Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. Take a moment to turn away from the plastered explosions of pink and red. The cheap stuffed bears clinging to stuffed hearts. The rows and rows of cloyingly sweet boxes of chocolates.
Instead, what better way to relieve the ennui inspired by this corporate-sanctioned celebration of love than by biting into something that is truly sugar, spice, and everything nice? Specifically, the Welsh Cake.
What Are Welsh Cakes?
Welsh cakes are scone-like teacakes are delightfully rustic and informal, while also managing to be delicate and delicious. “Splashes” of milk are added to make the dough come together, and they’re cooked on a griddle instead of baked.
If we’re talking about love, these are like the lovechild between a currant scone and the fluffiest of pancakes. They’re subtly sweet (Perfect for an Asian palette. My mother loved these.) and lightly spiced with nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon to complement a cup of strong English tea.
Biting into them fresh from the griddle—when the exterior is slightly crunchy from the caramelized sugar and butter and the interior crumb is warm and just a bit fluffy—is perfection.
Inspired by the Great British Baking Show
This recipe is very lightly adapted from Mary Berry’s Welsh Cake recipe. Yes, that’s Mary Berry, queen of British baked goods and co-host of Great British Bake Off. That is, a food competition show that Sarah and I definitely did not binge-watch on Netflix over the course of…ahem…two days.
Let me count the ways (i.e., the reasons why) I love the Great British Bake Off:
- The rigorous and demanding series of complex baking hoops contestants have to jump through.
- The magical, perpetual Easter fairy land where the show is filmed.
- The thinly-veiled derision of the judges: prim baking queen Mary Berry and overly-tanned, hawkish Paul Hollywood discussing the quality of “bakes,” crumb consistency, and frosting color choices.
- Zany hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (Come back!)
- And of course, the polite awkwardness of the British contestants themselves as they half-panic over their extravagant sweets. (But also, the contestants are actually genuinely nice and supportive of each other. No soccer moms backstabbing each other over cupcakes to be found here, no siree.)
In short, the show is gold.
So you cooould make these for a special someone today OR, like me this year, you could say to hell with Valentine’s Day, make them for yourself, and enjoy them with a blissful cup of hot tea and a Great British Bake Off binge session.
You know what the right choice is.
(Adapted from Mary Berry’s Welsh Cakes recipe; Makes a mix of 24 rounds and hearts–some that may be broken, some that may not)
Welsh Cakes: Recipe Instructions
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can also do this step using a food processor.
Add the sugar, currants, and spices, and stir with a wooden spoon to mix.
Add the egg and enough milk to form a soft but not sticky dough. Mary Berry needed a little more than 2 tablespoons. I needed closer to 4 tablespoons. The dough should resemble pie crust dough. You can knead it to get it to come together, but no more than a few times. You don’t want your Welsh cakes to turn out tough!
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness.
Cut into rounds with a 2-inch pastry cutter until all of the dough has been used. I used a scalloped 2-inch round and a similar-sized heart. Because maybe hearts were made to be broken? Or bitten into.
Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan over medium heat, and melt a little butter in it. A thin pat is sufficient for each batch–that’s 7 welsh cakes that fit into my cast-iron skillet.
Cook the Welsh cakes over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown. Be careful on the first flip, as they are still a little fragile–similar to American pancakes–at this point. During the cooking process, you may have to turn the heat up or down. I modulated between medium-high and medium-low.
Let cool on a wire rack and continue to cook the cakes in batches. They’re best when fresh, and even a little warm. You can sprinkle your Valentine’s day heart shaped welsh cakes with powdered sugar and serve with, obviously, a lovely cup of tea.
Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.