Caraway Seed Cake

30 Sep 2010

For as long as I can remember I have had a crush on caraway. Maybe it’s because growing up there was always a loaf of Rye lying around and as I recall it was also often sprinkled into various suppertime dishes. The distinct anise-y flavour is delicious and always brings back fond memories of home. In researching this post, I discovered that caraway is a member of the Apiaceae plant family, which also includes fennel, anise, cumin, licorice-root (Ligusticum), dill, and coriander (cilantro).  All flavours I fervently love.

When this classic seed cake recipe kept turning up in many of the old Irish cookbooks that I have been collecting, I instantly put it on my must-make list. I simply could not wait to sink my teeth into a slice and see how caraway would fare in a sweet cake.  And lo and behold, it is the perfect balance of sweet and savoury, which makes it remarkably delicious.

Caraway seed cake is a variation of one of the most popular cakes made in Ireland, the Madeira. Similar to our American pound cake, but lighter and flakier-as not a full pound of flour, butter and eggs are used; it is moist and sweet in all the right ways. Madeira is considered a sponge cake and is the base of many traditional Irish cakes, including the traditional “Birthday Cake” which is a Madeira made with citrus peel, stem ginger and sultanas. I made this time-honoured cake for my father-in-law’s birthday in August and he was absolutely over the moon.

Other variations on the Madeira are cherry, sultana, rice (using rice flour), chocolate, sultana, Excelsior (coconut), Athassal (tri-coloured: almond/chocolate/vanilla), Jam sandwich (layered with raspberry jam), Ginger, Genoa (fruit peel with sliced almonds on top), poppy seed and, of course the classic Christmas cake.

According to Darina Allen, Madeira cake was originally made to be nibbled on by the ladies as they sipped their Madeira or port wine. This nibbling has been going here on since the 18th or 19th century and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Give this recipe a try and have it on hand when friends call over for a cuppa and some chit- chat on a crisp Autumn afternoon.

As with any recipe, using the best ingredients, organic or free-range and local as much as possible will create the most flavourful result. Of course, we use our own raw milk and eggs from the family farm for any baking or cooking here at home, but if you don’t live on a farm you can easily find these products at your local farmer’s market, cooperative or in most supermarkets. Please support your local farmers.

Caraway Seed Cake

(from Darina Allen’s, “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”)

Serves about 8

175g (6 oz) soft butter

175g (6 oz) caster (granulated) sugar

3 organic eggs

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

225g (8 oz) plain white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

about 1 tablespoon milk or water

Round (springform) cake tin 18 cm (7 in) wide 7.5cm (3 in) deep

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F

Line base of pan with greaseproof paper.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, add sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. This will give you a smoother cake than just dumping the sugar in with the butter at the beginning. Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar. Whisk well. If preferred the eggs can be whisked into the mixture one at a time. Fold in the flour, adding the baking powder mixed in with the last addition of the flour. Mix in one tablespoon of fresh caraway seeds. Add a little milk or water if needed to make a dropping consistency. Fill into prepared cake tin.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, remove from over and let cool in the tin.

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

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14 Responses to “Caraway Seed Cake”

  1. Chrissie says:

    Thank you! I am not known for my cake baking skills. Usually, they turn out like biscuits, flat and crunchy. I have trouble with jelly as well! However, not one to be thwarted, I made this. And it worked! Woo Hoo! It looked like a cake. It smelled like a cake, and …. oh my very gosh, it actually tasted like cake! EEEK!! I am SO excited! Just think, me, a Maker of Cake! Hilarious! Thank you!! Jelly is next! Jelly usually goes into the freezer, just to give it the idea of setting, but not today! How can I not do jelly? Let me count the ways ……

  2. Sophia says:

    Loved this post and the cake looks beautifully moist. Just wanted to say that while the recipe lists the caraway seeds, they are missing from the list of ingredients which may confuse some folks.

  3. Ethel says:

    I appreciate, lead to I discovered just what I used to be looking for.
    You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man.
    Have a great day. Bye

  4. Dee says:

    Thank you for the recipe for ‘Caraway seed cake’
    My mother (90) always talked of making it for her grandmother when she was young as they loved the way she made it. Unfortunetly mum couldn’t remember the recipe after all this time. Your recipe sounds so much like good old fashioned baking from those days, I’m hoping it is the same.
    Haven’t been to your blog before but will come again as I’ve found it very well layed out with pictures and information and hard to find recipes (lol) and beautiful food.

  5. Becky says:

    Am I going mad, or have your forgotten to put the amount of caraway seeds needed for the recipe?

  6. […] like to make a simple, traditional Irish treat, why not make a seed cake to go with your tea? Seed cake is a very traditional recipe from the British Isles, like a pound cake with caraway seeds in it, […]

  7. […] Love, but I’d been intrigued by the idea of this cake ever since reading about it last year on Imen’s blog. I mean, caraway seeds? In a cake? It’s a popular cake in Ireland and Britain too, so I was […]

  8. […] adopted culture…..either that, or a damn good excuse to enjoy sinful delights like this or this on a regular […]

  9. Cascais är bara några av de pärlor som finns i Portugal. Klart att rekommendera för höst semestern.

  10. Clare says:

    Love the idea of doing a cake with caraway seeds – I’ve only ever seen it used in savory breads. A slice with a cup of tea would pretty much make the perfect little afternoon treat!!!

  11. susan says:

    thank you so much for posting the recipe imperial(ly) so I can easily whip this up here in Texas. Can’t wait!

  12. […] Caraway Seed Cake | I Married An Irish Farmer Please support your local farmers. Caraway Seed Cake. (from Darina Allen's, “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”). Serves about g (6 oz) soft butter. 175g (6 oz) caster (granulated) sugar. 3 organic eggs. ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract . […]

  13. Emer says:

    Hi I always make a madeira cake for birthdays. Using an old recipe book from my school days called “All in the cooking”. Will definately try this caraway seed recipe . Love your blog.

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