Cheltenham Dripper Recipe

If you grew up in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire (and are of a certain age!!) you will no doubt be familiar with or more likely a lover of the humble ‘dripper’!

I posted a recipe for this most beloved of cakes some years ago and it has proved to be very popular but I’m always looking to improve my recipes and over time little tweaks here and there have made for an even better dripper experience!

So, I’m posting the latest version here but I’ve left the original post below for those of you who are happy to continue to use that one.

New Improved Cheltenham Dripper Recipe

For the dough

335 grams lukewarm water

8 grams salt

25 grams caster sugar

12 grams vegetable oil

500 grams strong white flour

5 grams easy-blend yeast

For the filling

100 grams butter or block baking margarine, softened

100 grams white vegetable fat or lard or beef dripping (*see note below ), softened

100 grams light soft brown sugar

100 grams granulated sugar

You will also need:

A baking tray or roasting tin – the one I used was 36cm x 24 cm [15″ x 10″] – that has been generously greased with butter or block margarine and then sprinkled with a generous layer of soft brown sugar – this will give you a nice sticky bottom!

An enamel tray like this one is ideal (affiliate link)

Cheltenham drippers recipe

Click here for more information on this tin

  • optional – 100 grams dried fruit – many say that fruit has no place in a traditional Cheltenham Dripper but it really is a matter of personal taste – they were sold with and without fruit so if a fruity one is your preference, you go for it! 
  • *The choice of white fat is also another bone of contention for dripper purists! I use vegetable fat so the recipe is suitable for vegetarians but lard is also a good choice. Some insist that beef dripping is the traditional choice but bakers who used to make drippers say it would have been too expensive and lard was used…anyway, use whatever you prefer!
Method

First of all, before anything else, get the fats for your filling out of the fridge! They need to be soft.

Using a stand mixer is the easiest way to make the dough but you can make it by hand, it just takes a bit longer and more effort!

If using a stand mixer, place the water, oil, salt and sugar into the bowl then add the flour. Sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the flour then put the bowl into the mixer with a dough hook and mix on the slowest speed until everything is blended together and the dough has formed. 

Turn up the speed a little and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 10 minutes.

If you’re mixing by hand, use a large mixing bowl and first add the flour with the salt, sugar, yeast and oil. It is important that you keep the salt and sugar away from the yeast as they can kill the yeast.

Add the water and mix to make the dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. It will be a little sticky as this is a soft dough but as you knead, the stickiness will ease as the smooth dough is formed.

Whichever method you use, once you have your dough, place it back in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth or oiled cling film to prevent the dough drying out and leave to rise for an hour.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. 

Place the fats into a mixing bowl and use a wooden spoon to cream them together (you could also use a hand mixer). Add the sugars and mix together into a paste.

After an hour the dough is ready to roll out.

Flour your work surface and tip your dough out onto it. Form the dough into a rough square then use a rolling pin to roll it out into an oblong the size and shape of your tin.

Spread the surface of the dough with 2/3rds of the filling mixture. (If you are using dried fruits, add 2/3rds of that now too)

Cheltenham drippers recipe
spread the dough with 2/3rds of the filling

Now to fold the dough to enclose the filling. Take one short edge of the dough and fold it to the middle then take the other short edge and fold that to the middle to meet with the other edge.

Cheltenhan drippers recipe

Turn the dough a 1/4 turn then roll out again to the same size as your tin. Spread the surface with the remaining filling mixture (and the remaining fruit if using) then fold again in the same way as before, taking the sort edges to the middle.

Leave the dough to relax for 10 minutes then roll out again to the shape and size of your tin. 

Cheltenham drippers recip

Use the rolling pin to support the dough as you transfer the dough to the tin. Press the edges into the corners and edges of the tin.

Cheltenham drippers recipe

Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Cheltenham drippers recipe

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c fan / 200°c / gas 6 

Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown.

Cheltenham drippers recipe

Be careful removing the tin from the oven as there will be liquid fat and sugar in the bottom of the tray.

Leave in the tin for 2-3 minutes so that the dough can absorb the lovely stickiness in the base of the tray.

If you have another tray of the same of larger size you can place it on top of the cooked drippers and turn it over to release it, then cut into pieces as small or large as you like. You may need to use a long spatula to loosen it first if it’s started to cling to the tin!

Cheltenham drippers recipe

Or you can just cut into generously pieces and use a spatula to remove them from the tin and place on a cooling rack (sticky side up!!) until just warm ready to enjoy with a cup of tea!

Cheltenham drippers recipe

***TIP*** to make washing the tray easier, fill with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes to soften any hard bits of sugar and then your tray should be easier to clean 😊

…And for those who know and love the original recipe, here it is!

 

<<<<< Original Post >>>>>

How cold is it today? Last week we were enjoying lovely warm sunshine and the promise of spring was well and truly in the air. This morning, I wake up to the sight of snow falling gently and freezing temperatures outside.

When I was a child, days like these were spent inside, snuggled up in front of the fire, blankets over our legs, with hot cups of tea and our family’s favourite comfort cake…a Dripper! 

When I was growing up in Gloucestershire these sweet and sticky, (sometimes fruity) slices were known as ‘Drippers’ and they were a real treat, everybody loved them. Originally they would have been made with beef dripping in the filling but the vegetable fat and butter mixture makes for a more palatable cake, suitable for vegetarians!

 There are many discussions between Cheltenham folk on whether a true dripper should contain any fruit at all and they will argue quite forcefully that fruit has no place in a Cheltenham Dripper! Well, my mum remembers buying these delicious cakes from bakeries in the 1930’s and there was always the choice between plain or fruit so I trust her memory to allow me to include fruit in my recipe without worrying about the ‘dripper purists’ !

So, what better for the coldest day of the year so far (not sure if that’s true but it really feels like it outside!) than to snuggle up with a slice…or two!

We have a couple of excellent local bakeries in the little town where I live, both of whom sell very tempting looking Lardy cakes (not the same as a dripper but often mistaken for one) but in our journey of thriftyness and finding value for money and a trip down memory lane I have had a go at making my own and the results are delicious.

For those of you who may never have encountered a Dripper, it is basically bread dough that is layered with fat, sugar and dried fruits in the same way that puff pastry is made…sounds tempting doesn’t it? But it really does taste so much better than it sounds! A real treat!

Ingredients

dripper-ingredients

For the bread dough

  • 500g (1 lb) strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 15g (1/2oz) butter
  • 7g easy blend yeast
  • 300ml (1/2 pint) lukewarm water

For the filling

  • 90g (3oz) white vegetable fat
  • 60g (2oz) butter
  • 200g (7oz) dried fruits (sultanas, currants etc) – Fruit is optional as drippers were also sold plain – many Cheltonions say that the plain ones are the true Cheltenham drippers but it is a matter of choice!
  • 90g (3oz) light brown sugar

For the tin

  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • Butter a 12″ x 9″ roasting tin with the butter and sprinkle over the sugar – this gives you a lovely toffee base to the dripper.

tin

For the glaze

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

First of all, make the bread dough. put the flour and salt into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Mix in the yeast then add the water, mixing well to bring it all together. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm or a damp tea towel then leave in a warm plce to double in size.

When the dough is ready, knock the air out and knead gently to bring the dough back into a ball. Now, roll out the dough into a largeish rectangle…easier said than done with the stretchy dough but it does go eventually!

fat-dotted-on-dough

Using 1/3rd of the butter and white fat, dot these over the dough before sprinkling on 1/3rd of the sugar and 1/3 of the dried fruits (if using – we often had plain ‘Drippers’ with no fruit when we were younger!) pressing them into the  dough a little to stop them falling off during the next stage.

sugar-and-fruit

OK, now we’re ready to fold the dough. Fold one end into the middle

first-fold

then fold the other end over the top of the first – see the picture…it’s so much easier to show rather than tell!

second-fold

All simple stuff but you now need to do this same procedure twice more so roll the dough out again then add 1/3rd more of the fat, sugar and fruits, roll again and add the last of the mix.

Nearly there now, so just roll out the dough to the size of the tin, place it carefully in the tin, pressing it to fill the tin and cover before leaving it until well risen.

dough-in-tindough-risen

Bake at gas 6 for about 30 minutes until a lovely golden colour. Just before the cake is ready, make the glaze. Put the sugar and water into a small pan and simmer for a couple of minutes before brushing over the cake as soon as it has cooked and comes out of the oven.

cooked-dough

Cut the cake into 8 or 12 slices (depending on how greedy you are feeling!) and leave the dripper in the tin for 1 or 2 minutes – no more otherwise the toffee base starts to set and then it can be quite difficult to get the slices out! If you do leave it too long pop the tin back in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes to soften the toffee and it will be easy to get your cake free!

dripper 2

24 thoughts on “Cheltenham Dripper Recipe

  • 26/04/2013 at 10:39 pm
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    Sounds like the LARDEY CAKE I know and love from living in Bisley, Glos in the 1970’s..The bakery in Stroud had crowds at the door from 9.00 am until they ran out..
    Now live in Mid Wales and am going to try to tempt the locals with this SPECIALITY

    Reply
  • 20/05/2013 at 10:12 am
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    Hi Moy! I was growing up in Cheltenham in the 70’s but it was much the same, crowds at the door all determined to get their lardy cakes before they sold out, which was easily before 11am no matter how many they baked!

    Did you manage to tempt the locals with this glorious cake?

    Reply
    • 24/09/2020 at 10:14 am
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      My uncle used to work for Crouch the bakers in Tewkesbury. Every now and then he would bring us warm dripping cakes which were close to heaven. I am going to give your recipe a go as lardy cakes in Northamptonshire where I now live just aren’t the same.

      Reply
      • 09/10/2020 at 9:50 pm
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        Hi Pauline, thanks for you comments – so sorry for the delay but it got caught up in a spam folder somehow!

        Drippers always seemed to be eaten warm didn’t they!! I think they sold so fast, as the proverbial hot cakes, and we were always so keen to eat them ☺

        I hope you have given the recipe a go and they taste just as good as you remember!

        Reply
  • 10/09/2013 at 4:45 pm
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    Can you freeze this ?

    Reply
    • 10/09/2013 at 9:38 pm
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      Hi Diane, that’s a good question! To be honest it never lasts long enough in our house to think about freezing any! The next day we just warm it up in the microwave or in a low oven, wrapped in foil. A quick internet search suggests it is totally suitable for freezing so if you do have a go at freezing a portion or two, please let me know how it turns out.

      Reply
      • 25/02/2014 at 9:00 pm
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        I used to make a double batch and successfully froze one while the other was rapidly eaten 🙂

        Reply
  • 25/02/2014 at 9:11 pm
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    The recipe I used incorporated the fruit into the dough before rolling out -so that you didn’t get a mouthful of just dough – and beat the fat and sugar with some mixed spice to spread over 2/3 of the dough. I live in Gloucestershire too by the way.

    Reply
    • 25/02/2014 at 9:17 pm
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      That is a good idea Pam as sometimes the fruit takes on a mind of it’s own it seems and won’t stay put during the rolling out of the dough. I will try that next time! Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Reply
  • 08/03/2014 at 11:05 am
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    Will be having a go at this too 🙂 love drippers/lardy cake 🙂

    Reply
    • 08/03/2014 at 11:14 am
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      This is proving to be a very popular recipe Wendy, even the chaps are giving it a go with fantastic results!

      Reply
  • 31/03/2014 at 8:39 pm
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    Wow thank you for such a fantastic recipe :o) I used to live in Cheltenham years ago & yes I loved drippers. I made this today and had some straight out the oven and it was delicious …. so I just had a little extra slice, and another, and another & heck I am now so stuffed I don’t want to move! In a way I hope it doesn’t taste this good when it has cooled otherwise it isn’t going to last 24 hours ;o)

    Reply
    • 31/03/2014 at 9:24 pm
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      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe Marcia! I think most Cheltenham people have a very soft sopt for a good old ‘dripper’ 🙂 I developed this recipe over quite a while, tweaking it here and there to get the authentic taste that we all remember. I have heard that it is nigh on impossible to buy drippers now as the independent bakeries that used to make them are no longer in business. Anyway, it’s much better to be able to make your own, whenever you want them….warm from the oven and not have to queue at 8am to make sure you get one!!

      Reply
  • 31/03/2014 at 9:57 pm
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    It has fruit. It is not a Cheltenham Dripper!! Take the fruit out and your there.xx

    Reply
    • 01/04/2014 at 6:38 am
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      Making them without fruit is no more authentic than ones made with fruit!

      I used to buy drippers from Townsend’s Bakery in the 70’s and 80’s and they sold them with fruit and without, so it is a matter of personal preference.

      The recipe does say that you can make it with or without fruit – either way they are delicious 🙂

      Reply
  • 04/04/2014 at 4:17 pm
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    I have made them in the past and they don’t last too long. As I’m on my own now I dare not make them as I would just have to eat them all lol. I live in Wiltshire now and there is a bakery in Royal Wootton Bassett who makes lardy cakes, but the Cheltenham ones from Townsends were definitely the best.

    Reply
    • 04/04/2014 at 4:21 pm
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      I know exactly what you mean carol! Once you have a plate of them in front of you they are totally irresistible!…Still, once in a while won’t hurt….and they can be frozen.. 🙂

      Reply
  • 05/04/2014 at 8:35 pm
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    Back in Cheltenham at the weekend, brought dripping cake from Whole Foods, its the nearest I’ve had since the 50’s and 60’s from Cummings at the end of Waterloo Street. We will try the recipe shortly…now I am living in Devon. Thanks very much for all the comments.

    Reply
    • 05/04/2014 at 8:41 pm
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      I’ve heard that Whole Foods drippers are maybe the nearest to the taste we remember!

      This recipe has been tried by a lot of people now and the comments always say how these taste just as they remember so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂

      Reply
  • 12/08/2020 at 12:49 pm
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    There was a wonderful bakery in Cheltenham while I was growing up called Leopold’s. They made this amazing cake called a Honey Bun, I have never ever found a recipe for it, it had a sweet honey sugar crust on the bottom of a lovely golden bun like cake. Can anyone help?

    Reply
    • 12/08/2020 at 2:28 pm
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      Hi Simon…Leopold’s were a great bakery weren’t they!

      I’ve been asked for a honey bun recipe so many times but unfortunately, I’ve never ever had one (always had the drippers for choice!!) so cannot begin to try to devise a recipe for them without knowing how they should look and taste.

      Information about them is very scant, even from people who loved them back in the day!

      From what I can gather – and please do correct me if I’ve not got this right – it was a rolled dough, rather like a Chelsea bun but not so tall, with a sticky honey glaze on the bottom.

      I am intrigued though so may have to give this a go and see if I can’t come up with a recipe!! I’m sure I can fins some willing volunteers to be my guinea pigs!

      If anyone does have any more detailed info about what a honey bun consisted of, please do let me know!

      Reply
      • 13/10/2020 at 3:10 pm
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        It was more like a much more risen lardy cake, with a sugary crusty sticky honey bottom, and the rest a sweet dough with a honey glazed top they were amazing but it’s so hard to find anything like them lol

        Reply
        • 14/10/2020 at 6:02 pm
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          Thanks for this Simon, that has definitely given me somewhere to start in creating a recipe for honeybuns!

          I’ll give it a go and if I come up with anything resembling a honeybun I’ll post the recipe 😊

          Reply

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