Grilled fruit cakes to warm your cockles from guest Welsh trader, Shelly’s
If you didn’t know it, you’d never have guessed that the symbolic flower of Wales is a daffodil. Not yesterday, at any rate. Not when howling gales, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures were doing their level best to sabotage every notion you ever had that spring might, finally, be in the air. In place of tender green shoots and jolly yellow heads, the dawn of Wales’ national day was met with red alert weather warnings across the country, as it was in Scotland and England.
Those intrepid traders who had made it across the Welsh border to Borough Market, therefore, deserve not just a round of applause, but your custom when it comes to this Friday’s treat.
“You do not want to know how many layers I’ve got on,” Shelly beams across a row of toasting welsh cakes. By this point, your Friday feeling team have in fact lost all feeling in their toes and fingers, and are more than happy to compare their relative layers with the visiting traders. Shelly wins, with six. Only her feet are feeling the brunt of the freezing temperatures; the rest of her is feeling the warmth of numerous jumpers, and the grill in front of her. Because if there’s one thing about St David’s Day that does chime with the weather this year, it is the welsh cakes: sweet, spiced and griddled to order on Shelly’s mercifully hot pan.
Generation to generation
“Everyone has a welsh cake recipe. It’s handed down from generation to generation.” The base recipe is as you’d expect from a cake: butter, milk, eggs, sugar—“larder staples, really.” But the spices, currants and/or sultanas can vary drastically from home to home. “This is my husband’s recipe, which he learnt from his mum, so it’s special to us,” she says, carefully flipping the cake over. Don’t be fooled by their slightly scotch pancake appearance: these are different species, she insists. “They’re not really a batter and we fridge the mix for a while before cooking.”
Fruit is the traditional ingredient. Variations devised by Shelly include salted caramel, chocolate chip and, in the savoury department, leeks and crumbly caerphilly: a true banner for Welsh flavours. With the view that prevailing weather conditions have given us more than enough adventure for one week, we stick to the classic, and inhale deeply as the batter begins to fry. Cinnamon and nutmeg; gently caramelising vine fruits; rich, buttery lusciousness. Before they’ve even reached our lips, these morsels have warmed our cockles. The daffodils may be struggling but as these little cakes prove, the indomitable Welsh spirit is still very much alive.