My son Jonathan’s wife is Welsh, hence the boys – Freddie (7), Ben (4) and Alex (1) are half Welsh. This fact is mainly discussed in relation to rugby when Freddie is involved. He’s seriously into rugby at the moment – well he was born in Twickenham and lives within walking distance of the famous Twickenham Stadium – and the big question is whether, when he’s a ‘real rugby player’, he would play for England or Wales. Ben, however, is a great ‘helper’ and loves to cook. When he comes to my house he will ask if we can cook together. Yesterday, he was a great help to my son who was clearing away a small tree at the end of my garden, which had been blown down by Storm Eunice, that has been ravaging parts of the UK over the last few days. When they came in from the garden, job done, Ben wanted to know if we could make the cakes we made last week. The Welsh Cakes which I hadn’t yet written up on the blog, though all the photos were waiting. I’d been waiting for my son’s opinion of them but the family going away for a few days over half term had put that on hold. Daddy liked them a lot, Ben told me. ‘Daddy’ in fact did like them a lot, though not as much as biscuits, he told me. They were clearly a bit hit with Ben, though.
Welsh Cakes are like a cross between a biscuit and a scone, I think. They are the size and thickness of a thick biscuit and soft on the inside like a scone. They are known as a sweet bread and are cooked in the manner of flat bread – in a heavy frying pan or on a griddle. They’ve been popular in Wales since the late 19th century and are sometimes known as ‘griddle cakes’ or were cooked on ‘bakestones’. They are basically a mix of flour, butter, eggs, spice and dried fruit like currants. They are served hot or cold and usually on their own, but Delia Smith (whose recipe I used) suggests they’re best served warm with some butter and jam on top – and that sounded good to me! I imagine they’d be good for breakfast: you could make the dough the night before, cut the shapes and then fry in the morning and serve immediately, like pancakes.
However you eat them, they’re a great and easy recipe to make with kids and as they’re good eaten cold as well as warm, they’re a good standby to have packed in an airtight container for an after-school snack.
When cooking with kids, I like to get everything prepared well ahead so once we get started, there’s no interruption. It’s also good to think through what a child can safely do and help with so they feel properly involved.
Welsh Cakes – Makes about 20
- 225g spelt flour + 3 teaspoons baking powder (or 225g self-raising flour)
- 1 level teaspoon mixed spice
- 75g caster sugar
- 110g soft or spreadable butter
- 110g dried fruit (I used a mix of currants and candied mixed peel)
- 1 large egg
- a little milk (if needed)
- a little butter for greasing pan
A large, solid frying pan and 6.5cm cutter
I weighed everything beforehand so that once Ben was helping me, we were ready to go. I also very lightly greased a large frying pan for cooking the Welsh cakes.
Sift the flour and baking powder, if using, into a large bowl. I spooned the flour into the sieve and let Ben do the shaking. Gently, I told him. Then I added the spice and sugar and let him mix it all together with a small spatula.
Next the butter is rubbed in (much as making pastry). I cut the butter up a little with a knife to start the mixing, then I showed Ben how to rub it gently together and let it fall back into the bowl; rubbing until it’s well incorporated and you have a coarse crumble mix. He managed really well! Then he tipped the mixed dried fruit in and mixed that together.
He was very keen to be the one to whisk the egg. I’d broken it into a mug and gave him a small whisk. He needed a little help to whisk it well but I let him tip it into the bowl and mix with the spatula.
Again, he needed a little help to bring it all together and I also added a very small amount of milk, as the mix was quite dry. I always use organic spelt flour, which can be a little drier, and hence the addition of baking powder; Delia Smith and others use self-raising flour.
I gathered the dough into a ball and put it on a floured work surface. Then I rolled it out until it was about 5mm thick. Traditionally a plain cutter is used to cut the dough but I only had fluted ones. I was pretty certain that would not make much difference!
This stage was great as the dough is fairly heavy and solid so Ben could easily cut out the rounds and lift them himself onto a chopping board that I put to the side of him. We got the predicted 20 cakes.
When it came to cooking the Welsh cakes, I explained we needed to use a hot pan and Nonna had to do that part. He was fine with that and just stood near and watched. I felt up to that point he’d actually done most of the preparation and so he really felt part of the operation.
Warm the lightly greased pan and put in as many cakes as will easily fit. Cook over a low to medium heat. You don’t want to cook them too quickly or they’ll brown on the outside and remain uncooked in the middle. After 2-3 minutes, turn them over with a spatula and cook the other side.
They should be a lovely golden brown colour.
Remove to a cooling rack. I cooked them in three batches.
Now, you could eat them straight away while still warm – with butter and jam, as Delia suggests – or eat them cold. Sometimes some extra caster sugar is sprinkled over the top, though I didn’t do this.
By the time we’d finished it was time for the boys to go home. So I packed the cakes – all except a couple to keep for myself – and off they went home to my son’s house.
Later, I couldn’t resist topping mine with butter and a dollop of blackcurrant jam to have with a cup of tea. They were very delicious and turned out to be a perfect recipe for Cooking with Kids!