Kendal Mint Cake is a quiet source of Cumbrian and Lake District pride, not only was some of this famous cake carried up Mount Everest by the British Expedition that made the first ever ascent of the world’s highest peak – it was also famously used to supply the 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition under the command of Sir Ernest Shackleton. The reason why Kendal Mint Cake is so popular with mountaineers, hill-walkers, endurance athletes and explorers is the high energy value (sugar-carbohydrate-calories) within it. Kendal Mint Cake is not really a ‘cake’ but a high calorie sugar bar flavoured with mint, which can help sustain maximum levels of exertion with just a few bites, it is also an incredibly light weight and compact food source to carry.
Mt. Everest: In 1953 Sir Edmund Hilary and Sirdar Tensing ate Kendal Mint Cake on the top of Everest, the worlds highest point – the first ever people to reach the summit. Tensing also left behind some of his cake to appease his gods as an offering for a safe trip back down.
Kendal Mint Cake dates back to over 140 years, to 1869. Joseph Wiper first came up with the recipe, reputedly by accident, and ‘Wiper’s Mint Cake‘ was founded. Soon after, production started in a tiny factory in Ferney Green, in Kendal. Over time this popular sweet confectionary was copied, and there are now three seperate businesses in Kendal making the ‘cake’.
The Recipes: The first recipe below is the original recipe and method for an authentic home-made Cumbrian Kendal Mint Cake from 1966. A modern, commercial Kendal Mint Cake is made from sugar, glucose syrup, water and peppermint oil, for this see the second recipe below.
The original Kendal Mint Cake recipe below is from: ‘Recipes Of Lakeland: Collected By “Cumbria”‘ published in 1966 from readers of ‘Cumbria’ newspaper. The weights and measures have been adapted for the modern kitchen and the method expanded.
Original Kendal Mint Cake Recipe
- 500g white granulated sugar
- 150ml milk
- 1/2 tsp of peppermint essence or oil
(optional) non-traditional – but becoming popular
- 100g milk or dark chocolate, melted
Into a saucepan put the sugar and milk and bring it slowly up to the boil on a medium heat – stir this on the boil until the evaporation leaves behind a thick mixture. You can test it is ready by dropping a small amount into a glass of cold water and see if it forms into a soft ball when rolled between finger and thumb.
Remove from the heat and add the peppermint essence – then, with a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until it is smooth and slightly setting, but still pliable.
Pour this into a small and shallow tin which you have buttered – but keep back one tablespoon which you continue to beat until it starts to become grainy. Add this to the top of the mint cake and spread it over when it is in the tin and leave the Kendal Mint Cake to set in the fridge – once set turn the cake out of the tin and cut into thin bars – keep them in an air-tight tin.
OPTIONAL: when the Kendal Mint Cake has set you can pour over it a melted milk or dark chocolate, allow it cool before spreading it evenly over the cake and leave it to set once more in the fridge before turning it out of the tin and cutting it into bars – keep them in an air-tight tin.
Modern (Commercial) Kendal Mint Cake Recipe
Note: The exact proportions of the ingredients in a commercialy made Kendal Mint Cake are kept a secret between the owners of the three main companies still making Kendal Mint Cake – Romney’s, Quiggin’s and Wilson’s. What we do know is that Romney’s, after cooling the glucose syrup, sugar, and water mix for several minutes add half an ounce of peppermint oil to every 40 lb of mix.
- Water – 150ml
- Glucose Syrup – 25ml
- Peppermint oil – 3 drops
- White Sugar – 500g
- The sugar, glucose syrup, and water are boiled in a heavy bottomed pan
- Thicken the mixture greatly and evaporate off the moisture.
- The mixture is continuously stirred (without stirring, the resultant product would be clear).
- Once thickened greatly the mixture is then cooled for 5 minutes before mixing in the peppermint oil
- The mixture is then poured into shallow trays and allowed to rapidly set
- After which it is cut into individual bars.