What Is a Chorley Cake?

Jack Magnus

A Chorley cake is named after the town Chorley, in Lancashire, England. It is a round cake that is about 3 inches (7.62 cm) in diameter and has a filling of raisins, sultanas or currants. These cakes are not considered to be sweet, and they usually are served buttered or with a slice of Lancashire cheese.

A Chorley cake is named after the town Chorley, in Lancashire, England.
A Chorley cake is named after the town Chorley, in Lancashire, England.

Chorley cakes are made with short crust pastry. This unleavened, unsweetened dough is made of equal parts of shortening and flour, with a small amount of ice water used to blend the ingredients. Chorley cakes are sometimes compared to Eccles cakes, but Eccles cakes are sweeter and are made of puff pastry. Chorley cakes are less expensive and simpler to make. When a variation of the Chorley cake is made with extra sugar or sweeteners, it is called a snap.

Short crust pastry dough is blended, kneaded and then rolled thin. Circular discs are cut from the dough to make the outer layers of the cakes. The fruit and other filling ingredients are placed on a bottom disc that is then covered with another disc. The edges of the two discs are crimped together to keep in the filling. The cake is rolled flat until the fruit begins to show through the dough, then it is brushed with a glaze of butter and baked.

Chorley cakes often are served warm out of the oven, with melted butter and cheese or jam. A variant of the Chorley cake is the sad cake. A sad cake is basically a large Chorley cake that is about the size of a dinner plate. It can be round or square and usually is made of scraps of dough left over from making Chorley cakes.

Sad cake is served in wedges or slices. Traditionally, workers would bring a slice of sad cake in their lunch kits. The cake would be eaten for tea or as an accompaniment to their lunches.

In autumn, the town of Chorley holds the Chorley Cake Street Fair. The first fair was the idea of the town’s mayor, who used it to hold a competition for the world’s largest Chorley cake. Bakers in the town compete with their versions of this cake. The street fair is a weekend event featuring rides, food and live entertainment.

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