Chester cake is a dark, dense cake sandwiched between two pieces of pastry. It made its way to Guyana through our European ancestors.
Makes 2 (9 x 5) loaves
1 + ½ lbs short crust pastry dough
6 – 7 cups crumbled day-old bread (white or brown)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 + ½ cups brown sugar (preferably Demerara)
1 + ½ cups water, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 + ½ cup blended, rum-soaked fruits (see note below)
2 ounces of unsalted melted butter
2 ounces vegetable shortening, melted
1 tablespoon molasses (optional)
Flour for dusting work surface
1 egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon tap water
Lightly beat egg and water together
1 large bowl with cover (use plastic wrap if you do not have a cover)
1 large spoon
2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans
1 rolling pin
1 small knife
1 small bowl
1 pastry brush
1 Wire rack
1. Add bread, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to large bowl and toss.
2. Dissolve sugar in water and stir in essence. Pour over bread mixture.
3. Add fruits, melted butter and vegetable shortening to mixture along with molasses if using. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.
4. Cover and let soak for as long as you can. Refrigerating overnight is great, but soak for at least 2 hours so the flavours meld. Bring mixture to room temperature before baking.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack in the middle.
6. Divide pastry into 2 large equal pieces then further divide each half into ¼ and ¾ piece; you will now have 4 pieces of pastry. For each loaf, you will need one of the ¼ pieces cut as well as a ¾ piece. Set aside the other 2 parts in the fridge until ready to assemble the other loaf.
7. Flour work surface and rolling pin and roll the large piece of pastry out to 13 x 9 inches. Flour rolling pin again and from one end, roll pastry over rolling pin, transfer to loaf pan and unfurl. Gently press pastry into pan, moulding the pan. Let the excess hang over the pan.
8. Spoon in half of the mixture into the pastry-lined pan and set the remainder aside.
9. Now roll out the ¼ piece of pastry to 10 x 6 inches. Flour rolling pin, roll pastry onto rolling pin and unfurl over the mixture in pan. Gently press the pastry onto the mixture as well as the pastry that is moulding the pan, you want it to seal the two pieces of pastry, so press firmly
10. Cut off the excess pastry and crimp the ends together, either with your fingers or a floured fork. Transfer pan to fridge and assemble the other loaf, repeating from steps 7 – 10
11. Brush the loaves liberally with egg wash; be sure to brush the edges to secure the seal even more. Prick the pastry with a fork in several places, this is to let out some steam and transfer to oven
12. Bake for 90 minutes (1 ½ hours)
13. Remove from oven and let pans cool on wire rack. Cool completely in the pan and then carefully and gently remove the loaf for the pan
14. Cut into squares and serve. The pastry will crumble but that’s okay, it is what makes the Chester Cake what it is.
● For blended fruits, use a combination of raisins, currants, prunes, preserved cherries and mix peel. Add to food processor and grind using rum to moisten the mixture.
● You can use a large square pan with 3 – 4 inches of deepness to make this Chester Cake.