Seedcake – The Hobbit

Hobbit Seedcake

I ate two slices before I could slow down and focus on adjectives, rather than just scarfing down the tasty, tasty morsels.

The brandy and spices are there, but not in a boozy, overwhelming way. In fact, I’d say it has only the good taste of brandy, without the kick. The cake itself is soft and dense, with only the slightest hint of crunch on the outside crust, and imparted by the seeds. Although it would be good with honey or jam, I found that the seedcake itself was good enough to enjoy plain, or with a smidge of butter alongside some afternoon tea.

Recipe for Seedcake

Like most of my recipes, I based this on a traditional recipe from an old cookbook. In this case, it’s #1776, taken from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. of butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  •  1 Tbs seeds (caraway is traditional, but I like poppy seeds)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 cups flour

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the spices and seeds, followed by the eggs and brandy, beating to combine. Gradually add the flour, stirring until everything is mixed together completely. Pour this thick batter into a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it at 350F for 1 hour. 

8 thoughts on “Seedcake – The Hobbit

  1. I never liked Seedcake because of the caraway – so the suggestion of poppy seeds is a real eye-opener! This way it sounds delicious! I’ll definitely try this! And then maybe a version with aniseed?

  2. I’m a little confused about the directions. It seems like two sets of the same? You have it so that creaming the butter happens twice, and the flour is dredged in as well as gradually beaten in at the end. (I’m a toasted sesame seed or sunflower seed person, myself, but I wonder if the latter would be too heavy.) Thanks for posting. I have been thinking about seed cake and what that would be like since I first read The Hobbit in 1978.

    • Aha, you’ve found one of my glitch posts. :) My method for the historical posts is to copy the original instructions, then rewrite them to be more clear and straightforward. In this case, I had only gotten partway through the second half of rewriting. Should be all fixed now. Enjoy!

      • Oh, I see! Thanks so much! We’re having a snow day today–for my 17 yr old homeschooler, that means heavy sighs with business as usual–and this will be a nice reward for doing her work while all her schooled friends have the day off.

        • Four thumbs way, way up! We couldn’t wait for it to get all the way cool, so we ate a slice warm with butter. (I had to make some substitutions, because I didn’t have brandy or mace, but it’s really good with lemon extract in a little whiskey and allspice with a little ginger.) Trying to have some self-control so there will be some left over for afters tonight.

  3. Goodness! I guess you can’t get much more authentic than Mrs Beeton, who would have been the authority in Tolkien’s childhood, but I’ve never heard of doing it with alcohol. Live and learn, eh? :-) I still think I’ll stick to the recipe I have and yes, caraway seeds are yummy in seed cake, something I wouldn’t have expected to find in a sweet recipe. The recipe I have is from an article called “The Pleasures Of The Hobbit Table” published some time in the 196s, I believe, and copied for me by a friend. It features recipes for everything mentioned in “An Unexpected Party”. The seed cake recipe is delicious.

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