I only know that seed cake exists because of regency romance. Heroines are always eating it at breakfast time. Apparently, it also pops up in Jane Eyre when Miss Temple gives some to Jane and Helen Burns as a treat. I’d totally forgotten this detail, though.
I used a scaled down version of Mrs. Beeton’s recipe but, for fun, here’s the original:
Ingredients for a very good seed cake:
1 lb of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb of sifted sugar, pounded mace to taste, Grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb flour, 3/4 oz caraway seeds, 1 wine-glassful of brandy
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 ten minutes. Put it into a tinned lined with buttered paper. and bake it from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Mrs Beeton estimates the cost of all this to be 2s. 6d.
Because I wanted to make a smaller cake, I decided to use the measurements and cooking time from this book, which adapts Mrs. Beeton’s recipes for “the modern kitchen,” but still use Mrs. Beeton’s instructions. Spoiler: Mrs. Beeton knows her stuff. This cake is “very good” just as she promised.
Ingredients for “a very good” 1 kg loaf seed cake:
230 g butter,
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
75 ml brandy
200 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp caraway seeds
Pinch of ground mace
Pinch of nutmeg
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Cream the butter, but then forgot which method you’re meant to follow and add the sugar next. Sorry, Mrs. Beeton.
Sift the flour in, then add the spices:
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the brandy. Add to the other ingredients.
Beat the cake, though not actually for ten minutes because I forgot which method again. It would have been boring anyway. I stopped as soon as it started looking like cake batter, but feel free to follow Mrs. Beeton’s instructions to the letter. She’s probably watching.
Pour batter into the loaf tin.
Place in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150C and bake for a further 25 minutes. Honestly, it looked a “deep, golden brown” at this point, just like the book said, but I got scared, so I covered it in foil and put it back in for another 10 minutes.
I can’t tell you how good this smelt while cooking. The sweet, spicy, boozy fragrance permeated the house. It was so comforting!
We let it cool completely, I cut a slice, and asked Mr. Bennet to take a photo. He misunderstood (ha!), took a massive bite, and proceeded to make a lot of inappropriate noises. He didn’t quite reenact the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally, but it was close.
8 yr old arrived and took a bite. And he…liked it and even wanted more. This is the first Victorian recipe he’s approved of, so that should tell you something.
15 yr old didn’t like it because he dislikes the taste of alcohol, even in cooking. It’s not “his thing.”
I thought it was amazing. I would marry this cake. Seriously, Mrs. Beeton was on to something here.
In short, you should totally try this.