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Welsh cakes are a traditional culinary treat original to Wales. To natives of southern Wales, they are also known as bakestones since they were once cooked on a bakestone over an open fire. Somewhat of a cross between a scone and a biscuit, Welsh cakes are usually cooked on an ungreased, hot griddle today. Welsh cakes are also known by a variety of other names in different regions of Wales, such as Teisen Gymraeg and picau ar y maen. As the English name implies, the center of a Welsh cake is lighter in texture than a standard scone or biscuit.
Welsh cakes are quite easy to make and require only a handful of ingredients. A soft dough is made from flour, unsalted butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and baking powder. However, the baking powder may be eliminated if self-rising flour is used. Welsh cakes also traditionally contain currants, although raisins may be used instead.
Variations of Welsh cake recipes call for different spices, or a combination of spices. For instance, some recipes include cinnamon and allspice, while others use cinnamon and mace. Teisen Lap is a traditional type of Welsh cake that includes chopped fruit peel. Teisen Carawe features caraway seed and Teisen Mel is sweetened with honey.
Welsh cakes are also served in a variety of ways and are a popular accompaniment with tea. Traditionally, they are rolled in caster (raw) sugar and served plain or with a dab of butter or jam. In fact, in southern Wales, Welsh cakes are often split and served with a thin layer of jam in the middle, like a sandwich. Of course, the traditional method of making Welsh cakes is to use wholemeal flour and bake them on a bakestone. This type of Welsh cake is called Llech Cymreig, which literally translates to Welsh slab.
One thing that doesn’t vary about Welsh cakes is that they are always cut into rounds before cooking. This is likely why they are often compared to scones or biscuits since they are very similar in appearance. However, care must be taken while cooking Welsh cakes. Since they are cooked on an ungreased pan on the stovetop, they can quickly burn if left unattended. The general rule of thumb is to cook them for a maximum of three minutes on each side.
A Traditional Welsh Cake Recipe: 1 cup (250 ml) self-rising flour; 1/3 cup (75 ml) unsalted butter; pinch of salt; 1/3 cup (75 ml) currents; 1/3 cup (75 ml) caster sugar; 1 egg, slightly beaten; splash of milk, just enough to mix; additional castor sugar for rolling. Mix the butter into the flour, using your hands. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the egg and milk. Mix just until a soft dough forms. Roll out and cut into rounds, approximately one inch (1 cm) thick. Cook on a griddle over medium heat. Remove from griddle and carefully roll into caster sugar. Serve warm with butter or jam.
Welsh cakes are very similar to American biscuits, except I think the slight sweetness they have makes them even better. I like to make them without the currants or raisins, and serve them with gravy, much like American gravy and biscuits.
They are also good with nuts added into the mixture, though you don't commonly find this ingredient in recipes for the cakes. If you want to give it a try, make sure you crush the nuts in tiny pieces. Almonds, pecans, or walnuts are the best kind to use because all three go great with the flavor of the Welsh cakes.