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Currant Affairs - a short history of the Eccles Cake

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

No one knows the real origin of the Eccles Cake, but it is thought that the first published reference to something resembling the currant-filled sweet flaky pastry cake we now know and (possibly) love was in a book of recipes by Mrs Elizabeth Raffald, housekeeper at Arley Hall in Cheshire. She called them 'Sweet Patties.' In 1793 an Eccles baker, James Birch, started making his version of these sweet patties at his baker's shop in Church Street, Eccles and called them "Eccles Cakes." Within a relatively short time, business was so brisk that he had to move to larger premises and his Eccles Cakes began to be exported all over the world. James Birch's original shop was taken over by his former apprentice, William Bradburn and controversially, Mr Bradburn claimed that his was the original Eccles Cake shop. Neither shop still exists, but the shop window and sign from Bradburn's shop is held in storage at Salford Art Gallery & Museum. To commemorate the origins of the Eccles Cake, a blue plaque has been installed in Eccles on the site of James Birch's first shop from 1793 (see pictures below, right.)

This blog is a short extract from an illustrated talk given by Elizabeth and available to societies and groups. You can also join her on a unique guided walking tour of Eccles, where you will be shown the sights and learn more of the history of Eccles and its famous cakes. Elizabeth, as well as being a Green Badge tourist guide, is a champion Eccles Cake baker, having won the title at the first (and so far, only) Great Eccles Cake-Off in October 2013. To book Elizabeth to give her talk or a guided tour of Eccles, contact her using the contact form on this website or email charnleysoutdoors@btinternet.com






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