A Lardy Cake is a bread into which spices, fruit and pieces of lard are mixed.
The lard and sugar on the layers inside melt together and get gooey; the sugar on top gets crunchy. What makes the cake is the lard. There is really no point in making this cake without it. It’s really not something meant to be eaten every day.
The fruit can be sultanas, candied mixed peel, and / or currants. The spice is nutmeg.
Many people just use regular bread dough to make Lardy Cake with. Others make a special dough, which is not quite a regular bread dough, coming out with a softer crumb.
The lard used needs to be cold and hard.
A few recipes have you mix the lard into the dough, which can result in a softer and lighter crust..
Most recipes, though, seem to have to you roll out the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle pieces of lard on it, fold the dough in 3, roll it out again, put some fruit and sugar on, fold it up in 3 again, roll it out again and repeat until all the lard and fruit are used. Some enthusiasts say that you should rest the dough in fridge between rollings. Others are the exact opposite, and just throw everything on at once, and fold it up in 3, and call it ready to go.
You put it on a cookie sheet with sides, make diagonal scores in the top, sprinkle with sugar and let it rise, then bake.
What most agree on is what you do when you take it out of the oven. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you turn it upside down and place it on a plate sitting on a cooling rack. Then, you pour all liquid (the melted lard and caramelized sugar) that has collected in the cookie sheet over it. The loaf absorbs this back in as it cools.
Slice to serve (though some people say just rip hunks off it.)
Lardy Cake is not all that easy to find in London: the centre of popularity is really Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire. Wiltshire likes to claim it as its own.
There is no fruit in Hampshire Lardies.
Lardy Cake appeared in the 1600 and 1700s, as spices and dried fruits become less of a rich-person-only luxury. At the time when the cake emerged in history, such extravagant use of fruit, spices, and fat (remember, dietary fat used to be hard to come by), couldn’t have been frequently afforded.