Seed cake, it seems, goes way way way back. Jane mentions books from the 1700 with several recipes. A classic English cake if ever there was one; except I’ve never heard of it. In fact there’s two seed cake recipes in English Food itself. The seeds are provided in the form of caraway, a most English of spices. The cake itself is an unusual one – half way between a traditional recipe, where you cream butter and sugar and a sabayon, where eggs are whisked up until thick and frothy.
To make the cake, cream 6 ounces each of butter and sugar and stir in a rounded dessertspoon of caraway seeds. Separate three eggs and whisk the whites until stiff, but still creamy. Beat the yolks and carefully fold these into the whites with a metal spoon, then fold the eggs into the creamed butter. Next, stir in a tablespoon of ground almonds and eight ounces of sifted self-raising flour. I find it easier to mix the flour in three or four stages to avoid getting a lumpy batter. The mixture should be slack enough to ‘fall off the spoon when you shake it with a firm flick of the wrist’, and we must do as we are told. If too thick, add a little milk; a tablespoon or two should do it.
Pour the mixture into a lined 9 inch loaf tin and smooth it down with the back of a spoon. Decorate with blanched, slivered almonds if you fancy. Bake for up to an hour (but check on it with a larding needle as it may be less) at 180 degrees Celsius. Let the cake cook for 15 minutes before taking out of the tin to cool on a wire rack.
FYI: In Henry IV Part II, Falstaff is invited by Shallow to have a snack on some of ‘last year’s pippin [apples] of mine own graffing, with a dish of caraways’. So if Mr. Shakespeare liked them, they can’t be bad.
FYI 2: Mrs Dorothy Sleightholme was a cook on Yorkshire Television. Growing up in Yorkshire and being an avid telly watcher naturally means I have no recollection of her whatsoever.
# 62 Mrs Sleightholme’s Seed Cake: 4/10. A low scorer, though not foul tasting. It was like a dry Madeira cake. It certainly needed tea to go with it as it was on the claggy side. The caraway seeds save it to some degree. There is, of course, the slightest chance that I over baked it, but I find that very hard to believe…