Goosnargh cakes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

On 18 June 1859 The Preston Chronicle reported that many thousands of the famous Goosnargh cakes were sold in Goosnargh on Whitsun that year. The nearby village of Stalmine had its own version of this biscuit and called them Tosset cakes. Bakeries in Wirksworth and Winster in Derbyshire also baked them as Wirksworth and Winster Wakes cakes, with currants instead of caraway seeds. ‘At Winster Wakes there’s ale and cakes’ goes an old song and, indeed, these biscuits were mainly eaten with a nice glass of beer instead of tea.

These biscuits are almost extinct today. Slow Food UK thinks this is due to the rationing of butter and sugar, and therefore also Goosnargh cakes, during the Second World War.

The shortbread-like butter biscuits have a distinct taste from the caraway seeds (and sometimes coriander seeds), but cardamom would also be a nice variation.


  • 225 g (8 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 50 g ( oz) cornflour (cornstarch) or rice flour
  • 100 g ( oz) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 225 g (8 oz) chilled butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • flour, for dusting


Mix the flour, cornflour or rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Rub in the butter with your fingers. Add the caraway seeds, then knead the mixture until it comes together into a smooth dough. Do not overknead it or the biscuits will be less brittle.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is about 7 mm (¼ inch) thick. Use an 8 cm ( inch) cutter to cut out the cookies. Press the leftover dough back together and cut out more biscuits.

Prick the biscuits all over with a fork, place them on the baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. The biscuits should not be baked for long – a golden blush around the edges is enough. Remove the biscuits from the oven, sprinkle with the extra sugar and leave them to cool on the tray.