Cheltenham Dripper Recipe

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!



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.


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!


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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

20 thoughts on “Cheltenham Dripper Recipe

  • 26/04/2013 at 10:39 pm

    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

  • 20/05/2013 at 10:12 am

    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?

  • 10/09/2013 at 4:45 pm

    Can you freeze this ?

    • 10/09/2013 at 9:38 pm

      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.

      • 25/02/2014 at 9:00 pm

        I used to make a double batch and successfully froze one while the other was rapidly eaten 🙂

  • 25/02/2014 at 9:11 pm

    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.

    • 25/02/2014 at 9:17 pm

      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 🙂

  • 08/03/2014 at 11:05 am

    Will be having a go at this too 🙂 love drippers/lardy cake 🙂

    • 08/03/2014 at 11:14 am

      This is proving to be a very popular recipe Wendy, even the chaps are giving it a go with fantastic results!

  • 31/03/2014 at 8:39 pm

    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)

    • 31/03/2014 at 9:24 pm

      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!!

  • 31/03/2014 at 9:57 pm

    It has fruit. It is not a Cheltenham Dripper!! Take the fruit out and your there.xx

    • 01/04/2014 at 6:38 am

      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 🙂

  • 04/04/2014 at 4:17 pm

    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.

    • 04/04/2014 at 4:21 pm

      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.. 🙂

  • 05/04/2014 at 8:35 pm

    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.

    • 05/04/2014 at 8:41 pm

      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 🙂

  • 12/08/2020 at 12:49 pm

    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?

    • 12/08/2020 at 2:28 pm

      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!


Questions or comments? Please get in touch 😃

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