Archive recipe: Old Westmorland Sweetbake

Old Westmorland Sweetbake

First published: June 2018
The exterior of The Thornhill Arms, located in Yorkshire's Calverley

Delicious pastries filled with dried fruit and spices, mostly, but not always, with rum included, are an old favourite in the Lake District. Here’s a version of a recipe originally from the Kirkby Stephen area: it’s very similar to Cumberland sweet meat pie, Cumberland currant cake and Westmorland currant pasty.

Think of the much-loved Herdwick sheep as you tuck into your pastry. Their wool was once exported to the Far East and West Indies resulting in rum, spices and Barbados sugar coming to Cumbria.

Traditionally, strips of pastry form a lattice top: pastry shapes make a pretty alternative for summer teas.  


  •  225g (8oz) mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 150g (5oz) butter, diced (mutton fat was sometimes used in the old days)
  • 50g (2oz) Barbados or muscovado sugar (or use dark brown)
  • 1 eating apple, peeled & grated on fine side of box grater
  • 2 measures (30ml) dark rum
  • 1½ teaspoons mixed spice
  • Good grating of nutmeg


  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 110g (4oz) cold salted butter, diced
  • 25g (1oz) golden caster sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons cold water

You will need a buttered 18cm (7 inch) flan dish


1. Preheat oven to 190°C (fan oven), Gas Mark 6 or equivalent.

2. Combine filling ingredients and cook over a medium heat until sugar has melted. Stir thoroughly. Increase heat slightly and cook for 2-3 minutes until liquid slightly reduced.

3. Leave to cool.

4. Rub flour and butter into fine crumbs, stir in sugar then add water gradually. (A food processor makes light work of this: after adding water, pulse only until large clumps form, then remove from machine and mould gently into a ball by hand.)

5. Roll on a barely floured board and line prepared dish. Cut shapes from trimmings.

6. Chill pastry for 30 minutes, then fill case with fruit mixture. Position shapes
on top.

7. Bake for 25–30 minutes, reducing heat slightly after 15 minutes, until golden. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or cold with thick cream.


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