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The Cake Detective: Glenn Cosby re-discovers traditional Devonshire bakes

PUBLISHED: 09:47 07 April 2015 | UPDATED: 09:47 07 April 2015

Glenn Cosby

Glenn Cosby


Ever heard of Apple Dappy? The Treacle George or The Exeter Dick? Neither had our food columnist, GLENN COSBY, until he investigated

Apple Dappy is one of Glenn's more traditional bakesApple Dappy is one of Glenn's more traditional bakes

I am on quest to discover and revive traditional Devonshire bakes. I know what you’re thinking - you’re thinking how selfless and giving I am to go to such greedy lengths for my readers. You’re welcome.

Traditional and family bakes are very dear to my heart. My much-missed Nan taught me to bake and one of my most treasured possessions is her old Be-Ro recipe book. It doesn’t, however, include some of her best recipes which were handed down from her granny. One in particular was a little nutmegy, raisiny tart called a “Tantattlum”.

No-one else has ever heard of the Tantattlum. I have never found a recipe but that doesn’t stop me from trying to recreate them every Christmas and Easter. They are never quite right but it doesn’t matter because each time I try, I feel close to Nan and the smell as they bake fills me with a warm, happy nostalgia.

This is one of the most wonderful things about baking, perhaps because more than any other type of cooking, it makes us think of celebrations and people we love. This may also explain why I have had so much enthusiastic help in my efforts to dig up old recipes. This help has come from several wonderful cake detectives or my fairy-cake godmothers as I think of them.

Maureen in a family bakery in Durham has been a mine of information about North-eastern and Devon bakes. Since I set her on my quest, Maureen calls me every couple of days with an update and we are becoming firm friends (although even she hasn’t heard of Nan’s Tantattlum).

Other helpers include my friend, Mary-Anne Boerman. You may remember Mary-Anne from the second series of the Great British Bake Off. She made it to the final and has gone on to make a unique career collecting, archiving and publishing old recipes. She boasts an extensive collection of recipe books including all of the Women’s Institute recipe books for over 70 counties of the country.

Mary-Anne put me on to lots of excellent sources but by far my favourite was Pot-Luck by May Clarissa Byron. Byron travelled all over the country around 100 years ago collecting recipes from family manuscripts; she brought them together in Pot-Luck. For Devon she describes all manner of pies and puddings including the Treacle George which I have also tried (and loved) although it is heavy and incredibly sweet with alternating layers of pastry and treacle. She assures the reader that the Treacle George is “immensely popular in those families favoured by its acquaintance.” Other traditional bakes I considered reviving included the amusingly named Exeter Dick. It is basically a slice of the normal spotted variety “soused in sherry”. Lush.

Much more suited to the modern palate is the Apple Dappy. Originally it was considered more of a pudding than a pastry but since the dough is so similar to scone dough I have reinvented it as a single stand-alone bake, ideally suited to a cream tea. I am quite delighted with the result which has a buttery, lightly-spiced apple swirled through a light and not too sweet scone. Perfect with clotted cream, of course. Hang on the phone’s ringing – it’s probably Maureen with more recipes!

Exeter Food Festival is always a great day outExeter Food Festival is always a great day out

Great British Bakes by Mary-Anne Boerman was published in November 2013 by Square Peg.

Apple Dappy


4 eating apples, (nothing too sweet)

200g golden caster sugar

1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

500g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

50g caster sugar

200g salted butter

2 large eggs

200ml milk (semi or full-fat)

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/Gas 6.

2. Peel and core 4 medium-sized apples and cut them into 2cm-ish cubes.

3. Put 200g of the golden caster sugar in a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water and boil gently for 3 minutes until the sugar has completely melted into a syrup.

4. Put the cubed apples in the syrup and simmer for 3 minutes until the apples are cooked but not mushy, add 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg before allowing to cool.

5. Put 500g self-raising flour in a large mixing bowl and add 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, 1 tsp of ground nutmeg and 50g caster sugar.

6. Rub 200g salted butter into the flour mixture, don’t worry if there are small lumps.

7. Beat 2 eggs into 200ml semi-skimmed milk before adding to the buttery flour; mix the dough as little as you can manage while still forming a dough.

8. Dust a work surface with flour and roll the dough mixture into a 30cm square.

9. Spread the apples evenly over the dough leaving a 2cm strip at the top and the bottom.

10. Grease two baking trays with a little oil or butter.

11. Roll up like a swiss roll before cutting into 12 slices which can be evenly spread out on the baking trays.

12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

13. Serve with clotted cream, obviously.

This month Glenn’s looking forward to...

The Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink

I always do look forward to this festival, but this year for an even more particular reason because Michael Caines and the committee have asked me to help create a new feature of the festival centred on baking. I am giving it the working title of Glenn’s West Country Bakery but someone may soon intervene and put my ego in check.

It will involve expert demonstrations by local bakers and cake decorators and also some head-to-heads with some friends of mine you may recognise off the telly. One of the most exciting new features will be a competition open to the public based on the cream tea. I am hoping for lots of entrants including traditional West Country or family bakes. For more details visit


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