Anyone who, like me had or has a Welsh granny will be familiar with Welsh cakes. Welsh grannies can turn out dozens of these little beauties in their sleep. Some Welsh grannies refer to Welsh cakes as pice ar y maen but my granny grew up in South Wales where Welsh wasn't widely spoken although she did occasionally manage an 'ach y fi!' when confronted with particularly grubby grandchildren. My mum can also turn out a mean Welsh cake and they were a regular feature of childhood teatimes (along with Scotch pancakes).
Welsh cakes are not baked in the oven but cooked on a griddle on the hob a relic of the days when few houses had ovens. My mum had a griddle (sometimes called a girdle). It was rectangular, black, cast iron and very heavy. It fitted over two hot-plates on her hob. She passed it on to me but I couldn't get on with it finding my big, heavy frying pan much easier to use.
Welsh cakes are made of simple, unpretentious ingredients. No chunks of 'best quality chocolate', no dried cranberries, no macadamia nuts, sour cream or muscovado sugar just plain old traditional ingredients.
A word about two of the ingredients. First, lard. Don't be scared of lard. It's a natural ingredient, a very cheap one at that, and unless you are frying everything you eat in it unlikely to do you harm. Remember a Welsh cake is not designed to be a staple part of your diet, in my house they are lunch box and after school fodder for three ravenous active children. Lard also makes the Welsh cakes very 'short' in texture. If you don't trust me on this matter or are veggie then replace the lard with more butter but do not use margarine or I will be very cross (unless you are vegan, then you are allowed).
Next the sultanas. Now my granny always used currants, she used currants in everything bless her. My mum hated them, gritty little devils, so she always used sultanas. That's what I use too because I have inherited the currant hatred but you can use currants or raisins. I think sultanas are called golden raisins in the States ;o)
Makes about 24
Before you start making the dough heat your griddle or heavy frying pan to a medium heat.
Sift 1lb of self-raising flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl.
Rub in (cut in) 4oz lard and 4oz of butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in 6oz sugar, 6 oz sultanas and about a quarter of a teaspoon of mixed spice*
Add 2 beaten eggs and mix to form a stiffish dough. You don't want it too sticky add more flour if it is.
Roll out on a floured surface a quarter of an inch thick and cut 3 inch rounds with a biscuit (cookie) cutter.
Turn the heat under the griddle to lowish.
Lightly grease the griddle or pan with a bit of lard or butter and place as many cakes as you can comfortably fit on it. I can get 7 on my large frying pan. let them cook for about 3 mins each side. Take care the heat isn't too high as they burn easily. It may take a couple of tries to get the heat right on your particluar pan or griddle so don't give up if your first batch is a little dark. Cool them on a wire rack.
*American readers, I think something like pumpkin pie spice might fit the bill here. Mixed spice is a blend of coriander, cinnamon, cloves, ,nutmeg and ginger. It isn't essential.
They are delicious straight from the pan but nice too once cooled, plain or spread with butter. They don't keep for very long, like a scone they go stale fairly quickly. They are eaten up quickly in my house but they could be frozen or made in half quantities if there are too many for you to eat before they go stale.