Baking/ Christmas/ Dessert/ Recipes/ Super Simple

Chester Squares (Irish Gur Cake) – A Stale Bread Recipe

03/12/2020

A beloved bakery slice, Chester Squares or Gur Cake, is the king of cake leftovers. Mix stale bread, cake or pudding leftovers with sultanas and you have a sweet mince meat filling crammed between two thick slices of pastry.

Chester squares served up on white plates.

Why We Love This

Finally a recipe that’s perfect to use up your leftovers! Whether it’s a stale loaf of bread, a cake you baked last week or the leftover Christmas pudding you couldn’t fit in after lunch – this recipe has you covered.

Aside from mixing it all together and layering it in a tin to bake, there isn’t much else that goes into this recipe. It’s super adaptable to your tastes and what you have on hand, so we’ve included a bunch of variations to make it how you like.

Close up of chester squares mince meat filling.

What are Chester Squares? 

Chester Squares are like a combination between a vanilla slice and a Christmas mince pie. It has a spiced fruit filling wedged between two thick slices of pastry.

We’ve never found a recipe which goes by SO many names and variations. You may know Chester Squares as Chester Cake, Gur Cake, Sinkers or even Donkey’s Gudge. 

Whatever the name, the origin is actually from Ireland with the name Gur Cake specifically. The term came from gurriers, a term used for kids who wagged school, who would head to the bakery for the cheapest items on the menu. Gur Cake was a popular choice as the cake filling is made from stale bread, cakes or muffins the bakers would whip together with any leftovers.

Where We Learned This:

Chester squares are Laura’s Dad’s favourite food. Usually cooked by her Gran, we did some hunting for the recipe between family members. We’ve made a few tweaks ourselves after some thorough research and testing, so it’s as easy as possible to whip up at home.

Laura’s Dad was head taste tester for this recipe, having years of flavour experience behind him. Apparently we passed with flying colours – the only tweaks were more spice and more sultanas. Done and done!

What You’ll Need

Only a few ingredients bring this sweet slice together – and no need for eggs or milk in this one!

  • Bread – We used plain white bread. You can leave it out on the bench for half a day if you want to make it even ‘staler’ before cooking. Eight slices equates to half an Australian standard loaf of bread, or 350g. Can substitute with old cake or muffins – just crumble at the bread step, and no need to allow to soak the mixture, like we do with the bread.
  • Sultanas – You can use currants, raisins or mixed fruit in place of sultanas. For sultana haters, swap them out for stewed apples.
  • Golden Syrup – Can use molasses, honey or brown sugar instead. If you want an extra sweet slice, bump this up to half a cup.
  • Flour – We used self raising to speed things up. You can substitute this with all purpose flour and add ½ tsp of baking powder.
  • Mixed Spice – If you don’t have mixed spice, sub out with 2 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, ½ tsp nutmeg and ½ tsp of ground ginger.
  • Pastry – To save time, we used store bought shortcrust pastry, but you can also make your own if you prefer. Some people have even mentioned using the crusts of the bread as the top and bottom instead of pastry. If you do try this, let us know how it turns out!
Vanilla icing smothered over a slice of gur cake.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Serving Ideas – Heat in the microwave and serve with custard and ice-cream for dessert or serve up as mini squares alongside other Christmas or entertaining classics like trifle and pavlova.
  • Toppings – Can dust with icing sugar or glaze with icing if you prefer.
  • Thaw your pastry – Make sure to get your pastry out the freezer around 10 minutes before baking, so it’s thawed out and easy to handle.
  • Add spiced alcohol – Add a shot of sherry or port to the tea for an added spice hit!
  • Double It – You can double the recipe for a big batch, and cook it in a large baking dish instead of a square tin.

FAQs

Can I make gur cake with leftover Christmas pudding or cake?

You can definitely use leftover Christmas pudding instead of stale bread. Omit the sultanas and add an extra ½ – 1 cup of cake or pudding crumbs instead. If icing the tops, try dying the frosting red and green to make it Christmas themed.

How long do Chester squares last?

Once cooked, Chester squares are best eaten within 3-4 days. You can store them on the bench or in the fridge in an airtight container.

Do I have to use sultanas?

No, if you don’t like sultanas or don’t have any, substitute with any other dried fruit. You can also used stewed apples or pears for a lighter tasting filling, which goes just as well with the spiced flavours.

A selection of some of our favourite cakes:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

Stack of three slices of gur cake.

Chester Squares (Irish Gur Cake)

A beloved bakery slice, Chester Squares or Gur Cake, is the king of cake leftovers. Mix old bread, cake or pudding with sultanas and you have a sweet mince meat filling crammed between two thick slices of pastry.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Cake, Christmas, Dessert
Cuisine: English, Irish
Servings: 4 squares
Calories: 449kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $8

Ingredients

  • 8 slices white bread crusts removed, or 300g of old cake or muffins
  • 1 cup cold black tea
  • 2 sheets shortcrust pastry or homemade pastry
  • 4 tbsp self-raising flour
  • 1.5 cups sultanas 150 g
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup 90 g
  • 1.5 tbsp mixed spice or 2 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp cloves, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp ginger

Instructions

  • Remove crusts on bread and break up roughly into a large bowl. Add the cold black tea and tear apart the bread with a fork until it’s combined and becomes like a stiff and pulpy porridge.
  • Add the self-raising flour, sultanas, golden syrup and mixed spice. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  • Line a square baking tin with one sheet of thawed shortcrust pastry, cut to size. Layer with the fruit filling and top with one more ‘cut-to-fit’ sheet of shortcrust pastry.
  • Poke holes in the top with a fork, and pop into the oven to bake for 45 minutes.
  • Once cooked, sit on the bench to cool, then cut into squares.
  • Serve as is, or top with icing for an extra decadent slice.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Topping Ideas and Serving Suggestions – Can top with powdered icing sugar, vanilla frosting and glace cherries or desiccated coconut. Try serving warm by heating in the microwave and serve with custard and ice-cream for dessert.
  • Storage – Once cooked, Chester squares are best eaten within 3-4 days. You can store them on the bench or in the fridge in an airtight container.
  • Can I make gur cake with leftover Christmas pudding or cake? You can definitely use leftover Christmas pudding instead of stale bread. Omit the sultanas and add an extra ½ – 1 cup of cake or pudding crumbs instead. If icing the tops, try dying the frosting red and green to make it Christmas themed.
  • Ingredient Subs and Tips –
    • Bread – We used plain white bread. You can leave it out on the bench for half a day if you want to make it even ‘staler’ before cooking. Eight slices equates to half an Australian standard loaf of bread, or 350g. Can substitute with old cake or muffins – just crumble at the bread step, and no need to allow to soak the mixture, like we do with the bread.
    • Sultanas – You can use currants, raisins or mixed fruit in place of sultanas. For sultana haters, swap them out for stewed apples.
    • Golden Syrup – Can use molasses, honey or brown sugar instead. If you want an extra sweet slice, bump this up to half a cup.
    • Flour – We used self raising to speed things up. You can substitute this with all purpose flour and add ½ tsp of baking powder.
    • Mixed Spice – If you don’t have mixed spice, sub out with 2 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, ½ tsp nutmeg and ½ tsp of ground ginger.
    • Pastry – To save time, we used store bought shortcrust pastry, but you can also make your own if you prefer. Some people have even mentioned using the crusts of the bread as the top and bottom instead of pastry. Make sure to get your pastry out the freezer around 10 minutes before baking, so it’s thawed out and easy to handle.
  • Add spiced alcohol – Add a shot of sherry or port to the tea for an added spice hit!
  • Double It – You can double the recipe for a big batch, and cook it in a large baking dish instead of a square tin.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Chester Squares (Irish Gur Cake)
Amount per Serving
Calories
449
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Saturated Fat
 
1
g
6
%
Sodium
 
299
mg
13
%
Potassium
 
478
mg
14
%
Carbohydrates
 
102
g
34
%
Fiber
 
4
g
17
%
Sugar
 
57
g
63
%
Protein
 
8
g
16
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
174
mg
17
%
Iron
 
4
mg
22
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Chester Squares (Irish Gur Cake) - A Stale Bread Recipe

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    John L
    27/09/2021 at 11:05 am

    Why waste the crusts and ends? Blitz them in food processor for a few second along with rest of the bread. I find I can’t
    Over blend even when it looks like coarse bread crumbs . Doesn’t change the end texture or look.
    I also add 2Tbl spoons of jam(any type) too.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      29/09/2021 at 11:00 am

      Cheers for the tips John! I’ll give it a go with the crusts next time, as we’re the same – any way to avoid waste is great!

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