Pentecost Cakes

photograph | Piers Northam

Here’s some we made earlier!

Goosnargh Cakes – a Lancashire delicacy.

Originating from the Lancashire village of the same name, Goosnargh cakes are actually biscuits; a form of shortbread or ‘shortcake’ traditionally sold at Easter and Whitsun. Their characteristic flavour comes from caraway seeds, which were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are also used in seed cake

Goosnargh ( pronounced something like GOOZ-ner) is a village just outside Preston, about 4 miles from the villages  where I ministered for ten years, in Whitechapel and Admarsh-in-Bleasdale.

The church at Bleasdale had a unique patronage – St. Eadmer who is not a saint known anywhere else. The folk there were more famous for Lancashire HotPot  than Goosnargh Cake!

The Goosnargh cake is no longer produced commercially but during my time of ministry in North Lancashire, the cakes were available to be bought at  the Goosnargh village post office at Easter and Pentecost. A ‘private’ supply was made for me by my ‘Aunty Mary’, who was a very dear friend who looked after me in Whitechapel. She had a ‘secret’ recipe which is proving to be elusive to find but will one day see the light of day again.

Whitechapel and the surrounding area were riddled with priests’ hiding places, mainly because in the time of the Jacobites the local priests were outlawed. They hid in secret places in farmhouses and other buildings. I have certainly been in a couple. The Roman Church was suppressed and worship forbidden. I think, however, that one of the farms in the area served as a church, as it has a rather large, church-shaped barn door.

My fanciful mind can easily turn a lightly whispered rumour into a plausible fact! I have this theory that the Goosnargh Cakes or Pentecost buns were part of a way to feed the priests and for hidden congregations to celebrate the great feast of Pentecost or Whitsunday. I cannot be proved absolutely wrong so I invite you to join me in marking this great feast day of the Christian year by partaking of some Goosnargh cakes.
Don’t worry if you think it’s too late to make them for this Pentecost.

Pentecost is kept traditionally  as an ‘Octave’ – Eight day feast,  so you have plenty of time to make some yourself. Good Luck! And don’t forget to share with those who would be perked up by your gift, and more especially, by you the giver. That would certainly have made my Aunty Mary glad.

Here’s a recipe..

It isn’t quite that of ‘Aunty Mary’ but we’ll be back next year, hopefully with the real thing. It’s not a bad substitute. Enjoy!

Goosnargh Cakes – makes 20

225g unsalted butter

125g caster sugar

350g plain flour

½ tsp ground coriander

1½ tsp caraway seeds

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease two baking sheets.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Sift flour over the creamed mix, add the coriander and caraway seeds, mix with wooden spoon until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Using your hands, work mixture together to form smooth paste. Take out of bowl and onto floured surface and knead gently so that dough is smooth and ready to roll out.

5. Roll out to about 1/4″ thickness, and using a circular cutter (mine was a 2″ one), cut out circular discs of dough.

6. Place the discs onto the baking sheets, and sprinkle with caster sugar.

7. Put the baking sheets into your fridge (having cleared all your chilled wine off one shelf to make room). Leave for 30 minutes/1 hour until well chilled.

8. Pop into oven and bake for 15-20 minutes – they should remain quite pale. Keep an eye on them as the minute you leave the room they overcook.

9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with more caster sugar. Leave to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack.

[Mr. G.]

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