Discovering (or Rediscovering) the Lardy Cake

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Lardy Cake. Just the name alone will cause some people to faint in horror as lard still has a bad reputation with many health-conscious eaters. But denizens of Great Britain might also smile a little, too, for Lardy Cakes are a traditional tea time treat and many Brits I know have a soft spot for this sweet, doughy, crunchy treat. And perhaps it will come back into good graces as we are rediscovering lard as a healthier fat.

For centuries lard was the fat of choice in most ‘peasant’ cuisines as it was cheap and readily available. Plus, it’s delicious. In modern times, however, as manual labor declined and heart and weight problems increased, lard was banned from many diets. It’s only in recent years that we’ve rediscovered lard and that it is, relatively speaking, a healthier fat than most.

By weight, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter. Unhydrogenated lard also contains no trans fat making it superior to margarine and vegetable shortening which, ironically, were often used as substitutions for lard. So slowly lard is making its way back into our good graces.

As an American, the Lardy Cake doesn’t have a cultural resonance with me but that doesn’t mean my belly didn’t rumble a little when I saw this Lardy Cake recipe. The idea here is to make a yeast dough with a little bit of lard, then fold it around a scattering of currants and raisins. A mixture of lard and sugar in dolloped into pans followed by the dough and then it’s baked. The lard/sugar melts into a caramel-like crust which when cooled becomes super crisp. When you take a bite, the crispy crust shatters in your mouth, followed by the chewy pastry. Yum.

While lard may be better for us than butter, this doesn’t give us carte blanche to wolf down a stack of lardy cakes. It’s a pastry after all, high in fat and sugar, and so would be an occasional treat, at least in my household. The recipe linked to below makes three Lardy Cakes but calls for over a pound of lard which, since many of us make our livings sitting at a computer and not in the coal mines, is a lot of calories to burn. (The recipe doesn’t indicate how many people one Lardy Cake serves.)

Sadly, the Lardy Cake episode isn’t available online but here’s a clip of Tom and Henry making Cornish Pasties.

The Fabulous Baker Brothers, a British food program about two brothers, one a butcher and chef and the other a baker, made Lardy Cakes on the last episode of their new TV cooking show. Sadly, folks outside of the UK can’t watch the clip, but here is their recipe and method.

What do you think about lard these days? Is it still something you avoid or are you loosening up a bit? Have you ever had or made a Lardy Cake? If so, how does this recipe compare to yours?

(Image: The Fabulous Baker Brothers on Channel 4)