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How to make Wilfra cakes and tarts

24 July 2020


JACQUELINE BELLEFONTAINE has written about Ripon’s Wilfra cakes for the city’s Wilfra Week at the beginning of August. The festival began in 1108 for the return of St Wilfrid’s relics to the city, and the granting of a royal charter for an annual fair. The cakes were baked and placed on doorsteps and win­dow ledges along the route of the procession of the saint’s effigy from the Town Hall to the saint’s own cathedral.

I wonder whether the people of Ripon will be able to celebrate their patron saint so convivially this year. Plenty of cakes and ale must have been enjoyed in Wilfrid’s honour over the centuries. The cakes are really tarts — a shortcrust pastry case filled with apples and Wensley­­dale cheese — but mustn’t be called that, because Wilfra tarts are made with lemon and ground almonds. For the cakes, you will need:

225g (8 oz) plain flour
115g (4 oz) butter
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1-2 teaspoons water
680g (1½ lb) cooking apples, peeled and sliced
85g (3 oz) Demerara sugar (plus a little for the top)
85g (3 oz) Wensleydale cheese

Rub the butter into the flour, sugar (caster or granulated), and salt. Mix to a stiff paste with the egg yolk and a little water. Leave to rest.

Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C/Gas Mark 7. Line a Swiss-roll tin with half the pastry and lightly prick the bottom. Lay on the finely sliced apples and cover with the Demerara sugar. Grate the cheese on top. Cover with the remaining pastry, brush with milk, and sprinkle with sugar, and make a few slits on top. Bake for 10 minutes, and then lower the heat to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. If you’re not gen­erously putting them out for passers-by on your doorstep, Jacqueline suggests that you might serve them with cream.

To make 12 little Wilfra tarts you need shortcrust pastry as above, using 175g (6 oz) plain flour and 85g (3 oz) butter. For the filling, you’ll need:

50g (2 oz) butter
150ml (5 fl. oz) milk
2 tablespoons white breadcrumbs
25g (1 oz) ground almonds
50g (2 oz) sugar
zest of 1½ lemons
juice of ½ lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat the oven to 180°C/F160°/Gas 4. Bring the milk and butter to boiling point and add the breadcrumbs, ground almonds, caster sugar, and lemon zest. While you wait for the breadcrumbs to absorb the liquid, line 12 bun tins with the pastry. Add the lemon juice and fill the pastry cases with the mixture, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

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