Saturday, August 24, 2019

Chester Squares (Gur Cake)

When I was growing up, a trip to the local bake shop with my old man always led to him buying a Chester Square.  Initially, being a typical kid, I recoiled in horror from the Chester Square, with its dense, black centre.  However, when I was finally persuaded to try one, I really liked it!  The Chester Square of my memory was made with stale cake and some mystery ingredients sandwiched between two slabs of pastry, and topped with a bright pink buttercream.

Chester Squares are no longer standard bakery fare.  However, I had a slab of fruit cake left over from Christmas, and was determined to turn it into Chester Squares.

It turns out that it is not that easy to find a recipe that reproduces the Chester Squares of my childhood.  The closest recipe that I found came from The Daily Spud, being a recipe for Gur Cake (which is apparently the traditional name for the Chester Square).  My research uncovered that Chester Squares originated in Dublin, Ireland, and were called Gur Cake because boys wagging school would often stop off at the bakery to buy some, it being one of the cheapest things available.

The use of treacle in the filling gave me the familiar black centre that I was looking for.  The Daily Spud did not ice their Gur Cake, but I did because that is the Chester  Square of my memory.

Proportions of ingredients below are approximate, as I used The Daily Spud recipe as inspiration for the filling rather than following it.  

To make your own Chester Squares, you will need:


250g plain flour
125g cold butter, cubed
3 tablespoons water


450g spicy fruit cake
1/4 cup brewed tea
2 tablespoons treacle
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Line a 27cm x 18cm rectangular slice tin with baking paper.

For the pastry, in a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour to form crumbs, then bind together by mixing in the water (more or less as required).  Or just blitz it all together in a food processor, which is what I did.

Divide the pastry in half, and roll out each half between two pieces of baking paper into a rectangle that is large enough to fit your slice tin. Chill for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make your filling.  Crumble the cake coarsely between your fingers into a large bowl.  Stir in the treacle and golden syrup, then add just enough tea so that the mixture binds together but will be soft enough to press into your slice tin.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Remove the pastry from the fridge.  Line the base of your prepared cake tin with one of the pastry rectangles, cutting off any excess so that the pastry neatly fits into the base of the tin.  Press the filling on top of the pastry.  Take the other pastry rectangle and lay it over the top of the filling, smoothing it down to cover the filling, and trim off any excess.  Prick the top of the pastry with a fork, brush the top of the pastry with a little milk to help it brown, and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack.  Slather the top of the cooled cake with bright pink buttercream if desired before slicing into squares.



Angela said...

I am a big fan of your blog, and always love the stories that you associate with your recipes, especially childhood-related. I do vaguely remember Chester Squares from childhood, particularly my disinterest in them as they looked to be filled with fruit mince or fruitcake. Over the years I have become an avid fruitcake lover...but never fruit mince. Possibly because of the pastry in fruit mince tarts....i love pure unadulterated fruitcake.
I have been searching through your Gluten-free recipes and noted you used "The Honeybuns Gluten-free Baking Book". Could you please tell me whether this book has been a useful resource? My married daughter has recently been diagnosed as Coeliac and I have been trying to find good recipes so that she will feel like there is life after no-gluten!! Have you made any other recipes from the book and were they successful?
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,

Johanna GGG said...

I know the slice you mean - I too was not a fan as a kid but now find it strangely alluring - love the idea of adding some old christmas cake (I still have some Christmas cake too but haven't opened it and keep saying I will before Christmas)

Cakelaw said...

Hi Angela, thank you for your kind comments. I am glad that you enjoy reading my posts. I will be honest in that I bought the Honeybuns book to join an online baking group that never took off and I have not used it since, as I myself don’t need to bake gluten free. Are you based in Australia- if yes, I would be happy to get in touch with you via email and send you my copy of the book (if I can find it 😃) - much better for someone to use it than for it to gather dust here.

Cakelaw said...

I also have some fruit mince somewhere!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow I've never heard of these before. They sound interesting!