The name of this Cumberland Rum Nicky comes from the traditional decoration of cuts or nicks made on top of the pastry. The rich filling ingredients – dates, spices, brown sugar and rum – were easily obtainable from the ports on the Cumbrian coast, which were a major import and trading centre for these products imported from the West Indies and the Caribbean in the 19th century. Cumberland Nicky is one of 280 regional recipes in Regional Cooking of England by Carol Wilson, a food writer and historian who has contributed to many publications and has appeared on television promoting British food and discussing the history and use of traditional ingredients.



75g/3oz butter

115g/4oz dried dates, chopped

115g/4oz currants

75g/3oz soft light brown sugar

25g/1oz stem ginger, finely chopped

30ml/2 tbsp dark rum

½ tsp grated nutmeg


350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting

Pinch salt

175g/5oz butter or lard, chilled

50-75ml/4-5 tbsp iced water

Great British Life: Step 1 - Cumberland Rum NickyStep 1 - Cumberland Rum Nicky (Image: Carol Wilson)


1. For the filling, melt the butter, then stir in the dates, currants, sugar, ginger, rum and nutmeg. Leave to stand for at least 1 hour.

2. For the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter or lard, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

3. Add iced water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing with a flat-bladed knife or your hands to form a dough. The dough should leave the bowl clean. If the mixture is too wet, add a little more flour. If it is too dry, add a little more water.

4. Gather into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Great British Life: Step 5 - Cumberland Rum NickyStep 5 - Cumberland Rum Nicky (Image: Carol Wilson)

5. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use half to line an 18cm/7in pie plate.

6. Stir the filling well and spread over the pastry. Cover with the remaining pastry to form a lid and press the edges together firmly to seal. Make a few small cuts across the top, or cut into a lattice pattern.

Great British Life: Step 6 - Cumberland Rum NickyStep 6 - Cumberland Rum Nicky (Image: Carol Wilson)

7. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe from Carol Wilson’s Regional Cooking of England, published by Lorenz Books, 672 pages, £25. © Lorenz Books 2024

Great British Life: Carol Wilson's Regional Cooking of EnglandCarol Wilson's Regional Cooking of England (Image: Carol Wilson)