A rich, rum-scented date pastry, Cumberland Rum Nicky is a staple of hand-me-down Cumbrian cookbooks and can be found as a dessert in right-thinking local restaurants. But until Jackie Kirkpatrick of Appleby Bakery joined forces with us, it would have been near-impossible to find on shop shelves. Like many local recipes it contains surprisingly exotic ingredients which date from Whitehaven’s involvement in the slave trade, when boats would return from their horrible journeys laden with sugar, rum and spices. Detailed research into the name of the dish hasn’t produced any concrete origin but, Jackie says, “the best theory is that a lot of the ingredients were nicked!”
What’s the story?
Appleby Bakery grew from a couple of shops to being an award-winning bakery specialising in Cumbrian recipes, and also supplies us with cupcakes. The challenge of reviving another traditional confection sent Jackie back to her collection of old books, and in particular a 1957 WI cookbook which offered one version of the dish. “We’ve tried a lot of different ways because a lot of the originals were served more as a pie or a tart,” she says. “We’ve looked at different pastries, brown sugar, white sugar, golden syrup, we’ve put a bit of ginger in or a bit of nutmeg, and played around until we’ve got it the way we like it.”
The finished version contains plentiful dark rum, a nod to the days when Jefferson’s rum was warehoused in Whitehaven. “There’s got to be rum in everything, so you make a rich butter pastry using butter with rum in it, then you mix dates with sugar and butter and rum. It’s mixed to a paste and then it’s spread over, you put a pastry lattice on top, sprinkle it with brown sugar and a little bit more rum and then bake it in the oven until it goes nice and brown and crispy. It’s chewy in the middle. And it is rich.”