Traditional seed cake recipe

Recipes for this cake appeared as early as the late 1500s - Haarala Hamilton
Recipes for this cake appeared as early as the late 1500s - Haarala Hamilton

I didn’t grow up with seed cake but love the lemony aniseed notes of caraway. If you’re keen on dark rye breads – often flavoured with caraway – you’ll like this too. I first had seed cake at St. John in London, served with a glass of Madeira (a fine pairing). Recipes for it appeared from the late 1500s but it really became popular in the Victorian age.


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes




  • 120g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the tin

  • 120g caster sugar

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature

  • 170g self-raising flour, sifted

  • finely grated zest of ½ lemon

  • 1½ tsp caraway seeds

  • 50g ground almonds

  • 2-4 tbsp whole milk

  • icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


1. Butter a loaf tin (the one I use measures 20cm x 9cm x 7cm) and line it with greaseproof paper so the paper hangs over the long sides. Butter the paper as well. Heat the oven to 170C/160C fan/gas mark 3½.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Very gradually add the egg a bit at a time, making sure you beat well before adding the next lot. If it looks as though the mixture might curdle, add a couple of tablespoons of the flour and beat slowly. When the eggs have been incorporated, add the lemon zest and caraway seeds.

3. Fold in the flour and almonds. Add the milk (however much it takes to get the batter to drop, reluctantly, from a spoon). Scrape this into the prepared tin.

4. Bake for 50 minutes then test for doneness – a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. If it’s not ready, put the cake back in the oven for four minutes, then test again. Be careful not to over-bake.

5. You can leave the cake plain, or dust some icing sugar on top. It keeps well, in an airtight container, for three days.