Seed cake has been around since medieval times and historically could refer to a cake that was given to agricultural workers to reward them for the hard labour of seed-sowing.
A staple tea-time favourite over the years, this cake appears often in English Literature, ‘Jane Eyre’ ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘The Hobbit’ spring to mind. I love the idea of hobbits having two beautiful round seed cakes in their pantry!
There are variations of the recipe for this cake and this particular one is taken from ‘The Hull Lady’ December 1901 (Ref L.052.081), a monthly magazine that gives a brilliant snapshot of life in Hull during the 1900’s. One of the features is a cookery class that had a great response by readers asking for special recipes and advice on cooking techniques.
It was presented each month by Richard Bond, instructor at Hull Nautical School of Cookery. Basic recipes were given, even one for egg sandwiches, and more challenging meals such as a special bill of fare to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII in the June edition 1902.
I chose seed cake for its simplicity, the method is easy and the measurements as it’s a traditional pound cake. Although it is definitely sweet, the caraway seeds give it a hint of herbal savouriness.
1lb flour (plain)
half oz. caraway seeds
half lb butter
half lb sugar (caster)
quarter pint milk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoonful baking powder
1. Line a deep cake tin with well greased paper, I used a 26 x14cm loaf tin.
Set the oven to a moderate heat (160 fan-assisted)
2. Put the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub it until the flour has a sandy appearance, then mix in the seeds.
3. Break the eggs into another bowl and beat them up for five minutes, add the sugar and beat up for another seven minutes, then stir in the milk. Crikey I thought but then saw it as a good work-out for my arms! It definitely makes you appreciate modern appliances of today!
4. Pour this into the flour, etc., add the baking powder and mix well with a wooden spoon.
5. Turn the mixture into the cake tin and place in the oven. Bake one hour. I then checked the cake with a fine skewer but it did not come out clean. So baked for a further ten minutes and then it was fine. It probably depends on the oven as mine is a fan-assisted.
I placed the cake on a rack to cool but couldn’t resist having a piece with my afternoon cuppa whilst it was still warm!
My opinion - very buttery with a subtle hint of aniseed flavour. I would recommend to give it a try to see what you think.
Carol: "Lovely! I’m sure I can taste lavender. Very light."
Elaine: "Very moist, a good ‘afternoon tea’ cake. Moreish!"
Claire: "Good tea break cake, light & buttery, the seeds give a nice hint of flavour."
Verity: "Lovely and light. Very flavoursome!"
Hannah: "Very tasty cake, light and not too sweet."
Laura: "Great with a cup of tea. Subtle taste from the seeds."
Paul: "Interesting flavours, great with afternoon tea."