Happy Saint David’s Day 2015! – Discovering the New World

Today is St David’s Day, and the people of Wales are celebrating the life and times of their Patron Saint, St David.   I was also interested to hear that all across America, “Welsh Americans” were celebrating this National event over the weekend.   We are all familiar with “Irish Americans” and “Scottish Americans”, but I have to say that I had not really thought a great deal about how my own country, Wales, had influenced and shaped this great nation.fullsizeoutput_746c

The links between the U.S. and Wales (Cymru) go back right to the very beginning of America’s history.  As we all know from the history books, Christopher Columbus “discovered” America in the fifteenth century.  But it is widely acknowledged, however, that over three hundred years before Columbus embarked on his legendary voyage to the New World, a Welsh prince, Madog ap Owain Gwynedd, arrived in America’s Deep South to set up the first Welsh colony there, and subsequently lived among the local indigenous Cherokee tribes for generations.  (NB: The first peoples to travel to America were the Norsemen in the tenth century, but there is little evidence they ever colonised the mainland of North America). 

It is also noteworthy that five out of the first six US presidents were of Welsh descent, and Thomas Jefferson was granted the honour of drafting the Declaration of Independence – the poetic rhythm of the language used in that historic document expressing his rich Welsh heritage.   The Welsh’s influence on the American nation continued, as James Maddison was also one of the Founding Fathers and was the principle author of that other notable work, the U.S. Constitution.    More recently, Barrack Obama became the first ever serving President to visit Wales, when he attended the Celtic Manor in Newport alongside other world leaders for the 2014 NATO Summit. 

As many as two million Americans refer to themselves as Welsh Americans (compared to a population of only 3 million in the land of hymns and arias), with some 135 people in Ohio professing themselves as being Welsh speakers.

In recognition of this long-standing, and understated relationship, I wanted to try some new flavours for my Welsh Cakes this year, and adding a taste of the states seemed like an obvious choice.

The humble Welsh cake received worldwide recognition in 2012 when Mitt Romney ‘s wife, Ann, treated reporters with these Welsh delights during the US Presidential campaign.  Her generosity sparked controversy, however, as people argued over what the “right” way was to make these little unassuming cakes.  The two varieties I trialled this year are a blueberry and lemon style cake (representing the American affinity to breakfast muffins) and a PB&J Split variety (which brings together my love of the Jam Split Welsh cake and the US imported idea of peanut butter and jam on toast).  I also supplemented regular milk for buttermilk, another nod to classic American baking.  Recipes are set out below, together with a link to my post last year.

I am sure my recipes will be received with displeasure by many Welsh cake purists, however, it is important to appreciate that the Welsh cake is all about nostalgia, and whether you prefer one recipe over another will largely depend on how your mother or grandmother used to make them.  For all you purists out there, I ask only one thing: that you open your mind to the wonderful versatility of this traditional treat.  I promise you, you will be pleasantly surprised!


Blueberry & Lemon

Ingredients (makes plenty):

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 115g golden caster sugar
  • 100g dried blueberries
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 25g white chocolate (grated)
  • 2tbsp buttermilk 
  • 1 egg (beaten) 
  • Extra caster sugar & glitter for dusting

Peanut Butter & Jam Splits

Ingredients (makes plenty!):

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 95g golden caster sugar
  • 1tbsp peanut butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tbsp buttermilk 
  • 1 egg (beaten) 
  • Peanut butter and jam for filling and extra caster sugar & glitter for dusting

 Method (for both versions):

  • Put the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add salt and mix well.
  • Add the sugar, the blueberries, zest and the grated chocolate. OR Add the sugar only if making PB&J version
  • Mix together the buttermilk and beaten egg and add to the mix. OR If making PB&J version, also mix in vanilla and peanut butter with the buttermilk and egg.  
  • Add wet mix to the dry mix and combine to make a firm dough.
  • For Bluberry version, roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 3/8th an inch and cut into desired shapes.  I used mini cookie cutters.
  • Roll more thinly for the PB&J flavour as these will be sandwich versions.  For star shaped cakes, dollop a small amount of jam and peanut butter onto two pieces of dough, and sandwich together.  For larger or more rounded cakes, spread fillings to the near edges.
  • Grease the baking stone or frying pan. Cook the cakes for about three minutes on each side then cool on a wire rack.   Dust with caster sugar and glitter (I used copper). 
  • Serve on a slab of fabulous Welsh slate.
  • Best to enjoy these on the day you make them, but they will keep well for a few days in an airtight container.  


( Happy St.David’s Day to all!)

For traditional recipe, see last year’s post:  https://geekchic-hq.com/2014/03/02/happy-st-davids-day-introducing-the-wonderfully-versatile-welsh-cake/

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