According to my Mother, she cannot recall if my Nan ever made Chester Squares but it was definitely something she enjoyed eating and the recipe appears with her recipe cards. This is a great one to make if you have some left over, stale cake you don’t want to waste – any cake will do but if it is a plain cake you can add some sultanas. As it happens, I had some left over Christmas cake in the freezer that would work a treat.
Apologies in advance for the lack of photographs of the prep – I had a fairly stressful time rolling out the pastry and forgot to take any photos until it was pretty much all done. I have come to discover that pastry is not my strong point. Having said that, I believe Nan’s recipe didn’t make enough pastry for the tin size which meant I had to roll it out incredibly thin which was a bit of a nightmare to transfer to the tray. While I will outline her recipe exactly as I made it, I would recommend that if you have a short crust pastry recipe that works for you, just use that.
What you’ll need (makes approx. 12 squares)
1/4 cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons self raising flour
1 1/4 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon castor sugar to sprinkle on pastry before baking
1/3 cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons jam
2 cups (250g) fruit cake crumbs
1/2 cup self raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1/2 cup milk
Note: Any left over cake can be used but if the cake is plain, add one cup of sultanas.
Preheat the oven (fan forced) to 180°C. Have the butter and eggs at room temperature. Beat butter and sugar only until combined, add egg and beat only until combined, over creaming of mixture will make pastry difficult to handle. Add half the sifted flours and salt, stir in lightly with a knife, add remaining flour mixture and stir in lightly but thoroughly. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead lightly until smooth. It is important to handle the pastry lightly or it will toughen up and crack when rolled out.
Using a 20c x 30cm slice or lamington tin, grease tin and line with baking paper. Halve the pastry mixture, wrapping one half in cling wrap and putting it in the fridge. Roll out the remaining so that it will adequately cover the bottom of the tin, trim sides and place tin in fridge.
Tip: If pastry is difficult to handle roll between two sheets of baking paper, invert pastry into tin, carefully peel away remaining sheet of paper.
Now, this is where I can unstuck – or more accurately – where my pastry came unstuck. I found it very difficult to place it in the bottom of the tin without it falling apart, it was just so soft and rolled so thin. So I pretty much just placed it in sections and smoothed it all together with my fingers and the back of a spoon. I figured, this was the bottom so was of less aesthetic importance. As it tuned out, it cooked fine and actually smoothed out nicely during the baking process.
On to the filling, cream butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in jam – any jam will do – and the crumbled fruit cake, mix well with a wooden spoon. Add sifted flour and spice with the milk, mix well. Remove tin from the fridge and spread the mixture evenly over the pastry base. Roll out the remaining pastry and place over filing, trimming the edges.
Tip: Measure the dimensions of your tin and mark them up on a sheet of baking paper.When you roll out your pastry you will know exactly how big it needs to be and it will be easier (hopefully!) to place over the mixture.
While this trick did make it slightly easier, my edges were still a little messy (as you’ll see in the photos below) however, once cooked I trimmed the edges and it was hardly noticeable.
Brush the pastry with water, sprinkle with the remaining castor sugar and prick with a fork. Bake for 45 minuets or until golden brown. Stand in the tin for five minutes before transferring it to a rack to cool. Ensure the cake has cooled considerably before cutting. Recommend cutting gently with a serrated edge knife. I would start by trimming the edges then dividing it into small squares.
Because I used old fruit cake, it tasted very much like fruit cake. I’d be interested to see how different it turns out using other types of cake. Despite my drama, I was really happy with how the pastry turned out, it was lovely and short with just the right amount of crumble. Overall, it tastes great, a bit delicate, but I guarantee it won’t last long!