Lardy cake, also known as lardy bread, lardy Johns, dough cake and fourses cake is a traditional rich spiced form of bread found in several southern counties of England, each claiming to provide the original recipe. It remains a popular weekend tea cake in some of the southern counties of England, including Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. It is unrecorded in the south east counties of Essex and Kent.
The main ingredients are freshly rendered lard, flour, sugar, spices, currants and raisins. Lardy cake can be eaten at any time of day as a snack, but is most commonly consumed in the afternoon with tea or coffee. Lardy cakes are very rich and sweet and eaten traditionally for special occasions, high days and holidays and harvest festivals.
The cake is made by layering thinly rolled dough with the other ingredients. As reported by the author Elizabeth David, a Hampshire cookbook advises that the cake be turned upside down after baking "so the lard can soak through." It is theoretically possible to substitute butter for lard, but as Elizabeth David puts it: "How could they be Lardy cakes without lard?"
A variation of the lardy cake is the dripping cake.
There is some dispute as to which area of England recorded the original recipe. In Hampshire a form of the cake was made without currants and it can still be bought in the county and neighbouring Sussex. Versions of the cake are also baked in the West Country particularly in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire. These are areas of England where pig farming (of which lard is a product) has traditionally been a mainstay of the agricultural economy. Despite contemporary concerns about high-calorie, high-fat foods, it is still widely eaten, appearing on the menu at the Royal United Hospital, Bath and as an adornment to the summer garden parties at Buckingham Palace. However, lard has a significantly lower proportion of saturated fats than butter, a common cake ingredient.