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Chester Cake

Pies and Pastries

Double-crust tray-bake pie filled with softened cake crumb with fruit and spices.

Known from news reports at least since the 1820's. The name seems to originate after Mr Thomas, a loyal confectioner, of East-Gate Street in the City produced a huge fruited cake with pastry decorations to celebrate the birthday of King George IV on the 23rd April 1821; "in circumference four feet, and half a yard in thickness, on top were the Royal Arms, executed in a very superior style". ('Chester Courant' on Tuesday 29 May 1821). Thereafter a mightily simplified version appears in news reports, not only around Chester, but notably in Dublin. This domestic Chester Cake provides a way for the ingenious confectioner to use-up stale cake, like the similar Wet Nelly, with the fancy paste reduced to a flat crust. Thus it has a certain image as a 'poor food'. Indeed, the 'Dublin Morning Register' for Monday 26 February 1838 reports a posh Miss Butler, accused of stealing a Chester Cake, protesting that "that was a cake which nothing would induce her to eat."

Chester cake is now rare in Chester, but has a continuing popularity in Dublin (as 'Gur Cake'), in Cork (as 'gudge' or 'donkey's gudge') and in Jamaica.

Not Chester Cake but the more-or-less identical Irish 'Gur Cake'
Image: "Rwxrwxrwx"

Compare with Nelson Squares.

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225 Gram Shortcrust pastry (8 oz)
110 Gram Plain flour (4 oz)
15 Gram Baking powder ( 1/2 oz)
225 Gram Stale cake, crumbled finely (8 oz)
175 Gram Treacle or golden syrup (6 oz)
Pinch Ground ginger
1 Egg, beaten
2 Tablespoon Milk

Line the bottom of a Yorkshire pudding tin with the pastry, leaving sufficient for a lid.

Pass the flour and baking powder through a sieve into a basin. Add the cake crumbs, a few currants and a little ground ginger. Mix with treacle or golden syrup, making a rather stiff mixture.

Spread this evenly over the pastry and cover with the remaining pastry. Brush with beaten egg and milk and mark it in small squares.

Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas 6. Bake for about 20 minutes. When cold, divide with a sharp knife into the squares indicated.

Chester Cake by Stafford's Bakeries, Wexford, Ireland

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