Sometimes I think I am half hobbit. I’m short and stocky and cheery and (to overshare) I have slightly hairy feet. My dad first read The Hobbit to me when I was about 5, and I re-read it on my own soon after; it was one of my first real chapter books. During the first chapter when the dwarves descend on Bilbo and eat everything in his pantry, the first thing consumed is seed cake; I always wondered what this tasted like (yes, even at age 5), and assumed it was poppy-seed based. So, when I found a recipe for a traditional English seed cake in my latest cookbook acquisition (a 1940s collection of old English bread and cake recipes), I immediately had to satisfy my curiosity.
This confection, it turns out, is studded with caraway seeds rather than poppy. The recipe in my book, moreover, called for a really old-school rosewater flavoring instead of vanilla extract. The rose flavor adds a beautiful floral dimension to the caraway and keeps it from tasting anything like rye bread.
One interesting point about the recipe below: it has one add egg yolks and whites in separate stages. I might try experimenting with this – it yielded one of the smoothest batters I’ve come across, even though I was creaming butter and sugar by hand (still working without a stand mixer).
I actually had a pretty exciting time making this cake. Because I’m now working full-time at my law firm job (we’re not allowed to call ourselves associates until we are actually admitted to the bar), I have zero spare time. I’ve been trying to work my life out, and have come to two conclusions: in order to have a reasonable amount of time to fit in good things like gym and friends, I need to (a) order everything possible online (thank god for Fresh Direct), (b) occasionally keep weird hours and go without sleep. I was super-desperate to make this, and I was getting home late most nights last week so…I pulled a wake and bake! Yes, I know my version is not the usual one.
Yep, that’s a cake-plus-sunrise pic. I also worked out. The best part: I brough the result into work, and it made everyone just a little bit happier. I even met some new people in the process of handing out cake. The 6 AM wakeup was worth it, and I’m sure it’ll happen again soon. Especially because there are so many more delicious things in this new English baking book…
Old English Seed Cake (Makes one 9-inch bundt)
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
2 egg whites
3/4 c. milk
3 c. sifted flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp. rose water
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add yolks, beat, then add whites. Sift dry ingredients together and add, alternating with milk. Mix in seeds, rosewater, cinnamon, pour into greased and floured bundt pan, bake 1 hour 20 min, top with powdered sugar.
Delicious! I need to get my hands on some rosewater — I love the idea of adding it to a bundt cake.
I love bringing treats to work. Not only does it make other people happy, but it keeps me from eating it all. Score.
Lovely cake. I have a bottle of rosewater on standby in my store cupboard. I think I will go with poppyseeds as I have them to hand and I’m not to keen on caraway seed anyway. Sounds like life is pretty hectic for you at the moment. Great that you can find a moment in your new kitchen to rustle up a friendship cake like this!
How nice of you that you brought your cake to work..I would love to be one of those people to try this wonderful and beautiful cake! Great photos, and really nice post!
I love this post. I also believe I am part hobbit, though you couldn’t tell from my feet. I also very much get the thing about picking up ideas about food from kids’ books; things like seed cakes, Bath buns, blanc mange and Eccles cakes loomed large in my young imagination. I too would have thought of poppyseeds; I love caraway and will really make an effort to try this recipe out. Thanks!
That baking book sounds fantastic and the seed cake with caraway sounds absolutely delicious. I’m all for bringing in things to work – and I often do, if i bake the night before – but I’m not yet convinced about the ‘wake and bake’ technique!
I love the ‘wake and bake’ phrase. Your stand mixer will reappear next weekend, but maybe you are going to go all James Beard, and mix and beat EVERYTHING by hand. I adored the seed cake idea – first encountered in a ‘Jennings and Darbyshire’ book – but I hate caraway seeds so maybe the poppy is the way to go. Eccles cakes were a vehicle for sugary currants, but bath Buns seemed horribly stodgy (see post above). Anyway, I loved the hobbit as well and don’t worry, you look nothing like a hobbit – unless maybe you have a ring?……… Everyone loves a home-baked item in the workplace – mine disappear despite apparently universal membership in WeightWatchers!
I love your version of wake and bake! Kudos to you for finding the balance. This is a beautiful cake. I love the unexpected substitutions of rose water instead of vanilla and caraway instead of poppy. It looks lovely. I am also envious of your vintage English cookbook. Very unique recipe and a great post! : )
Oh I have not had this before but I always love your recipes – you are definitely like me in trying different traditional recipes!
Love the bit about you being a hobbit. Perhaps the best opening line to any blog post! I always love reading about these British recipes, as a kid I always wondered what treacle tart was. Perhaps you can find a recipe for that one and make it!
Well, I guess you are testing your English roots again, Celia! Love it, and we will transport the mixer on Saturday, come rain or snow or sleet. . . .
I heart caraway seeds! I’d love this cake! 😀
I really love your blog! The idea of making desserts that have a bit of historical significance behind them is just so great. I also loved The Hobbit and got that whole series of books from my dad too 🙂 so I just have to (and will!) make this cake.
I also love that it uses rose water! I bought a little bottle of the stuff about a year ago for a cake recipe and have rarely found anything to use it in since. Thank you for sharing.
Okay. I’m exhausted. You know, we have law firms in Cayman. Big time law firms. And all the lawyers get off at 6 🙂 Seriously…consider relocating.
And then you can make me this cake while we watch LOTR.
Beautiful photo of your sunrise…and your cake is just as beautiful! Great idea for a wake and bake…such a yummy treat for your co-workers!
[…] this cake is full of floral flavors and an anise undertone from the caraway seeds. Adapted from Cookbook Archaeology. Makes one 9-inch bundt […]
[…] this cake is full of floral flavors and an anise undertone from the caraway seeds. Adapted fromCookbook Archaeology. Makes one 9-inch bundt […]