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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Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

This delicate Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart makes the most of the first of spring’s nettles luxuriously mixed with a good cheddar to make a glorious tart in beautiful flaky pastry.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

If you are up for a bit of very easy foraging, now is the perfect time to hunt, gather and eat nettles.  That’s right, stinging nettles. Granted the ‘stinging’ part of their name doesn’t make them sound the most appealing prospect but I urge you to give them a try. Between March and early April nettles are plentiful and everywhere. The freshly sprouted nettle leaf tops are what we are looking for, they are sweet and delicate and can be substituted in almost any recipe that calls for spinach.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

Nettles have the most protein of any green, including broccoli and spinach.  And now we’re all being ordered to eat 7-a-day, I think I need to bring something new to the table. I don’t think they even do 7 different types of fruit and veg at my Sainsbury’s Local, so gathering up a bit of free greenery crammed with nutrients seems like a good way to pack that veg into my diet.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

I’m so lucky that I live moments away from the Parkland Walk, the old railway line that used to run from Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill. Since 1984 it has been maintained as a nature reserve, looked after by the local community.  As well as a lovely spot to walk the puppy or go for a pleasant run, it is a treat to be so close to nature whilst North London bustles around outside the tree lined enclosure. You can barely hear the traffic so it’s easy to forget you are in the city. It is also perfect for a bit of foraging if you know what you are looking for.  I don’t really but even I can spot stinging nettles a mile away.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

You should pick nettles before they are waist high. When you go nettle picking wear heavy-duty kitchen gloves – not the flimsy food grade gloves as the stingers are tricksy and somehow manage to wheedle into the thin plastic gloves. Take a good long pair of scissors and a large carrier bag.  In order to garner the 200g of nettle leaves I needed for this recipe I filled a whole carrier bag with nettle tops. Not the hoary old timers that are the size of your palm but the fresh shoots from the top of the nettles. And no I did not look like a weirdo decked out in my marigolds and wellies, knee deep in the bushes and surrounded by stinging nettles. This is London, so odd behaviour is expected.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

To prepare the nettles I filled up my kitchen sink with water, put on my rubber gloves and dunked the nettles in, swishing around to wash out the grit and bugs. I then plucked each nettle from the water, snipped off the leaves using scissors and popped them onto the scales. Once I had 200g of nettle leaves, I plunged them into a large saucepan filled with boiling salted water and, after bringing the water back to the boil, simmered for 2 minutes. The sting is subdued within the first 30 seconds of cooking so after this you can discard your rubber gloves and use your hands. The first time you do this you do tend to think the whole world is playing a bit of a joke and you are just about to get your innocent little hands completely ravished. But trust me, the nettles are perfectly placid by this point so feel free to naked up those paws.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

The resulting tart is lovely and mellow but with a gorgeously distinctive nettle flavour. I used a very light cheddar which I don’t normally do but I didn’t want to overpower the nettles since I went to so much trouble in my foraging expedition. I’m all about the bacon salt this week so I seasoned the tart filling with a touch of the good stuff. If you haven’t yet succumbed to its delights then normal salt will do just fine.  Like any self-respecting British tart I served it warm with a handful of oven baked chips. Utterly delicious.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

Print Recipe
Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}
This delicate tart makes the most of the first of Spring's nettles luxuriously mixed with a good cheddar to make a glorious tart in beautiful flaky pastry.
Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
For the pastry*:
  • 80 g rice flour
  • 25 g oat flour
  • 45 g buckwheat flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter cut into very thin slices
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons iced water
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour for rolling out
For the filling:
  • 200 g nettle leaves
  • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 200 ml crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • 100 g mellow cheddar grated
Equipment
  • 20 cm round tart tin with high sides
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
For the pastry*:
  • 80 g rice flour
  • 25 g oat flour
  • 45 g buckwheat flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter cut into very thin slices
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons iced water
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour for rolling out
For the filling:
  • 200 g nettle leaves
  • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 200 ml crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • 100 g mellow cheddar grated
Equipment
  • 20 cm round tart tin with high sides
Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, chia seeds and salt.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour in between your fingertips so it resembles very rough breadcrumbs then stir in the beaten egg with a fork.
  3. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and start to bring the dough together with a pastry scraper. It should start to form quite quickly.
  4. 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. The pastry should still be a little sticky.
  5. Wrap the pastry ball in greaseproof paper and flatten it slightly.
  6. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  8. Dust the work surface with a gluten-free flour blend then roll the pastry out into a circle large enough to line a 20cm tart tin.
  9. Once you have lined the pastry in the tin and neatened the edges with a knife, place greaseproof paper over the pastry, so it comes up over the sides, then fill the tin with baking beans.
  10. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven then remove the baking beans and parchment and brush the surface of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  11. Place back in the oven for a final five minutes to seal the pastry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before adding the filling.
Filling
  1. Place your nettle leaves in a large saucepan of salted boiling water. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 2 minutes.
  2. Drain the nettle leaves and douse in cold water to stop them cooking any further. When cool enough to handle, ball up the nettle leaves and squeeze out the excess water. Chop finely then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and egg yolks with the crème fraiche.
  4. Add the chives, then the cheddar, then the nettle leaves. Season with plenty of salt and pepper or bacon salt if you have it.
  5. Pour the filling into the tart shell and place back in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before trimming the edges off the pastry and taking it out of the tin. Serve warm.
Recipe Notes

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

This recipe was updated in 2017 to be gluten-free, so the resulting pastry will not be as light in colour as those in the photos.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

SHOP THE RECIPE

I love these tins by Alan Silverwood and to bake my tart I used this Fluted Flan Tin 20cm Alan Silverwood. It has a loose bottom so makes it easy to remove your baked tarts from and is a silver anodised finish so conducts heat evenly. Don’t put them in the dishwasher though as it will ruin the tin.

The links above are affiliate links which means if you decide you want to click through to buy then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. To learn more about how the data processing works when using these Amazon affiliate links then please visit my privacy policy page.