Sunday, August 25, 2013

Winter Feast, Dessert: Lardy cake

So I am recounting my Winter Feast adventures. We had:
·     Pumpkin soup
·     Fish pie with Sand and Sea topping
·     Lardy cake

Dessert. Ever since I saw the picture in Heston Blumenthal at Home, I realised that this would be perfect for a winter’s dinner. Butterscotch paired with warm fruit and sweet bread. Heston claims that this is a highly traditional dish, but it seems not one that really made it to the colonies (unlike many others, like Plum Pudding for Christmas, or trifle.) So, prior to this, I’d not ever eaten a Lardy cake. Or, as my daughter kept thinking it was called, a la-di-dah cake. Which is kind of funny, since that really is everything this dessert isn’t.

The ‘cake’ (though I think of more as a sweet bread) had three components – the bread, the filling and the butterscotch sauce. I feel that making this is very similar to making a combination of cinnamon scrolls, fruit mince pies and Christmas pudding. Nothing super challenging.



  1. Make the bread
  2. Make the filling
  3. Assemble and bake
  4. Make the sauce
  5. Pan fry and Serve
Really, its fairly straightforward. But then, in comparison to that fish pie, maybe everything is straight forward.


Make the bread

You mix up the flour and water, then let it rest for 30 minutes. Given there is no yeast in it here, I have no idea what this step does beyond making wet flour. (I regularly make pizza dough, which doesn’t need this, so if you know why you do this, please leave a comment. Is it a bread-making thing?)
Then the yeast, salt and a tiny bit of lard get added in and mixed well. It gets popped into a bowl, and left to rise. This give you… puffy dough.


Make the filling

This step reminds me rather a lot of making fruit mince pies. (Which I do every year. Bought ones are always too sweet, and mealy). Lots of fruit gets cooked with cognac until all the cognac is pretty much gone.
Then you cream butter and sugar, add in the lard and golden syrup. Once that’s all mixed up the fruit goes in. (Now it really reminds me of Christmas pudding mix. Speaking of which I need to make them for Christmas!)


Assemble and bake

Roll out your dough as if you’re making cinnamon scrolls (i.e. a nice even rectangular shape.)
Spread over the fruit mix, leaving an end bit to stick.
Roll it up into a nicely perfect tube of fattening soused fruit. Or, as in my case, struggle to get it to roll nicely due to the filling being a natural lubricant, and realise your rectangle was more a trapezoid. Apparently. More simply put, you are supposed to tightly roll it. I found this very difficult, because the dough is very soft, and the fruit mix very slippery, and thereby resists you doing anything “tightly” with it. This means it was more flattened than nicely circular, and I can’t see how it would stay nicely rounded like in the picture anyway. Not having made this dish before, I don’t know how soft or hard the dough should have been  but was concerned about adding more flour in case it became tough. It wasn’t sticky or anything, just.. well, doughy.
So that gets put on a tray and left to puff up and get fatter. Which it did.
Then it goes into the oven while you make the sauce. Periodically, you ladle over the melted lard/fruit mix.


Making the sauce

So it’s butterscotch. Which is kind of what happens when you make caramel and add butter to it. That is, its sugar plus butter, rather than just the molten sugar. This one also has cream and golden syrup. 
You whisk it…
Then heat it up to soft crack stage. (i.e. Before it becomes toffee).

Finishing the cake

So the cake comes out of the oven. 
And get placed upside down to cool. Disappointingly, because the top of the cake was quite hard/firm and the bottom quite soft (but cooked) it cracked, thereby removing any elegance possibly promised. Cooking also seemed to make it even more likely to fall apart than it was before I cooked it. Messy.

Pan fry and serve.

So when you are ready to serve it, you cut slices, then pan fry these in butter to heat them up and serve with the warmed butterscotch sauce. I was so busy getting them sliced and pan fried, I totally forgot to take a picture til quite a bit later…
As you might be able to see under the pile of ice cream, the shape didn’t hold, instead of nice rounds they were more like a flattened shape.
But more importantly, taste:  the lardy cake was okay, but not really anything more than that. The butterscotch sauce was nice and I’d make again, but the cake was pretty disappointing. It’s possible that the fault was the not-tightly rolled shape, but I’m not convinced.


Lessons learned:

  • Butterscotch sauce is a winter popularity winner.

 Guest opinions:

Guests enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as other dishes. It was nice, fruity, and good for winter and they loved the butterscotch sauce.



Disappointing, but not bad. To be honest, there are many other desserts with equal or less effort I’d make again before bothering with this. Perhaps its just that I wasn’t aware of what it should be like and so was underwhelmed.

Next: Mustard sauce, courtesy of Heston’s recent appearances on Masterchef Australia.


  1. I think the goal of letting flour and water sit is to allow the mixture to hydrate to allow for a better rise. But I am guessing, educated guess, but still a guess.

    Thanks for the site!

  2. I am really glad you did such a thorough report on this.

    I was seriously optioning this for Christmas dessert this year - I figured a mince pie-style additions to the filling. It looked like it'd be similar to the dish Heston made in his Perfect Christmas feast for the BBC a good few years ago.

    It sounds like the reslts aren't worth all the hassle. I might just do a version of Hawksmoor's sticky toffee pudding, which is perfect winter food.

    I did try to make the butterscotch sauce a while back (was attepting a home version of the Waitrose Figgy Pudding). Did you find it went almost solid at anything lower than pan temperature?

  3. Butterscotch sauce is my absolute favourite! I think this dessert would have been best if it were good icecream with the hot sauce poured over, but that's just me... I'm not a fruit mince girl. Sorry it didn't turn out well enough to merit the effort, but as always, an interesting post. :)