If you are holidaying in Cornwall this year, as well as sampling the occasional pasty, be sure to look out for some Hevva Cake….. (if you live too far away… never fear, you’ll find the recipe below)!
I recently visited Krowji, Cornwall’s largest creative hub, based in Redruth, for Open Studios and took the opportunity to nip over to Portreath Bakery to sample some of their famous Hevva Cake… a beautiful Cornish fruit cake. Traditionally, so the story goes, made by the Pilchard huers when they returned home from work. It was the huers’ job to keep look out, on cliffs and in huer’s huts, for shoals of pilchards. They would shout ‘Hevva’, ‘Hevva’ when they saw the sea bubbling with fish. This then helped the fishermen to locate the perfect spot to cast their nets. Legend has it, after all that shouting, they would nip home and bake a bit of Hevva cake (like you do!) in readiness for the crews’ return. The cakes are about 1/2″ thick, with a criss-cross pattern scored across the top, to represent the fishing nets.
Marion from The Portreath Bakery recently shared her recipe with Cornwall Today Magazine, so I thought I’d have a go! I remember my Mum making it, and it being one of my Dad’s favourites, but up until now, I’ve yet to give it a try. The addition of a pinch of saffron is optional but adds a nice Cornish twist! Also, don’t forget a liberal sprinkling of sugar on the warm cake once out of the oven. I brushed a little milk onto the warm cake first to help it stick!
Cornish Hevva Cake Recipe
Ingredients: (makes 1 thin cake)
175g plain flour
1/4tsp fine salt
1-2tsp ground ginger, cinnamon or mace, or a combination, to taste (optional)
40g granulated sugar
40g each of unsalted butter and lard (or 80g butter, if you prefer)
25-50g chopped mixed peel (optional)
About 2tbsp milk or water
1) Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2) Mix the flour, salt, spices (if using) and sugar together. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the other ingredients, including just enough milk or water to make a stiff dough.
3) On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1cm thick and in a rough oval shape. Carefully lift on to the baking sheet. Make a criss-cross pattern on the top with a sharp knife.
4) Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, until golden (it won’t rise very much). Serve warm, or allow to cool then store in an airtight container.
I must say, I’m quite pleased with my hevva cake making results…Megan, our lovely apprentice, rather liked it too!