Looking back, I guess the cake all started as a way to get the four of us to sit still while she read.
During the summer break, Jane would spend an hour, one afternoon a week, reading to us. In part, to keep the house from being destroyed as we moved play inside to avoid the heat when afternoon summer temps arched to sweltering highs… but, more over to guide our reading interests to more adult literature. That summer in particular, she read The Hobbit..
As you know, the stories are full of multiple meals, Elevensies, teas, cakes and the such. As a way of getting us in the mood she researched a seed cake made with caraway (a typical tea cake). We noshed on it as they left the Shire and headed on their adventure.
Truth be told, I never really cared for it. Caraway seeds in cake just never translated to delicious for me. Jane however, loved it and made it long after the story concluded and we moved on to more contemporary adventures.
With the success of the Lemon Cake last month, (since I’ve obviously cracked the code to making edible cake) she asked me to make her an English Seed Cake. Digging up her old recipe, I remembered all the things I didn’t like about it. While I’m sure it’s a perfectly good seed cake (out of the 33 recipes I looked over, hers is exactly like 1/2 of the traditional recipes), I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. It’s too one-note. It’s kinda dry. It’s …well… caraway seeds in sweet cake.
I knew I could do better.
I’ve taken things that were common ingredients in period tea cakes (Madeira Wine, Vanilla, Mace) and applied them to Jane’s recipe.
Mace is the outer hull of the nutmeg you usually buy. A nutmeg-y flavor, but brighter, citrusy, with a slight astringent bite. While it is more commonly used in savory dishes, it works well complimenting the headiness of the caraway seeds. (If you don’t have any – don’t worry; use regular nutmeg and add in about a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest).
It, my friends, is a thing of wonder.