On 6 January AD 878, King Guthrum ordered his men, the Vikings, to launch a surprise attack on King Alfred’s base at Chippenham. Alfred was forced to respond quickly, fleeing the area with just a small company of men as they headed for the Somerset Levels - a place Alfred knew well from his childhood.
It was in this area, after some time deep in thought in the woodland, that King Alfred stumbled upon a herdsman’s hut. As the tale goes, he was invited in by a kind woman tending to the house, and not recognising him, she just assumes he is merely a soldier of Wessex, not the King! It was here that she kindly offered him rest and nourishment for the night.
As she prepared to venture out into the woodland nearby to collect some more firewood to warm the weary traveller, the housewife instructed the ‘soldier’ to keep an eye on the cakes whilst she was away, lest they burn!
Almost as soon as she left, King Alfred, who was known to be a deep ponderer, fell deep into his thoughts... No more than a few minutes later, the housewife returned, greeted by the smell of burning cakes and a distant Alfred lost in his thoughts!
“What sort of careless man are you, who neglects to attend to burning bread? Never have I seen so negligent a man – one who doesn’t even know how to turn ash-baked bread – and yet when it is put in front of you, you’ll no doubt rush to eat it!”
Even the King can’t escape a scolding, and thus the tale of the burning oat cakes was born...
Fancy making your own legendary oat cakes? Perhaps you’ll make a better baker than King Alfred!
Inspired by the tale and slightly adapted for modern tastes
FOR 12 HONEY AND OAT CAKES
250g Scottish porridge oats
125g unsalted butter
50g chopped dried apricots or dried apples
4 large tablespoons of runny honey or 3 large tablespoons of golden syrup
1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- Preheat your oven to 180° C (160° C in a fan oven).
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and remove from the heat.
- Add the honey/golden syrup, oats, cinnamon and dried fruit to the butter and stir until everything is well mixed.
- Grease a baking tray, spoon 12 dollops of the mixture on it and then flatten them slightly.
- Bake in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes. (Don’t forget about them)
- Place the cakes on a wire rack and leave them to cool.
- Once they've cooled, tuck in!