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)
- 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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c fan / 200°c / gas 6
Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown.
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!
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!
***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!
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!