Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sweet Memories

We've just been away for a few days to a friend's house in Suffolk, on the East Coast of England.  It's about two hours from London but it feels much further away than that, and it's one of my favourite places.

On Friday we took a short drive from her house to the weekly produce market in the church hall at the small market town of Halesworth, and I wanted to share with you these amazing cakes. Well, not exactly share them - I'm afraid we've already eaten them.

But they're lemon cakes infused with honey, of a smooth, firm texture like a madeira cake, and very good. But what caught my eye was the way that one has a bee, and the other has a honey comb, sculpted on the top. They're truly elegant, and could appear on the finest tea tables despite their low price of 60 pence each ($1 US approximately).    So I took a picture of them in their white ruffs, and mentally congratulated Mrs. Hopkins, who made them, according to the hand written label on the packet.

Next time I'm in Halesworth on a Friday, I'll buy more goodies from Mrs Hopkins. And if you happen to be in North-East Suffolk, the market is held every Friday between 10.30 and 12.30 at St. Mary's church hall.  The produce on sale is very good and very inexpensive.

On the way back to London, we stopped at Tiptree for lunch.  This Essex village is the home of Wilkin's Jams
and on our visit, the most delicious scent of cooking strawberries filled the air because they were making a batch of strawberry jam that day.

We stop at Tiptree when we can, because Wilkin's has a good tea room, and an interesting little museum which tells the story of the company and its products.  ( "The story of marmalade" - who could resist?)  

The factory is surrounded by orchards and a market garden which supplies much of the fruit they use - morello cherry, mulberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant and so on.   The oranges and other citrus fruits for the marmalade come from their special supplier in Spain - according to the museum, anyway. And the marmalades are all a bit different - I took this picture in their shop..

I know this sounds like an advert for Wilkin's jams, but not, because they've never heard of me.  Perhaps I am well disposed towards them partly because my great-grandmother was so proud of them. She lived nearby in the village of Tolleshunt Major, which was then a very remote place indeed.

 I remember visiting her in Tolleshunt Major when I was a very small child and she was in her nineties, a dignified old lady in a long, black dress and black boots - a real Victorian.  My mother describes visiting her there when she was a small child, taking the train from London to Chelmsford, then being collected by granny who had hired a local man with a pony and trap to take them back to the village, and seeing the jam factory in the distance.  . And granny would point out that the jams were exported from this little corner of Essex, all over the world.

Tiptree itself isn't the most beautiful of villages.  Most of its local shops have succumbed to Tesco, but in one little precinct was a bread shop called the Crusty Loaf where I got a very good loaf (yes, it was crusty), and something which the woman in the shop couldn't identify.   "We call it a frisbee," she said, doubtfully, "but that's not its real name".

So I bought one.  That's it on a dinner plate, so you can see it is quite large. It reminds me very much of an eccles cake, and is undoubtedly made the same way, with puff pastry.

So here's an eccles cake recipe, adapted to show you what this frisbee tasted like.  Sorry it's in grams, if you use ounces and pounds or cups. I tried to find a recipe with Imperial measures in my 1911 copy of Mrs. Beeton, which I was sure would have it. But although it has all kinds of strange recipes (parrot pie, eel soup, etc.) it doesn't have eccles cakes or anything like them.

30g butter
150g currants
2 tablespoons chopped mixed fruit peel
50g brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon mixed spice
500 grams ready made puff pastry
1 beaten egg white and caster sugar to glaze
1.Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas mark 7 (medium-hot)  Melt the butter in a small pan on a low heat, but do not brown it.  Stir in currants, mixed peel, brown sugar and mixed spice. Stir until sugar is dissolved and fruit is well coated. Remove from heat.   On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness. Cut out a large circle. spread the mixture over it. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until it is golden.


  1. What a special story! I love it. Those top cakes look really good to me.

  2. Oh yum yum! Now I'm hungry, but it's bedtime!
    That sounds and looks like a very good trip, one I'd make for sure if I were in the vicinity.I love the picture of the different marmalades (longing for some of that on toast, right now!)
    The last pic looks very like clafoutis.

  3. Hello Jenny, I am always happy discussing and looking at and eating food! I love going on a trip and bringing back nice things to eat. The little honey buns look delicious and I can just imagine the jam smell...mmmm!

    I loved hearing about your Gran too. Have a lovely week, love Linda x

  4. Such luscious pastries. We have our great little pastry shops in the cities, but they are not inexpensive.

  5. Yummy!

    Warm Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

  6. Mmmmm, those all look so good! I have a friend living here who is Brit by birth, and she periodically had a "proper tea," and we all love the gustatory delights she brings to us! Haven't found one yet I didn't like!

  7. oh..i was so happy that you were sharing cake with us :( but you ate alone :(....

    do share more of your travels next week :) have a nice week.

  8. Mrs. Hopkins is an artist! Thank you for "sharing" those cakes with us. Your description has reminded me of the many times my husband and I went to have tea or coffee and home-made cake in St. Mary's church in Scarborough, paying little money for excellent cake, and I always loved the atmosphere there, a "lived in" church, so to speak.

  9. I really miss the sweet stuff from Europe. You can buy it in Tokyo, but it's hideously expensive. I've never been able to figure that out: if the yen is so powerful, why is imported food so expensive?

    You'll be happy to hear that despite that, I remain a proud supporter of Wilkin and Sons.

    I wish I could've tried the Eccles cake, but I'm afraid an oven is a luxury few people have in this crowded city with its tiny apartments. I've baked cake in my rice cooker, but it won't work with puff pastry. You'll have to enjoy it on my behalf! ^^

  10. Some years ago, as a temp, I worked one day in there. Not the world's most exciting work! Clean & efficient maybe but boring.
    Your grannie dressed in black reminds me of a woman who lived near us (died around 1964) dressed the same way, and my gran in 1926 dressed like that looking older than she was.

  11. I must go and have a look at Halesworth next time I visit my younger son and his family, they live in a village near Harleston which is only a few miles away from Halesworth. I love Norfolk and Suffolk, they are my favourite English counties.

  12. My aunt and family used to live in a cottage at the edge of some of the Wilkins' fields on the village outskirts. Marmalade making time at the factory was....interesting, but pickled onion days meant a day out in Colchester!!

  13. Those cakes look wonderful - and only 60p! I am going to have to calculate how long it would take to drive to Halesworth x

  14. Thanks for all the comments. @gz, had to laugh, and very glad we visited on strawberry day! @Teresa, yes, Halesworth is on my list for next time I visit. Maybe I could ask around for Mrs. Hopkins address and put her on contract to supply all my cakes from now on ! @Rowan, yes I love those counties best too even though they are not as picturesque as many others. Landscape wise, I find it hard to beat Surrey mind you. @Mimi, I have not had clafoutis but I imagine it as softer than this, which is quite brittle. @Adullamite, I doubt if my fondness for Wilkins would survive working in the factory. I could perhaps manage the tea room though.@Rurousha, I would be sad not to have an oven, although I believe you can bake in microwaves, it's just that nothing goes brown, unless you have one that's also a grill. @Librarian, I think those places selling home made cakes are one of the joys of England. Village fetes are often a good source of amazing cakes. @Muhammad, I did not eat them ENTIRELY alone as my husband helped me in the good work!@Lynilu, I hope your friend also bakes her own. Although some of my favourite cake recipes are American.

  15. Hi Jenny, many thanks for the visit. Yes you are right to be practical, as I have had some living arrangements under domes which have gone mouldy. They need a bit of dampness and heat to create a micro climate, but you are right a change of air is good occasionally too. I think the Martha Stewart idea of the glass jars is a good one as the lids can easily be removed. If you click on the link to Martha you will find the instructions of how to do it.

    Have a happy day! Love Linda x

  16. What a lovely post, I really enjoyed my little 'trip' around those places and as for those cakes ... my mouth actually watered! :o)

  17. It's almost 2 and still have not eaten and seeing your post my gastric juices have started moving, interesting post gastronomic, I love those pictures of the jam. A greeting.

  18. Ah what beautiful treats to see this early in the morning! Having fun here, looking at all your pictures and traveling adventures.

  19. What a way to start my morning! I love seeing the tasty treats but the cake with the bee and honeycomb are my favorites!

  20. Don't you just love rows of jam? I always think they are so pretty with all the different colors and flavors. I'm so happy to have discovered your blog and thank you for your comment on mine! :)

  21. Oh my. You are seriously making me drool and wanting that jam too!

  22. Look at all that marmalade. I'd love to try some, will have to see if one of our import food stores carries Wilkins Jam.


  23. One of my better short stories was about a father reminiscing about events concerning his son on the beach at Dunwich. I wouldn't disagree for a moment that you can get lovely thinks to eat there (sausages from the local butcher in Wickam Market - but that would be more than 50 years ago now) but the memories of that county are bitter-sweet. Suffice it to say that my parents are buried there - St Lawrence Church, Knodishal.

  24. I love reading your blog. Everytime the page opens to the banner, I feel like it is Spring.

    I look for Wilkins in the states.

  25. Oh my! Lots of tasty items. Those cakes looks delicious! Your great-grandmother sounds like an interesting woman, indeed!! :)

  26. All this sounds so good! and interesting! To speak of a country through its food is really a good idea, it tells a lot about the local way of life, the history, etc.; great post!

  27. Your mention of the smell of strawberries reminded me of my visit many years ago to the Cadbury's chocolate factory at Bournville in Birmingham. The smell of chocolate was overpowering for miles around. It must have been very strange to live there with that permanent aroma.

  28. Sorry Jenny, can't read your post, not allowed to fall to temptation...I made good resolutions at the beginning of the year! :)

  29. Oh, great, it's still a couple hours until dinner and I went ahead and read this. Those biscuits downstairs aren't safe anymore!

  30. Those first two little cakes look so delicious...I wish I lived nearer! And your eccles cake at the end sounds really good too. Haven't seen anything like either one of these over here. This was a lovely post, and I enjoyed your memories too. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Not a bad bit of market research. those cakes look scrumptious.

  32. oh my word, you made my sweet tooth kick in!!! i've got to make some dinner first! :)

    thank you for stopping by my burn post today!

  33. Those cakes in the top pic look really good!

  34. You should have a calorie warning! I've just from Friko's blog about fish and chips, to you, on jam and cake and other banned goodies! But lovely and interesting and homesick-making post as ever Jenny.

    A very nice break from the cat-saga-dramas at my place.

    Isabel x

  35. I was complaining earlier today that I'd missed a post by another blogger and I missed this too but I absolutely know that this was not in my dashboard so I've obviously been succumbing to the Blogger Contact Disease.

    All that said I was gobsmacked to read the post for various reasons including the number of times that the subject of Eccles Cakes has cropped up over the last few days (the last time about 2 hours ago). We used to call them fly cemeteries and as a youngster I was banned from the local cake shop for asking for Eccles Cakes by that name.

  36. Hello Jenny:
    The honey/lemon cakes look seriously good. Sufficient reason alone for visiting Halesworth on a Friday! It is such a treat when one makes these unexpected discoveries whilst on a visit to somewhere. As you say, Mrs Hopkins's cakes look good enough to grace at table at the Ritz!!

    We have only ever passed through Tiptree which was on the route for us to Beth Chatto's garden at Elmstead Market. However, had we known of the tea room and museum, we should certainly have tarried a while longer.

  37. Thanks for the additional lovely comments. What a lovely thing to say, Poet Whale, it made my day!
    Author Doc, I hope the fact that both your parents are buried there does not mean that they met with an accident.
    I am sure I'd never touch chocolate again if I lived within sniffing distance of the Cadbury's factory, Nick. Mind you it is better than a brewery, I used to go to the school near the brewery in Reading and never really fancied beer since.
    Jane and Lance, you've reminded me I would like to visit Beth Chatto's garden. Last time I thought of it, we were on bikes and it was just too far to go in an afternoon.
    GB, synchronicity is a funny thing. I spent about an hour trying to find the name my mum told me that they used to call Tahrir square, then casually opened a book in Daunts bookstore today and read "We call Tahrir Square the Midan....."
    Mind you, I suppose I could have rung my mum and asked her ! :)
    Al, I wouldn't care to be a biscuit in your house, you sound ravening...help.....
    Isabel, I'm glad I have provided some respite from odd people with huge obsessions about animals killing each other! Hope you can bring yourself to moderate comments soon!
    It's lovely to "meet" new people and I'll be visiting as many blogs as I can before I clear off to Spain.

  38. sounds like a lovely visit with your friends, and excursion too. Cakes look delicious and the eccles recipe interesting and no doubt very tasty!

  39. I loved this post...jams, cakes, bread and an English village...what more could one want?!
    Those little lemon cakes infused with honey are the prettiest little cakes I've seen in a very long time...they outshine the cupcake by many a mile!
    xo J~

  40. Thank you very much Jenny, but I am supposed to be on a diet here. How about taking a trip to a lettuce farm next.

  41. See, those are proper cakes! Being somewhat more abundant since my gluttony over christmas, I am eschewing cakes on all but Saturdays. On a visit to Stroud market, we went for our customary coffee and cake in Woodruff's and noticed there were vegan cakes on offer. My wife made the point quite justifiably that if one is to have a cake, it should have eggs and butter and all manner of good things. "Life is too short for vegan cakes".

    And marmalade! Isn't it nearly Seville orange time? I must implore for the making of marmalade!
    Ye gods I am hungry now and I have already had my lunch.
    Thank you for a very thought-provoking and appetite stimulating post!

  42. I'd love to try those cakes in the top picture


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