The testy question as to where lardy cake originated, what it is exactly, and how best to make it
“There is some lardy cake from my village bakery in the usual place. As something of a connoisseur on lardy cake I find this one to be rather fine. Hope you agree…..”
With a jaunty ‘ping!’, through came the above welcome piece of news into my email inbox – a generous colleague who had brought it in as part of a birthday celebration. But what was lardy cake exactly, and would I really like it?
What exactly is lardy cake?
Lardy cake is a highly-calorific non-vegetarian tea bread originally (according to Jane Grigson in English Food) from Wiltshire, but with regional recipes from other counties….. all of whom dispute the Wiltshire claim. The counties in question are Sussex, Hampshire (where my colleague’s bakery is situated), Berkshire, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire….a huge swathe of southish-west England in fact.
Since lard comes from pigs it seems reasonable to consider those counties which had the highest pig populations to be the most likely originators of lardy cake…or lardy bread, as it’s also known…or, in Sussex, lardy Johns, or fourses cake.
How is it made and what is it made of?
Broadly, lardy cake is made from equal quantities of rendered lard…. (essentially clarified pig fat – go here to find out more about lard) and sugar thickened with flour to make a dough. During WWII clarified beef dripping was used. Technically you could also make lardy cake using butter…. but that would make it buttery cake, and not lardy cake!
In any event the dough is then rolled thinly and usually layered with spices and dried fruit. More sugar is often sprinkled over the top. The lard mixes with the sugar at the edges of the bread (this is a bread remember?) to form a gooey, crispy caramel.
When I thanked my colleague, he commented:
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think the best lardy cake should be sticky and moist all the way through, certainly not too dry on top, I find this best achieved by a more shallow, thinner cake.”
Thinness clearly helps, and some people find it helpful to turn the cake over on taking it out of the oven, so that the lard that has sunk to the bottom can fall back through the cooked dough.
How to eat
Lardy cake is fine cold…but wonderful hot, straight out of the oven, when it is wonderful….soft, squidgy, rich…with a bit of a taste of Golden Syrup.
Making and eating lardy bread involves a lot of enthusiastic finger licking.
Leftover lardy cake
This seems unlikely… but if it happens, it’s good toasted.
The best recipe
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. I’ve looked through some twenty, and I think Paul Hollywood’s is probably the best… slightly less sweet and stodgy than most, although you could argue that sweetness and stodginess is the whole essence of lardy cake.
Here, in any case, is the link.
For more about lard follow this link.
I think Lardy cake came from Salisbury, my home town. Back in1960, we had it for tea every Saturday night. Please tell me I,m right somebody, I,ll love you forever.xxxxx
Well, I know, but there are many contestants who can quote evidence from the century before the last….I hate to disappoint you! SD
Had it prior to 1955 in Aldershot. Occasionally from a bakers in East Street Farnham Surrey,, as an Apprentice,depending where we were working..
Yes, Lardy Cake is the sort of thing that brings back memories… there’s nothing quite like it! Thank you for the comment, SD
Lardy cake is from Gloucestershire.
The best was made at Hambrook bakers near Frenchay.
You literally couldn’t drive past without stopping to buy some.
Lanes Bakers in Yate also made a good Lardy.
As do Hobbs House in Chipping Sodbury!
Very helpful Mark! Next time I pass by Frenchay I’ll definitely pay a visit to Hambrook. It’s horrendously addictive stuff. SD
Definitely comes from Wiltshire, I was born in Salisbury and used to buy squares of lardy cake from Appleby’s on Castle Street, delicious! No- one has heard of it in Cornwall sadly.
Hello Steve, thank you for this…. I get into Salisbury about once every couple of months (Covid permitting), and I will definitely try the Appleby lardy next time I’m there. SD
Unfortunately Appleby’s closed their doors in 2016 after 80 plus years, it was still owned by the Appleby family.