Eccles Cake - Gastro Obscura

Sweets

Eccles Cake

The traditional sweet currant cake has an incendiary reputation.

When you cut into an Eccles cake, you’ll realize why it’s called “squashed fly cake.” But the black, squishy orbs that tumble out of the pastry aren’t insects. They’re currants. And they make the perfect sweet-and-sour accompaniment to the cake’s flaky, demerara sugar–coated crust.

Named after the town of Eccles in Lancashire, the cake was first sold commercially by James Birch at his shop in the town center in 1793. But the origins of the pastry stretch back much further, to festivals known as “Eccles wakes,” which celebrated the feast of St. Mary and the construction of the town church.

Throughout history, diners have preferred to enjoy the cakes warm. But only recently has this preference become a fire hazard. There have been repeated reports, particularly from the Lancashire Fire Service, that these innocuous pastries have burst into flames when heated in a microwave oven, causing fires that spread across the kitchen. This is apparently because of the cakes’ coating of sugar.

To avoid a cake-induced fire, officials advise heating your treat in a conventional oven. This method has another benefit: While microwaves can lead to soggy pastries, the oven keeps the warmed cakes dry and flaky.

Need to Know

Eccles cakes do not have "Protected Geographical Status," which means cakes made outside the town can carry the name.

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Contributed by
Dr Alan P Newman
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