comes courtesy of an adaptation of Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Flaky Pie Dough in her book Alternative Baker. The list of ingredients is long but necessary and actually once you have measured it all out then it is just as easy to come together as the wheat version I used to use from Delia. The pastry rolls really well and is actually quite forgiving thanks to the inclusion of chia seeds which act a little bit like gluten in that it gives the pastry stretch so is more pliable when it comes to filling your pastry rounds with the fruit filling.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

I think the key to a successful Eccles Cake is to roll the pastry to a 3mm thickness which isn’t too thick or thin. I bought a special metal cutter for my Eccles Cakes which is 12cm in diameter and makes for a perfectly sized Eccles Cake. The filling shouldn’t be too wet either. If you have let the filling rest for about an hour before using then it should have dried up enough to scoop into the pastry without making it soggy.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Don’t overfill your Eccles Cake either, you only want two teaspoons of filling in the centre of each pastry round, then as you pull the dampened edges of the pastry over the top to stick together the fruit shouldn’t puncture the pastry. If you have rolled the pastry a bit thin and it does break a little then simply grab a little excess pastry and patch it up. To finish, you turn the little pastry ball over and roll it out a fraction with your rolling pin to flatten it into a beautiful round. Then slash the top a couple of times with a sharp knife so the steam has somewhere to escape, brush with a little egg wash to give it a lovely golden hue and sprinkle over the demerara sugar before baking.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

When I asked Luke why he loves Eccles Cakes so much he waxed lyrically about how the filling is spread thinly and evenly between the buttery flaky layers of the pastry, so the treat is rich but light and not heavy like the way mince pies can be a little cloying. He’s so right but this is what also can make the Eccles Cake a little dangerous as eating more than one is very easy to do.

The traditional way to serve an Eccles Cake is with a lovely wedge of Lancashire Cheese and if you’re lucky enough to take a table at St John’s Restaurant that is exactly how they serve it as part of their dessert menu. It’s the best of both worlds with the perfect balance between a cheese course and a pudding course.

Still if there happen to be Eccles Cakes in our kitchen at breakfast time then that’s how we eat them here.

Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes

Print Recipe
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
There is nothing more inviting than a freshly baked Eccles Cake, warm from the oven, the pastry beautifully flaky and the spiced plump fruit just short of bursting through its buttery trappings.
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
Course afternoon tea
Cuisine British
Keyword cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
14 Eccles Cakes
Ingredients
Filling
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 120 g currants
  • 80 g sultanas
  • 50 g mixed peel preferably homemade*
  • 125 g demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling on top
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Gluten-free flaky pastry*
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 40 g oat flour + 4 tablespoons for rolling out the pastry
  • 35 g millet flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter straight from the fridge
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks for glazing the Eccles Cakes
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk for glazing the Eccles Cakes
Course afternoon tea
Cuisine British
Keyword cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
14 Eccles Cakes
Ingredients
Filling
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 120 g currants
  • 80 g sultanas
  • 50 g mixed peel preferably homemade*
  • 125 g demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling on top
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Gluten-free flaky pastry*
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 40 g oat flour + 4 tablespoons for rolling out the pastry
  • 35 g millet flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter straight from the fridge
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks for glazing the Eccles Cakes
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk for glazing the Eccles Cakes
Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes
Instructions
  1. First make the filling by melting the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Once fully melted, pour in the rest of the filling ingredients, stirring thoroughly to make sure everything is coated in butter. Set aside for 1 hour and make the pastry in the meantime.
  3. To make the pastry, combine the flours, chia seeds and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Grate the cold butter into the flour then gently mix together with your fingertips so the mixture turns quite shaggy.
  5. Stir in the beaten egg with a fork.
  6. Add the cold milk one tablespoon at a time and start to bring the dough together with a pastry scraper. It should start to form quite quickly. It should be slightly sticky to the touch.
  7. Tip the dough onto the work surface and quickly bring the ball into a round ball with your hands. You don’t really need to work the pastry as there’s no gluten to activate.
  8. Wrap the pastry ball in cling film and flatten it slightly to make it easier to roll out when ready.
  9. Place in the fridge for an hour to chill.
  10. When you are ready to assemble the Eccles Cakes pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  11. Take the pastry out from the fridge, remove the cling film then tear the pastry in half to make it easier to roll out. Use the extra oat flour to dust the worktop and the rolling pin.
  12. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thickness then cut out circles of pastry using a 12cm round pastry cutter.
  13. Spoon in two teaspoons of filling into the centre of each round.
  14. Whisk the egg yolks and whole milk together into a small cup.
  15. Damp the edges of the pastry lightly with the egg yolk and milk mixture, then bring all the sides together, pressing firmly to seal.
  16. Flip each Eccles cake over then gently roll out with the rolling pin to flatten slightly so the filling is just showing below the surface.
  17. Set the Eccles Cakes onto a large baking tray, using a sharp knife make two little slits in the centre of each cake then brush each surface with the egg yolk and milk mixture and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
  18. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
Recipe Notes

*Pastry adapted from the Flaky Pie Dough recipe in Alanna Taylor Tobin's Alternative Baker

*As I am not a big fan of shop-bought mixed peel if I do not have any Homemade Mixed Peel to hand then I often add in a couple of tablespoons of orange marmalade instead of the mixed peel and also the zest of a lemon. I would then omit the orange zest.

SHOP THE RECIPE

The recipe for the Flaky Pastry is adapted from Alanna Taylor Tobin’s Alternative Baker which is one of my favourite resources for gluten-free baking. I have tried a load of recipes from the book and they are all easy to follow and delicious. Like me Taylor Tobin doesn’t use a bunch of gums in her baking but relies on alternative flours to get the results she wants. This is rare for a gluten-free cookbook and since my body doesn’t react well to guar or xanthan gum then it means I can bake anything and everything from within its pages.

This Cookie cutter round 12cm s/s 1.5cm deep guaranteed quality is the cookie cutter I bought many years ago for my Eccles Cakes and it’s very simple but the perfect size and does exactly what I need it to.

I have finally found a brand of sweet rice flour which is 100% certified gluten-free. I have no idea why it’s so difficult to get in the UK but I use sweet rice flour a lot so this was a real find. The brand is yourhealthstore Premium Gluten Free Sweet Rice Flour (glutinous) 1kg

The oat flour I always use is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour 400 g (Pack of 4). I buy it in packs of four since I find oat flour invaluably useful in my gluten-free baking.

Millet flour is also needed for the gf pastry and my favourite brand is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Millet Flour 500 g (Pack of 4) which as it states comes in a 4 x 500g pack but I prefer to buy my gluten-free flour in larger quantities like this as it’s just not as easy to get hold of as wheat flour and saves me having to wait when I have a specific baking urge. It also keeps costs down.

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Eccleswell Tart

Eccleswell Tart

This recipe is not yet gluten-free

This tart came about as a way of marrying my two favourite English tea time treats, Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts. I don’t always want to choose between them at the bakery and it is not always prudent to have both. This way I can have both but not feel too greedy, the ginormous wedge I serve myself probably nullifies my efforts though.

Eccleswell Tart  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have made this tart several times now over the past year and have been meaning to include it in my blog but it has never quite survived long enough to reach the photography stage.  It is a really lovely tart, a bit more going on than your average Bakewell tart but the frangipane and the juicy fruit marry up beautifully. It is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Eccleswell Tart  |  Stroud Green Larder

I usually make my own ground almonds as I find shop bought just tastes a little bland. Sometimes that is what you are looking for in this ingredient but on this occasion I toasted and ground up my own almonds. I toasted them a little over here but it was a happy accident as it gave this particular tart a lovely biscuit flavour and a gold frangipane colour. If you don’t want to go to the trouble then you can use shop bought ground almonds totally guilt free but the results are slightly different as although the frangipane topping is softer it is not quite as almondy. I suggest using a dash of almond extract along with the vanilla extract if you are going that way.

Eccleswell Tart  |  Stroud Green Larder

My Eccles cake mixture depends totally on what I have in my cupboard. I was lucky enough this weekend to have a grand stock of dried fruit but even so the marriage of currants and sultanas is traditional and in my mind the best. I couldn’t resist adding a little stem ginger though as I think it’s pretty fabulous. The marmalade was included in lieu of mixed peel since a certain somebody in my household refuses point blank to eat mixed peel and this way I can still achieve the citrus note without offending my husband. If you still happen to have mincemeat leftover from Christmas though then by all means use it here to clear out your cupboards. Eccles cakes are just boozeless and suetless mincemeat anyway.

Eccleswell Tart  |  Stroud Green Larder

Eccleswell Tart

For the Pastry
270g plain flour
100g unsalted butter, fridge cold
100g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

For the Eccles Mixture
20g butter
1½ tbsp breakfast marmalade
100g currants
50g sultanas
60g light brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped
pinch of salt

For the Frangipane
Adapted from Richard Bertinet’s Almond Cream
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
25g plain flour
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
20g flaked almonds to decorate

1 x 18cm round loose-bottomed tart tin

  1. To begin with make your pastry. Take the butter out of the fridge and slice very finely with a sharp knife, then place in a large mixing bowl with the flour.
  2. Tear the butter up and coat thoroughly with the flour, then begin to rub gently between your fingertips until you reach very rough breadcrumbs, don’t take it too fine. It should take less than 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, salt, egg and egg yolk then bring together into a dough. Tip it out onto the work surface and press together to form a ball. Wrap in baking parchment and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile make the eccles mixture. Melt the butter together with the marmalade in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat then add the rest of the ingredients, stir together and set aside to cool.
  5. Then make your frangipane by creaming the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
  6. Add the ground almonds and mix together until fully incorporated.
  7. Add the flour and egg and egg yolk and vanilla and carry on mixing until smooth. Place the frangipane in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  8. Once the frangipane is in the fridge you can roll out your pastry. Roll until it is about 3mm thick and line the pastry into your tart tin. Leave the edges untrimmed then place the pastry tart tin in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  9. Once ready you can assemble your tart. Spread the eccles mixture onto the bottom of the tart in an even layer. Then spoon the frangipane on top to cover completely, smoothing it down on top. Finally scatter the flaked almonds on the top.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes then cover the tart with foil to stop from browning any further and bake for another 20 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool for about half an hour, then trim the pastry around the edges and remove from the tart tin.
  11. Serve at room temperature at 4pm with a lovely cup of tea.

Eccleswell Tart  |  Stroud Green Larder