British Classic #3: Lardy Cake

Short and sweet this time around, with sweet being the operative word…

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you a legend of the West Country. The Lardy Cake, as it’s name lets slip, is a dried fruit bread using rendered pork fat and copious amounts of unrefined sugar. Created in Wiltshire, regional versions are found wherever pig farming occurs in high volume, and again it can be directly attributed to frugality, a national pastime. But what a way to use up lard! There can be few things more delightful and agreeable to eat with a growling stomach than this soft, sweet loaf flecked with orange peel and currants, lubricated with an opaque film of crunchy sugar-fat, leaving fingertips and mouth edges glistening with every indulgent mouthful. 

The heart stopping, shock-horror calorific orgy of Lardy Cake is both the best and worst thing about it. In today’s low-fat, guilt laden diet mentality there is no place for such a time traveller, a relic of ages past where fat, sugar and flour were a means of staving off the persistent cold inherent to the British Isles. Now we have central heating (not to mention global warming), and a cake of sugar and pig, turned upside down to cool so that the maximum amount of good stuff soaks back into it is not wanted by many.

That’s many, not all. (cough) 

There’s no doubt about it, Lardy Cake is disappearing. Slowly but surely, even in prime pig country where I sit and type this, it becomes less easily to find it year after year. I eventually expect it to become a quaint oddity, one for arch cookbook writers to throw in as a humourous aside….”Of course, you won’t actually COOK this!?” Personally, I blame the association with the US term “Lardass”. Hard not to think of it with each bite. 

But, my friend, if you are lucky enough to find a baker who makes this wonderful treat, don’t deny yourself. Take a slice home, and eat it in the only way it should be eaten – with a mug of strong tea, and a clear conscience. 

Thanks again, and see you for #4: The OXO cube….


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