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Hevva Cake

Hevva cake is a traditional Cornish baked good. If you look it up online you will find out a number of things about it such as the fact that it is often called ‘heavy cake’ although this is a misnomer and the word ‘hevva’ is generally believed to be a cry used in fishing communities to point out shoals of pilchards when hauling them in; hevva cake was a treat for the returning sailors. Also, there are numerous recipes. How do know which one to choose? How about this method, which I followed yesterday.

First, preheat the oven to about 200°C / 180°C fan and gather the dry ingredients – 450g self raising flour, a pinch of salt, a grating of nutmeg and 50g of caster sugar. Combine them with 110g lard. I used my food processor for this stage, which I find much easier than rubbing in by hand. Mix together with 350g dried fruit (currants are widely suggested but I had sultanas on hand) and the zest of an orange (lemon is more widely used) before softening with 150ml of milk. The mixture was drier than I had expected; perhaps I should also have added the orange juice?

Turn the mixture onto a floured board and flatten into a rectangle about 15cm wide and 1-2 cm deep. Take 110g butter and distribute half of it over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle. Fold the top third down and then the bottom third up, giving three layers of dough with two layers of butter. Rotate 90° and repeat with the remaining butter. Now roll to about 1cm thick and either cut into rounds or just bake as a whole. Score the top in a diamond lattice, like a fishing net. Optionally it could be brushed with milk or egg but I ended up putting it in plain.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown then take out to cool, sprinkling over some brown sugar to decorate. Delicious and not too heavy at all.

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