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Dorset Knobs, Dough Cake and The Yarn

Do you remember Dorset Dough Cake? It used to be made by Smith’s bakery in Gillingham and sold in shops around the county, including Balson’s butchers in Bridport.

When Peter Smith fell ill in 2006, Smith’s closed and dough cake production ceased. Moores Biscuits in Bridport stepped into the breach and made dough cake for a few months, but there was low demand and they found it was too timeconsuming to continue. For the last five years or so, no one has made dough cake for sale in Dorset on a regular basis.

But what was Dorset Dough Cake? It’s a bit like the old fashioned Jack Russell terrier before the Kennel Club registered it as a breed and standardised its looks. It comes in lots of different versions with many variant ingredients, but the overall result is quite unmistakable. Like the terrier, it’s a motley recipe rather than an exact item. You know it when you see it.

All Dorset Dough Cakes use a soft, yeasted dough as a base. The dough is spiced and sweetened. Dried fruit such as sultanas, currants or mixed peel can be added and the top glazed with sticky syrup.
The cake’s origins lie in the days when every village had its bakery. The bakers would sell scraps of dough to thrifty housewives, who would add whatever they had to hand and send the cakes back to the bakery to be cooked, meaning the baker profited twice over. This was the procedure at White Cross Bakery in Litton Cheney in the 1870s and 80s.

White Cross Bakery was founded and run by a formidable lady called Maria Bligdon. One of her bakers was a Mr Moores, who came from a family of bakers known for their biscuits. Mr Moores brought with him a recipe for biscuits made from bread dough with extra sugar and butter added. These were shaped into round balls and thrice-baked until they were hard as rusks. Mrs Bligdon called them Dorset Knobs and they became very popular with her customers. In later life, Thomas Hardy was partial to them with Stilton cheese.

In 1880 Mr Moores left White Cross and founded his own bakery with his sons at Morcombelake. Moores still makes Dorset Knobs today, although the biscuits are now baked in their factory off St Andrew’s Road in Bridport. Co-incidentally, Yarn Magazine’s office is part of the same site. Occasionally we are tantalised by the smell of freshly made biscuits wafting up from the factory, but it’s the gorgeous scent of the chocolate caramels not the Knobs that really makes us hungry.

Click here to read our Dorset Dough Cake recipe

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