Welsh cakes are a delicious traditional staple of St David’s Day celebrations, but where did they come from and how exactly do you make them?
Welsh Cakes are a national treasure, as much a part of the nation’s identify as rugby, daffodils or Tom Jones and the perfect way to celebrate St David’s Day.
Welsh Cakes (also known as pics, bakestones or picau ar y maen in Welsh), are flat, scone-like treats which have been around since the 19th century. Wales has a strong mining history and workers used to take the pocket-sized snack with them to see them through a long, hard day. They were also a firm favourite for children’s lunches or teatime treats in many households.
“I’ve been making Welsh cakes all my life,” says Jacqui, who bakes up to 1000 every day at Bakestones in Cardiff Market. “I learnt from my mum and my nan.”
A familiar delicacy to many Welsh people, locals are likely to have grown up eating and baking welsh cakes with their families. Others, however, encounter them a little later in life.
“It was my wife who first made them for me,” says Jim, the owner of Bakestones, which has been selling homemade ‘pics’ for the past 10 years. “We’re very popular with tourists, we have a lot of them come here [and] even the Turkish Prime Minister’s wife, she came and tried our Welsh cakes. She loved them.”
The market bakers’ Welsh cakes are now not only famous in Cardiff but also in many other places around the world. It’s not just international tourists and politicians’ wives taking an interest, but also networks in Japan and USA’s Fox television channel. Jim even had a mention in TV chef, Jamie Oliver’s book.
It therefore seems that traditional Welsh cakes are as popular today as they were generations ago with their appreciation spreading beyond the national border. Although still largely the same bake as they always have been, there are some more modern variations now available.
“Traditional are the most popular for us but chocolate chip are catching up,” says Jacqui.
“We started with just the original Welsh cakes,” agrees Jim. “But now we’ve got lemon, there’s vegan ones and we’ve got diabetic Welsh cakes.”
Traditionally, however, there are very few ingredients needed to make the traditional treats. Currants are often a key addition, but these can be swapped for other dried fruits or chocolate chips. Although traditionally made on a hot bakestone or iron griddle, they can also be made using a standard kitchen frying pan at home.
“We make them with love,” says Jim. “They’re made by hand, not by machine. That’s the secret.”
Although Bakestones have a decade of experience behind them, you don’t have to be a professional to have a go at making your own Welsh cakes.
“Anyone can make them,” says Jacqui. “But you’ve got to get the right recipe.”
Welsh cakes use standard, easy-to-find ingredients and are a great bake for new learners. We’ve put together a simple video showing you exactly how to make your own from our favourite traditional recipe.