The oldest biscuit in Britain? From North Wales? Never heard of it?? Well here’s the Aberffraw biscuit history…
It’s called the Aberffraw biscuit (sometimes Aberffraw cake or Teisen Berffro) and is said to originate from 13th Century Anglesey.
It’s a basic shortbread that comes in the shape of a scallop shell… legend has it that a Welsh king was holding court in Aberffraw – his wife was walking on the beach there and, spotting a pretty scallop shell, asked for a cake to be baked in the same form. And so the Aberffraw biscuit was born.
However, a far more realistic source for the biscuit was the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
This pilgrimage to the church of St James in Galicia, north western Spain, began in about the 8th Century with pilgrims wearing badges on their hat in the shape of a scallop shell.
It’s for this reason Aberffraw biscuits are sometimes also called James cakes. Under the patronage of King Gruffudd ap Cynan (1075-1137) or his son and successor Owain Gwynedd (1137-70), a stone church was built at Aberffraw with Romanesque features similar to 12th Century churches on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
This building is the final link to the scallop shell of St James pilgrims and the small Welsh village of Aberffraw.
The Aberffraw biscuit also appeared in the famous Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery in 1892.