Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Or What You Will
There are few cakes that carry a warning with them, but Eccles Cakes are one of them! Eccles Cakes recently received notoriety for several incidents involving fires resulting from heating them in the microwave. The prevailing theory is that the Demerara sugar used for decoration heats and ignites! Be careful out there!
Golden Eccles Cakes
It's Cake Day!
An Eccles cake is a small, round cake filled with currants and made from flaky pastry with butter, sometimes topped with demerara sugar, named after the English town of Eccles, historically part of Lancashire, but now classified as a town in Greater Manchester.
The origin of the recipe is unknown, but James Birch is credited with being the first person to sell Eccles cakes commercially, from his shop at the corner of Vicarage Road and St Mary's Road, now Church Street, in the town centre in 1793.
Cousins to the Eccles cake include:
The Banbury cake is an oval cake from Banbury, Oxfordshire, similarly filled with currants.
The Chorley cake (from Chorley in Lancashire) is flatter, made with shortcrust pastry rather than flaky pastry and is devoid of sugar topping.
The Blackburn cake is named after the town of Blackburn, Lancashire, and is made with stewed apples in place of currants.
It’s thought that the Eccles cake was made for the feast day of St Mary in Eccles, whose town festival, known as Eccles Wakes, included the custom of rush-bearing (spreading rushes over the church floor), music and dancing.
During the strict Puritan years of the 1600s, that connection between Eccles cakes and religious revelry got the cake into trouble. Although legend has it that Oliver Cromwell himself banned the cakes, it is likely they were banned along with all celebrations associated with saints' days (although the cakes continued to be baked as the parson, apparently, looked the other way). Though the ban on festivals later was lifted, by the 1800s, the Eccles Wakes included cock fighting and bear baiting and was again banned by the Home Secretary in 1877.
For a traditional recipe, click the 1905 picture of a popular seller of Eccles Cake in 1905, Ye Ole Thatche.