By Keighley’s Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking. See

ONE of Yorkshire's best-known pastries has to be the Wilfra apple cake.

It is actually more a pie than a cake, which is probably not heard of around our neck of the woods like our fat rascals, Scotch pasty and Yorkshire curd tarts.

This popular bake comes alive on St Wilfrid's Day, ''the first or second Saturday of August'', to celebrate the return of the saint to his home town of Ripon after a long absence abroad.

St Wilfrid was one of the greatest and also one of the most controversial English saints. He designed the magnificent abbey of Ripon at the age of 27. Back then every household would bake Wilfra cakes by the dozen and join in the festivities of the Ripon Fair. The townspeople would form a procession led by an effigy of St Wilfrid and Wilfra cakes would be placed on front doorsteps and window sills for passers-by to help themselves to. Even today this celebration is still popular.

It's great to see old traditions continuing in any community. But sadly, Wilfra tarts appear to be dying out – so let's do our little bit to keep the culinary tradition alive and bake a batch, as it's a real connection to traditional Yorkshire baking reviving them old recipes.

I'm hoping to incorporate a few more in the coming months – after all, when people come to Yorkshire, they want Yorkshire things, and rightly so!

So what is this uniquely made pie? It's made with apples and Wensleydale cheese, and basically it's a simple pie with a shortcrust pastry base filled with sweetened apples – usually Bramley – topped with Wensleydale cheese and a pastry lid then baked. It's a great combination and like the old saying goes, ''an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze''. It's sure common practice up north and surely originated from Yorkshire. For some it might sound strange if you've never tried it, but fruit and cheese is a classic combination in Yorkshire which is still popular when eaten with our Christmas cake. Us Yorkshire folks do make pies pretty well, after all, it's not like us to keep opinions to ourselves!

Apple pies can symbolise the melting pot of thousands of cultures, and it should never be forgotten that its roots don't extend across the pond, but in Yorkshire – more cheese Gromit?




450g/1lb homemade shortcrust pastry

450g/1lb Bramley cooking apples

450g/1lb dessert apples

100g/3.5oz caster sugar

150g/5oz Wensleydale cheese, crumbled

Splash of milk to glaze

1 tablespoon granulated sugar to sprinkle on the pastry lid


1. Peel, quarter and core all the apples, then slice them into a large bowl full of cold water and toss together.

2. Once the pastry is chilled, cut into two pieces, roughly one-third and two-thirds.

3. Lightly dust the work surface and roll out the larger piece so it fits the base and sides of a baking tray 26 x 20cm being about 4cm deep, or a similar container, leaving excess hanging over the sides.

4. Lay a third of the apple slices in the pastry-lined tin and sprinkle a third of the sugar on top, repeating with the remaining apples and sugar. Now scatter the crumbled Wensleydale cheese on top evenly over the apples.

5. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid – brush the edges with milk, then place the lid on top. Seal the edges with your fingertips and crimp well to seal in the filling. Trim off excess pastry neatly. Brush the lid with a little milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar and make a little slit with a sharp knife in the centre of the lid to let the steam escape.

6. Bake in a preheated oven 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5 for around 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.