The funny thing is, I think I first heard of Seed Cake when I was reading The Hobbit many years ago. When Bilbo Baggins’ house is invaded by lots of visitors at the beginning of the story one of them asks if he has any Seed Cake. It’s a very old British recipe, can be traced back at least as far as the 15th century and was very popular in Victorian times.The idea intrigued me and I looked up some recipes. When I found out that the seed involved was caraway seed I wasn’t sure – I couldn’t envisage it working as a flavour in a cake. Caraway seeds have a slightly minty smell, neither sweet nor savoury and quite musky, with a strong aroma.
I used a Nigel Slater recipe (http://theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/02/nigel-slater-classic-recipe-seed-cake) he says just to use a teaspoon of seeds, enough to gently perfume the cake – other recipes I looked at suggested more and I think I’m going with Nigel on this one.
The cake reminds me a lot of Madeira cake – both recipes have ground almonds in them, although seed cake lacks the lemon you get with a Madeira and it doesn’t rise as much. The seeds do give the cake a gentle perfumed flavour which is actually very appealing. It has a nice texture due to the ground almonds, a golden crust and the smatter of caraway seeds add a tiny crunch. I’m not sure it’ll replace Madeira cake, which has become a favourite of ours, but the Seed cake is a quirky addition to my repertoire – nice for a vintage picnic maybe? I can see why Bilbo and his mates packed it for their long quest…
It is with a plan for a picnic I say:
It’s only vintage but I like it!