Seed cake has haunted me since I read At Bertram’s Hotel many years ago. The dialogue sounds really attractive to me as I’ve never come across seed cake – even in the UK. I know what poppy seed cake looks like and what it tastes like, but not about (‘real’ or authentic) caraway seed cake…. Yes, the ‘seed’ refers to ‘caraway seed’, and this is another reason I am curious about the cake made with the distinctive pungent spice.
Googled and learnt that ‘seed cake’, the original recipe of which dates back to the 16th century, used to be popular esp. in Victorian Britain. Nowadays, however, it is considered to be out of date and out of fashion. How come? Mmmm… mistery 😀 deepens….
I came by good quality of caraway seeds recently, so decided to bake it myself. Seeking for nice recipes on the internet, I found that I’m not the only person attracted by Christie’s seed cake. A lady, one of WordPress bloggers, and her husband enthusiastically did research to find out ‘real seed cake’, and tried several recipes ranging from the mid 19th century to the 1990s (Tea with Miss Marple)!!
For me, Caraway and Orange Seed Cake, whether it’s real one or not, rang a bell. I tried experiment thrice with this recipe and ended up as follows: halved most of the ingredients and amended a bit to suit my taste – replaced brandy with Cointreau to add more orange flavour, reduced the seeds – I like caraway seed but too much in his recipe – and chopped them to avoid the hard texture in soft sponge.
(for 18 cm round cake tin)
175 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
a smidgen of salt
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 tbsp caraway seeds, chopped
1/2 orange zest
40 g candied orange peel, chopped
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp Cointreau
- Preheat oven to 180° C.
- Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, mace, nutmeg and salt.
- In another bowl, cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the caraway, orange zest and candied peel.
- Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the milk and Cointreau.
- Spoon into a lined tin and bake for 35 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool completely.
I should have chopped the peel finely…. It wasn’t nice looking when cut…. Never mind, it tasted good anyway, and even better following day! I wonder why it’s not popular anymore????? This simple cake – no frills yet flavourful and zingy – goes well with strong cuppa with milk. Hope I can come across authentic seed cake someday!
Agatha Christie in Budapest
Whilst visiting Budapest in 2010, I bumped into commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth at the Alexandra Bookstore.
On the floor above the best bookshop in Budapest, you will find one of the most beautiful cafes in Europe – Alexandra Café (Bookcafé).