Ooh La La-rdy Cake!

Dan Lepard's Lardy Cake

This week I have been on a baking spree.  I made Dan Lepard’s Lard Cake, recipe in the Hand Made Loaf, after several years of thinking about it, seeing Celia have such fun making it last year and after finding a butcher who would save me some good quality pork fat to render lard from.

I followed the method for rendering fat in the oven which I found in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes’ by Jenifer McLagen.

Two Lardy Cakes half way through prep

Brian was delighted by this treat. The recipe in the book makes over a kilo of dough which is far too much for one Brian to eat even with help from me,  so I split the dough into two lots and used  2 x 18 cm tins to bake them in and shortened the baking time by ten minutes. I found those paper cake cases the easiest way to line the tins and it made it easy to hoik the cakes out to cool without running the risk of burning sugar syrup going everywhere.

Roll up that dough

The first one with the caster sugar topping I took to Graham at Molesworth’s, a local Bristol butchers’ shop, as he had been so kind as to keep the leaf lard back for me and was one of the few butchers I spoke to who seemed to know what I wanted so I reckoned he should get to try my first (and possibly my last ) batch of lardy cakes.

As I walked down the street with my little basket feeling slightly self conscious that I was carrying a hot lardy cake and imagining a curling aroma behind me, (thinking of Desperate Dan in the Dandy)   a man in full evening dress circa 1920 and with a top hat (not imaginary this bit)  walked past me and said ” I hope you have spring flowers in your basket.” I said  “Home made lardy cake I am afraid.” He doffed his hat to me and said “Marvellous!” It was four thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes I wish I had one of those cameras on a helmet…

Demarara Topped Lardy Cake

The second one has a topping of Demerara sugar at Brian’s insistence as that was the way his Gran made it  (as you know I never argue with Brian’s ancestors) and a few raisins.

Brian's Demerara Lardy CakeIt was suggested that Brian shared his cake but apparently this is not an option. I have had a piece and I can report that it is very light, for a lard cake, but it most definitely has an aura of fine porky goodness about it, which is deeply unfashionable and will no doubt make many people rush for their kale smoothies just looking at the photos.

Old Faithful Sourdough Starter

In its favour it is of course completely dairy free and it uses a sourdough starter as well for extra fermenty goodness.

Lardy Cake Crumb Shot 1 2 crumb shots

The crusty sugary outside is pretty good and if I was going on a forced march over hill and dale I would be grateful to stop after about six hours and eat a chunky triangle of Lard Cake with a large mug of strong  black tea, but I am not so sure I could eat this very often. I did enjoy making it though! I will try most things once, always a good principle to consider.

36 thoughts on “Ooh La La-rdy Cake!

  1. AJ @ The Dessert Course

    I’ve been staring at the lardy cake recipe in Dan’s book for ages! My dad, who ate them when he was little, is pretty keen but other family members are taking some convincing. Yours look fantastic!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I had such a good time making it and I dip a big curtsey to you as I re-read all your lardy posts before I made it and they were very helpful indeed.! xxx

  2. Ann

    That looks so good – no kale smoothies for me! I did make one years ago in the UK when lard was easier to come by and the bought sort did not resemble a cake of soap. I seem to remember it being rather good, but never made it again; one of those things I made just to see if I could. I would have used fresh yeast back then – again it was readily available and I’d never even heard of sourdough.
    I love your man in the topper – I wonder what he was doing at 4.30 pm in evening dress? The story makes you sound a bit like Little Red Riding Hood!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Dan’s recipe uses fresh yeast as well as the starter Ann, though I used a little SAF Gold, which is a dry yeast meant for sweet breads as it copes well with sugar and fat I can get fresh yeast but it would have meant a journey to the Gloucester Road to the Bread Store which I know has it.

      I looked for a good lard to buy but the butchers seem to have French goose fat and beef dripping from Highgrove my dear rather than the more plebian pork lard. We hardly raise any lard pigs any more, lard is such an unfashionable product. I have no idea what the chap was doing, I described him to Brian and Brian reckons he knows him, says he often wears a kilt. I didn’t tell you that the butcher had a huge grin when he saw it. He was a little speechless. I hope in a good way!

      .. and the dogs almost went mad while I was rendering the lard and couldn’t believe that I chucked the bits left in the food recycling bin at the end…

  3. Jan

    I so enjoyed reading that Joanna and the thought of you trotting to the Butcher’s with your aromatic basket and a modern camera atop your titfer tat will keep me happy for quite a few hours. The Lardy cake I must say looks absolutely lovely as do the plumptious pillows of dough. There is such joy to be had in everyday domesticity isn’t there – that’s not to say rendering lard and the lovely cake is at all everyday – I’m sure there’s interesting domestic history attached to that too.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have some seriously plump and oozy photos of the dough being folded, would you like to see one? Hang on… I will edit this comment to include one for you. There is definitely something about making things like this that makes you happy and you are right, I did trot very briskly and purposefully round the corner, maybe I should become a delivery person, I so enjoyed myself. Wikipedia says lardy cake is not known in the South-East of England but I definitely saw it and had the odd chunk when I was growing up. I reckon it is all about using what you have and if you had a tub of lard in the house then that would have been what you used for your pastry and your bread or to cook your beans as in Celia’s recent Frijoles recipe.

      Added photo for you Jan :

      Rolled up Lardy Cake Dough

      1. Jan

        Thank you Joanna – it looks so beautiful! I’m sure lard must have commonly be used as the poor-man’s enrichment, not to mention the much needed calories for heavy manual labour and if people had a pig, a ‘house’ pig, nothing of the wee beasty would have gone to waste, albeit most likely shared with neighbours – or the landlord!

  4. heidiannie

    You are a food adventurer and I, too , had you rather in the guise of Red Riding Hood, delivering your food in a basket- only instead of a wolf- you happened upon a top hatted stranger.
    What fun this post is- Bristol is a happy place because you live there- I am sure!
    OK- I tried to ignore the siren call of the lardy cake when Celia was posting, but now the call is in stereo. I will have to come up with some rendered lard to go on this adventure as well.
    Plus then I will be able to make the Cuban bread.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is a woven basket with a green handle that I used to use for mushrooming or as it is now called foraging for fungi, very little girl in the woods, so you are spot on :-) Yes that amazing Cuban bread of Celia’s – we have to bake it Heidi! xx

  5. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna I love this post for so many reasons. Desperate Dan…oh my golly gosh! I would never have remembered Desperate Dan and yet I had a book, that I must have kept for years and years reading it…on googling, it must have been a Dandy annual or something like that. Ah that’s made me smile :-)
    Your top hatted gentleman, love it. I bought a hat for my son recently and the company also sold top hats, I couldn’t think of any reasonable excuse to buy one. Maybe I didn’t need one!
    Kale smoothies :-)
    Hope you have a lovely weekend dear Joanna.

    1. Joanna Post author

      We are having a fine time, no rain for a week, no fog today, sunshine has appeared! Delighted you enjoyed the post, have a lovely weekend too xx

  6. Karin Anderson

    The lardy cakes look wonderful, Joanna! I love Dan Lepard’s recipes, but I have never tried this.
    In Germany lard is still a common ingredient – for example to cook kale with (the most overrated ingredient I know – just saw a recipe for kale bagels!), and every butcher sells it. Animal fat is animal fat, whether it’s lard or butter, and I would definitely prefer my French fries, if I have any, fried in lard than in “healthy” transfats.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I didn’t know that it was still a common ingredient in Germany, that is interesting. I don’t cook with it but I don’t use transfats at all or rather I don’t buy them. They may well be in foods I eat if I am out, who knows really? I use cold pressed rapeseed, various olive oils and butter. Kale crisps are quite good, baked in the oven with sesame seeds ;) We get a lot of kale in our vegetable box. I was sent this link by a friend yesterday with a discussion of the differences in various fat profiles – http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/12/opinion/12kummer.html?_r=0 it is quite interesting.

      1. Karin Anderson

        Thanks for the link, it is very interesting. In Germany you can buy lard, rendered with apple pieces and onions (Schmalz mit Grieben) that you smear on the sandwich, topped with cheese. It tastes really, really good. They do the same with goose fat. I used Schmalz (lard) mainly for cooking cabbage, and other traditional foods.

  7. Suelle

    I’m imagining you as an urban Little Red Riding Hood with your basket of goodies! I too have thought about Lardy Cake for years, but still haven’t arrived at the right point to try it1

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is kind of how you imagine Suelle, and is definitely one of those things that some people adore and other people say OK so that is lardy cake and yes I think I will leave that experiment for another time :) I am happy to have made it finally but I can’t see me making it except as a treat for Brian once in a long while !

  8. Robyn

    Have a friend from Cornwall who has asked me to make Lardy cake, have looked at the one in Dan’s book from time to time but chickened out, not knowing if I could make something which met her memories. Have never come across such cake in NZ. Your photos encourage me to try, your cake looks lovely.

    Meantime keen to hear what the butcher said…….

    1. Joanna Post author

      The butcher smiled a lot and the women who work in his shop smiled too, they shared it and said they thought it was lovely, so that made me happy. There are other recipes around, ones with half and half lard and butter and if you visit Celia’s blog figjamandlimecordial.com she has tried various different versions out and written and photographed them in helpful and interesting detail. She lives in Sydney and has English friends there who gave them the thumbs up, so you could always have a bash at it!

  9. ediblethings

    Ah lardy cakes. I haven’t had a good one of these in years. My dad always used to buy them. He’d also eat bread and dripping, but that was a habit I could never get into.
    I’m not sure he’s done that since the rise of “healthy fats” either.

    1. Joanna Post author

      We had beef dripping with meat juice and lots of salt sometimes on bread, my mother was fond of it. I still prefer butter or some sort of cultured milk product on bread but it is all habits and availability. I bet previous generations would laugh to think of how things like lard and ox cheeks are now food writer territory, ditto the media obsession with leftovers. I think I will try making one with half and half butter/lard another time. B loved this but it was a bit much for me.

      1. ediblethings

        Half and half would be lovely, I think. A lot less piggy, that’s for sure.
        I have to admit that I have a bit of an obsession with leftovers, too, but it is funny how the tide has turned on that. I used to get really funny looks when I would mention all the things you can do with a certain bit of cooked food, and now even the Guardian has got in on the act!

        1. Joanna Post author

          What I meant about the obsession with leftovers is that it has become something worthy of writing endlessly about and the Western media has picked up on it as if it is a new idea. But maybe a younger generation has to be trained in what we were brought up to do and to trust their senses and consider use by dates etc as a guide and not an injunction to throw food away?

  10. sallybr

    Oh, this looks lovely, I am salivating here…. I am soooo behind on reading blogs, it’s not even funny! That’s what you get when you travel, you know… If I had extra time, I would jump on the EuroStar to go visit you…. and maybe enjoy a slice or five of this gorgeous concoction!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Enjoy your travels Sally! I hope all goes well and you are having a good time, thsnks for popping by xx

  11. narf77

    Lardy cake! My gran used to talk about it with such fondness. She was from Oldham in Lancashire the home of all things lardy ;). I love that you interacted with a man wearing a top hat and talking about spring flowers at 4.30 in the afternoon. It smacks of Victorian England, a place that was no doubt reeking of lardy cake at any given time :). Even if I wasn’t of the vegan persuasion and was inclined to hoof a fair swag of this gorgeousness poor narf7 would swell up alarmingly in a very short time. I fear the sweet seductiveness of this enticing treat is not for my tastebuds (at least in this life… ;) )

    1. Joanna Post author

      This has less fat and sugar than a typical pound cake filled with buttercream, but one can play with numbers and portion sizes. . I doubt somehow that lardy cakes will come back into fashion in a big way. I did feel as if I was time travelling a little you are spot on !

        1. Joanna Post author

          I have just treated myself to a kindle book called ‘Great British Bakes – Forgotten Treasures for Home Bakers’ and in that the author Mary-Anne Boermans describes it as a mid afternoon snack for workers in the field – she says it was often accompanied by a bottle of cool ale – just the thing for a long day bringing in the harvest :)

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