Seed Cake

Tea and seed cake

About twenty years ago, I was listening pretty obsessively to Kate Bush’s wonderful album, The Sensual World. The song of the same name began with a line that always intrigued me, less for its sensual elements and more because of the food she mentions.

The I’d taken the kiss of seedcake back from his mouth.

Ever since, if I heard of Seed Cake, I remembered Kate Bush and wondered just what Seed Cake was.

Fast forward to a night about two weeks ago when I was leafing through Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen and I stumbled across a recipe for Seed Cake. Her lovely description of it just confirmed for me that a Seed Cake was in my near future. How could I resist a cake description in which Nigella draws on a pivotal scene from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? Of course, I recalled. There was Seed Cake in Jane Eyre!

Me and Seed Cake, were, quite obviously, meant to be.

seed cake slice

This is a simple, plain cake. I happen to the love the subtle flavour of caraway seeds but that might not be to everyone’s taste. I don’t think the flavour overwhelms.

The mixture is heavily whipped. All that creamed butter and sugar, with dry ingredients whipped in making a light, fluffy batter. Throw in some almond meal and the seeds, and you have a delicate, plain cake. I like that it’s a crumbly, slightly dry cake. And I love that you add some caster sugar to the top giving it a lovely sweet crisp.

I’ve made two in a week.

Seed Cake

Another nice literary link involving Seed Cake that I discovered this week is that Miss Marple ate a lot of seed cake washed down with cups of tea. I hadn’t realised this – I’ve not read Miss Marple books and perhaps not much is made of it in the TV adaptations. Or I just didn’t hear it. But I do love how much Miss Marple knits and so now that I know she’s a Seed Cake lover too, she’s only gone up in my estimation.

For me, Seed Cake became an instant classic. I won’t turn back.

A note on how I cooked it.

Nigella recommends a much larger loaf tin than I own, so I made it in a square loaf tin and it cooked for exactly 35 minutes to perfection.

I won’t type out the recipe here. There are endless online resources for Seed Cake recipes – some, I note, add even more caraway than Nigella’s 4 teaspoons. I think I’ll be brave and add even more next time.

Wonderfully delicious. Cake perfection.



15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. RoseRed
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 21:08:00

    I remember seed cake from Jane Eyre. Not entirely sure it would appeal to me, but I should give it a whirl, then I’ll know for sure!


  2. Louise
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 21:29:57

    I’ve made a few seed cakes in my day my fave recipe is a tweaked CWA (?) one to which I added a little orange zest and a spash’o’brandy. I must admit I haven’t done the sugar crust though- good excuse to cook another one!


  3. 2paw
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 21:56:37

    There are quite a lot of seed cakes in British fiction, I expect once seeds were very exotic, and then run of the mill. I like seed cakes and yours looks delicious!! Very genteel.


  4. Stacie
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 23:37:26

    Considering that the references have always sent me thinking of suet and seeds for birds, made into a cake, it never sounded appetizing! This looks and sounds delicious, and the idea of caraway seeds in a cake is awesome. Must try soon.


  5. Nancy Lauber
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 01:07:07

    I definitely will have to try a seed cake. For years, I have been a devotee of British novels, so the idea is not new to me, but your description sounds as if it is something I would like–before, the idea of caraway seeds was a little off-putting!


    • Bells
      Jun 03, 2011 @ 08:49:50

      I think because the seeds are only sprinkled throughout and not packed in, they’re just a nice delicate addition rather than an overwhelming prescence.


  6. Delly
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 09:44:13

    I made this yesterday on your recommendation. Love love love! I love the little bursts of caraway. I would never have thought of putting caraway in a cake. What a surprise. I love the history behind it. I’ll being having a cuppa soon with a big hunk of seed cake (I”m on my own so no one will judge me on the size of my slice).


  7. David Hilyard
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:12:54

    1. Which is better – “Sensual World” or “Kick Inside”? I think Kick, but it’s a damn near run thing.

    2. Is “Jane Eyere” (unread by me) set in the West Country? Seed Cake is very Cornwall/Devon.

    3. I do’t think any of the TV Marples are all that good – stick to the books.

    Oh – the cake sounds yummy, BTW.


  8. David Hilyard
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:14:25

    “Jane Eyre” is also unread by me. It’s the prequel. Before the Es got into the act.


  9. Bells
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:36:01

    Cute David.

    No Jane Eyre is set in Yorkshire but her teacher may well have been from elsewhere!


  10. David Hilyard
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 16:53:22

    Yorke Peninula in SA is “Liitle Cornwall” because all the tin miners emigrated there in 1880s, when tin mining in Cornwall went bottom up and copper rush on in SA. All the bakeries there sell Cornish pasties, jam turnover made with flaky pastry, and seed cake, which were the components of a miners’ crib …


  11. David Hilyard
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 16:01:42

    Now that Kitchen Stadium has an oven, and given the imminent arrival of YKW for afternoon tea, I am in cake baking practice mode. Will try cooking seed cake this weekend.


  12. Ann Spencer
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 03:34:36

    Just made this in a loaf tin—-I gave it 45 minutes which was maybe a little too much. I admit I scarfed some crumbs that fell off when I took it out of the pan and it seems delicious but maybe a bit dry. My main caution—I used a non-stick loaf pan and lined the bottom w/ parchment paper and used nonstick spray on the sides, but the cake was hard to get out even after running a plastic knife along the edge. Some of the cake stuck in two of the bottom corners (this is what I sampled!) My advice is to either grease pan heavily or use a paper loaf liner (which aren’t so easy to find here in the U.S.)


  13. David Willett
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 15:04:03

    It’s also mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.


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