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Seed Cake | 1861 Recipe

Seed Cake

Mrs Beeton's Seed Cake

Seed Cake is a very old type of cake, which was very popular for hundreds of years. It was traditionally made for social gatherings, agricultural harvests and feast days, etc. and so the Seed Cake can truly be said to be the cake of the people. This is a very moist and tasty cake, and it will keep for days, so it is perfect for baking on the weekend and eating during the week after work. It is also a great cake for summer; instead of eating a chocolate cake, which is too heavy in the summer, try having a slice of this cake with a cup of tea or coffee, it really is delightful.

Some seed cake recipes call for ground almonds to be added, and there is no harm in adding them here if you wish, (ground almonds have also played an important part in British recipes, right from the Medieval period) but this cake is flavoured with caraway seeds. Baking this cake in a round tin gives this cake a more traditional and pleasing appearance than if using a rectangular loaf tin. And adding the sprinkle of demerara (natural brown) sugar on top of the batter, at the end, before baking, gives a wonderful (very thin) crunchy sugar glaze.

Seed Cake Recipe

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 240g butter (soft)
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs (beaten)
  • 320g self raising flour (sieved)
  • 4-6 tbsp milk (or single cream)
  • 2 tbsp of demerara (natural brown) sugar
  • 30g caraway seeds
  • 3 tbsp of brandy
  • 1/2 tsp of ground mace
  • 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg

Recipe Method:

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F, 180C

Prepare a cake tin – You will also need a greased, 18 cm round cake tin – with the base lined with greaseproof or silicone paper (if it needs it) good quality cake tins just need to be greased.

Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl with a whisk. Then in another larger bowl cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then gradually whisk in the beaten eggs a little at a time. When all the egg , sugar and butter has been mixed, whisk in the caraway seeds, ground mace and ground nutmeg, then lightly fold in the sieved flour. Then add in the brandy, stirring it in.

Seed Cake Method

Making The Traditional Seed Cake Batter

Lastly add just enough milk (or single cream) to loosen the mixture and give the cake batter a good ‘dropping’ consistency (this means the mixture is neither wet nor dry, but will drop off a spoon when tipped). Once at this point, spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Level off the surface with the back of a spoon and then finally sprinkle the demerara (natural brown) sugar all over the top.

Bake the seed cake in the centre of the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean and hot. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool further. This seed cake will taste even better after a day or two, so wrap it in foil or baking parchment and keep it in an air tight tin. It will keep for several days.


This particular recipe is a Victorian one, from the 1800′s, but older recipes of a ‘bread’ type seed cake i.e. more bread than cake, made with yeast to help it rise, go back hundreds of years, with a variety of seeds as their main ingredient, and using suet, lard or fat instead of butter. In our recipe we are using the caraway seed to flavour the cake, (giving an almost sweet aniseed taste). Caraway is a type of seed common to both cake and biscuit recipes of the Medieval and Tudor periods; and the English usage of the term Caraway dates back to at least 1440 A.D.

A Very Good Seed-Cake: 1861

From Mrs. Beeton’s ‘Household Management’

1 lb. of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb. of sifted sugar, pounded mace and grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb. of flour, 3/4 oz. of caraway seeds, 1 wineglassful of brandy.

Mode.—Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, stir to them the brandy, and beat the cake again for 10 minutes. Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it from 1–1/2 to 2 hours. This cake would be equally nice made with currants, and omitting the caraway seeds.

Time.—1–1/2 to 2 hours.