When I was a bakery apprentice, I often took home a couple of lardy cakes for my Grandad, David Herbert, because I knew he loved to eat them with his afternoon cup of tea. But the outcome was invariably the same: having polished them off, he’d say, “Yeah, but they’re not as good as the ones made by Ro Richards of The Bicester Bakery. He makes the best lardies!”
I eventually met Mr Richards when he was 90 years old. We discussed the delights of lardy cakes (during 36 years in business, he had turned out 54 family size lardies every day) and he was happy to share his recipe with me. For some reason though, I just couldn’t make it work, so he kindly agreed to spend time with me in the bakery, making lardies his way. The method turned out to be far more important than the recipe. Ro baked wearing a collar and tie. We produced a smashing batch of family size cakes, like nothing I’d ever seen before. They had a gorgeous glow of sweet amber caramel, showing layers of warm dough, sugar, lard and fruit as we turned them; a marvellous dance of ingredients. Of course, we promptly scoffed a whole one between us, with the obligatory cup of tea, and Ro proclaimed it ‘the best I’ve ever tasted’. Could it be that good old Gloucester Old Spot lard we used? Ro was pleased to have seen his recipe and skills handed over to another generation. Oh and by the way, thanks to the ‘Bread of Life’, this particular Master Baker is now nearly 100 years old!