This sweet treat from the north of England is thought to date from the 19th century. Its name indicates both its surprisingly rich filling, belying its seemingly dull exterior – but also a tale of young love.

It’s said that a baker’s daughter in South Shields fell in love with a man who lived on her street, and smuggled love letters into cakes that she gave him when he bought something from her father’s shop. After five years of cake communication, they sought permission to marry – but were denied. It’s hard to get in the way of romance in such stories, though, and elopement, marriage and love are still said to have followed.

Even if this story is merely a tall tale, these delectable pastries are still worth a try.


For the pastry:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 50g lard
  • 50g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 225g dried figs
  • 75g walnuts
  • 100g sultanas
  • 150ml water
  • milk for glazing


  • STEP 1

    Place the flour and salt in a bowl with the butter and lard. Rub in until the mixture starts to stick together. Stir in the sugar and then add water a little at a time to make a dough. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

  • STEP 2

    Chop the figs and walnuts and add to a pan with the sultanas. Add the water to the pan and cook, stirring all the time until the water evaporates. Leave to cool.

  • STEP 3

    Preheat the oven to 190ºC, gas mark 5. Grease a rectangular baking tin. Divide the pastry into two pieces and roll out one half to fit in the baking tin.

  • STEP 4

    Spread the fruit on top, then roll out the other piece of pastry and place on top. Glaze with milk.

  • STEP 5

    Bake for 40 minutes, until golden.

  • STEP 6

    Leave to cool and then cut into rectangles.

Recipe by Dragons and Fairy Dust

This article was first published in the February 2021 issue of BBC History Magazine