Seed Cake

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

seed cake similar to madeira cake, flavoured with caraway seeds. Now considered an old-fashioned curiosity and rarely made, seed cake formerly enjoyed great popularity in Britain. Early versions contained caraway comfits; seeds alone came into use in the 18th century.

Seed cake probably had another meaning, as given in an account by Morris (1892):

Fifty years ago seed-time had also its festival, though on a lesser scale, as well as harvest. At the backend, when the early sowing had been completed, the farmer made a sort of feast for his men, the principal feature of which was ‘seed-cake’, which was given to each of them. The cake did not get its name from anything that it contained, for it was in fact an ordinary sort of currant or plum cake, but from the occasion. On these minor festivals the men had as much ale to drink as they liked, and right well they enjoyed themselves. This old custom has, I believe, now quite died out.