Fat rascals are described in historical writings as ‘Turf cakes’ and they are traditionally from Yorkshire. They were baked in a covered pan under the ashes of a peat fire, resulting in a cake resembling a flat rock cake. The famous Bettys tearoom in Yorkshire, founded by a Swiss immigrant in 1919, claims that they have been baking Fat rascals for over 30 years. They bake three types of Fat rascals and the tearoom also holds the official trademark for Fat rascals, which forbids other tearooms from offering their own version.
However, Fat rascals are actually much older than 30 years. In the Leeds Intelligencer of 17 November 1860, the correspondent writes that while he was visiting Yorkshire he came upon Fat rascals in a bakery. And in The Cornish Telegraph of 10 October 1889, we even find a recipe for Fat rascals, showing that they must have been an established bake by then. I own a small handwritten cookbook from around 1907 with a recipe for Fat rascals and the Yorkshire Evening Post of 2 August 1912 states that Fat rascals are the pride of every housewife in Goathland in Whitby.
The only thing missing from the old recipes and sources, and what Bettys seems to have invented, is the little face on top of the cake that’s made with two candied cherries and whole blanched almonds. The recipe from 1889 only tells the reader to dust the cakes with white sugar before baking.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg, then add enough milk to bring the dough together without making it too wet. If the dough is too dry to press together, add a teaspoon of milk.
Fold the currants through the dough. Push the dough flat and form six round discs. Place on the baking tray, brush with the egg wash and decorate as you wish.
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