When the weather is cold and snowy here in Chicago, I think about baking. The kitchen warms and the smell of fresh baked cakes fills the house. Today I'm making English Tea Cakes. I have a little cookbook filled with recipes of favorite old tea cakes. Many of us in the USA may never have heard of these if it hadn't been for some of those Miss Marple episodes produced for the BBC. I'm thinking almond cakes or seed cakes, for example.
Seed cake (shown below) is a traditional British cake, which some say comes from Ireland or Wales originally. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales mentions the seed cake as round and resembling a shield. Early seed cake recipes do not include sugar. In fact they are very different from the modern seed cake. A recipe from the late 16th century uses yeast to raise the cake. It recommends the use of about a tablespoon worth of either anise or caraway seeds. I use caraway seeds in my recipe and of course I also use some sugar, but not too much. These cakes shouldn't be too sweet. Caraway provides a unique flavor we don't often enjoy, but should. These go perfectly with a nice cup of hot tea.