See below to find out why these little cakes are steeped in history

To make 14 cakes you will need:

To make the pastry:

  • 4 oz, 110 g, self-raising flour.
  • 2 oz, 50 g lard.
  • A tiny pinch of salt.
  • 2 to 3 tbsps of cold water.

To make the sponge:

  • 4 oz, 110 g, self-raising flour.
  • 1 oz, 25 g, ground almonds, (optional).
  • 2 oz, 50 g, caster sugar.
  • 2 oz, 50 g, softened butter or margarine taken out of the fridge about an
    hour before you need to use it.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 tbsp milk.
  • a little extra butter or margarine to grease your tins.

For the filling:

1 small jar of jam, it doesn’t really matter which, strawberry or apricot
will be fine.

Set your oven to Gas Mark 6, 400 f, 200 C, 180 Fan.

Lightly grease two patty tins,, the tins with the small round compartments
that you bake mince pies or jam tarts in.

Now make the pastry:

Try and keep your hands as cool as possible and use your lard straight from the fridge.

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Break the lard into small pieces and drop it into a well in the centre of the flour.
  3. Rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Do this by picking up a little of the mix between the tips of the
    fingers and thumbs of both hands, then use your thumbs to rub the mixture against
    your fingers to break up the fat and rub it into the flour, letting the mix
    trickle through your fingers, back into the bowl again. When you can’t
    feel any more cool sticky pieces of fat.
  5. Gradually add your cold water, a tablespoon
    at a time, to the mix, stirring it between additions with a flat bladed knife.
  6. As soon as you feel the mixture starting to come together, use your hands
    to bring it into a ball.
  7. Lightly flour your worktop and use a floured rolling pin to roll out your
    pastry fairly thinly.
  8. Now, use a 2 inch pastry cutter to cut out the pastry
    circles to line your patty tins.
  9. You may need to re-roll the remaining
    pastry again to be able to cut out the required amount.
  10. Transfer the pastry circles into a clean plastic bag and put them in the fridge to keep cool while
    you make the sponge. (For more information on making and rolling out pastry, see my preparation
    and cooking methods section).

To make the sponge topping:

  1. Cream the caster sugar and butter or margarine together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Either use an electric hand mixer to do this or a good old-fashioned wooden spoon.
  3. Break the egg into a clean bowl to make sure its fresh. Whisk
    it with a fork.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to it.
  5. Now, add this to the mixing bowl, a little at a time, beating well
    with your wooden spoon or electric mixer between additions.
  6. Finally, gently stir in the flour using the back of a metal tablespoon. Work from the
    outside in to the centre of the mixture, turning the bowl round as you stir,
    this will only take a minute or so.
  7. Take your pastry circles out of the fridge and put one into each of your
    patty tins so that they are sitting centrally and evenly making sure that you
    do not stretch the pastry.
  8. Put a level teaspoon of jam into the centre of every pastry case.
  9. Now, add 1 heaped teaspoon of the sponge mixture to each one, gently
    levelling their tops with a round bladed knife. Do this very carefully,
    so as not to disturb the jam underneath.
  10. Bake fairly near the top of the pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, by
    which time the sponge will be well risen and firm to the touch.
  11. Leave them in the tins to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling
    rack to go completely cold.

History of the Maids of Honour Recipe

My recipe is a modern version of the little cakes which were said to be a
delicacy very much in favour with those Maids of honour at the court of Anne Boleyn.

Maids of Honour tarts, Richmond’s greatest contribution to the
culinary arts are believed to have originated in the Royal kitchens at Hampton
Court. Legend has it that the recipe was locked away in an iron chest
until it was rediscovered by Henry VIII who presented it to Anne Boleyn, lady-in-waiting
to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She is believed to have made the tarts
for Henry who, in turn, named them “Maids of Honour” after her.

Another story has it that Henry came across Anne and other attendants eating
the cakes from a silver dish and, after tasting them, was so delighted that
the recipe was kept secret and locked in an iron box in Richmond Palace. Yet a third version claims that, in order to protect the secret, the unfortunate
“maid” who invented the tarts was imprisoned within the Palace grounds and ordered
to produce the pastries solely for Henry and the Royal Household.