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Scotch Seed Cake

Our recipe this time uses caraway seeds along with a mix of spices. While many people may experience the very strong anise-like taste and scent in breads and cheeses, the caraway flavor in this cake is more mellowed without being overpowering.

For a little more information about caraway, check out these articles on NPR, Spruce Eats, and Masterclass.

Here is the original recipe from
Foreign Desserts for English Tables, 1862
Page 120

Scotch Seed Cake

Beat to a high froth the yolks of six and the whites
of four eggs ; add loaf-sugar in powder four ounces,
and butter worked to a cream four ounces, a teaspoonful
of mixed spice, and another of caraway-seeds, four
ounces of sweet almonds beaten to a paste, with the
addition of a little laurel water to prevent them turning
oily; half a pound of candied orange-peel not cut
too small, twenty ounces of flour, and enough brandy
to make it of the proper consistency. Mix well, and
bake for one hour in rather a brisk oven.

Making the recipe 1800s style

Loaf sugar – a solid bullet shaped block of refined sugar. 19th century bakers used sugar nips, like pincers, to break off pieces of sugar from the loaf, then used tools like a mortar and pestle to granulate or powder the sugar.

Mixed spice – a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and often other spices. This is available commercially pre-mixed, or can easily be made at home. Some combinations can be found at: BBC Good Food, Savor the Flavour, and Ackee Adventures.

Laurel water – a poisonous distillation of cherry laurel leaves, when, when crushed, have an almond scent. Read here for more historical information. See below for substitutions.

Candied Peel - the sliced peels of citrus fruits simmered in a simple sugar syrup. This can be purchased, or made at home. See recipes from King Arthur Baking, Jamie Oliver, and From the Larder.

Eggs – The size and weight of an egg could vary greatly in the 1800s. There was no grading system as we have today. Bakers often had to make do with whatever the chicken produced, or what could be suitably found at the market. There are references that there should be approximately 7 – 9 eggs per pound. This would be about 2 ounces per egg, or what would be considered a large egg in the US today.

Reformatting the recipe:

4 ounces sweet almonds, ground to a paste, or almond paste
A few drops of rose water
4 egg whites, beaten to foam
4 ounces butter
4 ounces sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
8 ounces candied orange peel
20 ounces flour, sifted
Brandy, as needed

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes


1. Grind the almonds in a food processor, adding a few drops of rose water as needed, instead of laurel water. (This is readily available to buy, or make at home. See this recipe from This Healthy Table.)
2. Whip the egg whites to a stiff foam
3. Separately, cream the butter and sugar
4. Add egg yolks, one at a time
5. Add spices, seeds, almonds, and peel
    a) We often run the peel through a chopper or food processor to have smaller pieces
6. Add the flour in three or four batches, along with any necessary brandy to keep the batter from being too dry or thick
7. Fold in whipped egg whites
8. Pour into a greased tube pan
9. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes
10. As always, make adjustments for time and temperature based on your own oven and cake pan

This is a rather dense cake, having no leavening agent aside from beaten egg whites, but this doesn't distract from the texture and taste. With the spices and caraway seeds, this cake has a good flavor without being too sweet.

For serving, this darker cake presents well on a silver platter or larger white plate.

Updates and Substitutions

1. Instead of laurel water, we used rose or orange water.
2. For a less dense cake, consider adding baking powder or baking soda.
3. To replace the brandy, substitute a bit of milk, cream, or sour cream.

Published on 5 June 2022

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