"Cattern cakes" are spiced with cinnamon, lightly fruited and flavoured with caraway seeds; they are traditionally made by the English Nottingham lacemakers for the festivities on their special feast day. The recipe goes back to Tudor times, and has changed little over the centuries, although they are sometimes made with yeast dough. Also known as Catherine Cakes (after Catherine of Aragon, whom whilst imprisoned locally at Ampthill, heard of the lacemaker's financial plight, and destroyed all of her lace only to commission some more and give work to the local industry). They are specially prepared for St. Catherine's Day - the patroness of spinners, lace-makers, rope-makers and spinsters - on the 25th November, which is the lacemaker's special day. They are traditionally washed down with Hot Pot - a hot mixture of rum, beer and eggs. I find that I prefer mine with a cup of tea! These delicious little cakes are more like a soft and slightly chewy biscuit or cookie.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl: flour, cinnamon, currants, ground almonds, caraway seeds and sugar.
- Add the melted butter and the beaten egg and mix well to give a soft dough.
- Roll the dough out on a floured board, into a rectangle about 12" x 10" - 30cm x 25cm.
- Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon to taste.
- Gently roll the dough up like a Swiss roll, not too tightly, and then cut the rolled up dough into 3/4" - 2cm slices.
- Place these slices on to a well greased and lined baking tray or biscuit/cookie sheet, making sure that they are spaced well apart.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy to the top.
- Allow the cattern cakes to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with extra caraway seeds, sugar and cinnamon if you like.
- Store in an airtight tin for up to 7 days.
These were very good, especially right out of the oven. I used raisins instead of currants, but it would have been better with currants because the raisins are a little too big. I made a double batch and the second patch rather than rolling the dough and slicing I rolled the dough into balls and dipped in the sugar cinnamon mixture like snickerdoodles and that worked ok but they weren't as pretty. I found that after these had been stored for a few days the caraway seed flavor got stronger, so eat these while they're still fresh.