While researching for old Christmas cake recipes for an article, I came across lots of mentions of a Caraway Seed Cake that no-one seems to make anymore…
So I asked around, and it turns out those who remember it from their childhood never used to like it because of the caraway seeds. One person told me they used to fastidiously pluck out every single seed before they would eat it.
Now, to some this kinda feedback might dissuade you from the desire to taste such a thing. But if you’re me, and I am, then this simply yells *challenge* – after all, how bad could it be?
I happen to love the flavour of caraway seeds which puts me at an obvious advantage to those who don’t. I’m sure when this cake was the height of popularity in Cork, it was considered sophisticated for its use of such spices. Cork being a major trading hub for all kinds of foods coming into Ireland from near and far thanks to the international butter trade, to be so extravagant as to put such exoticisms into a tea cake is a display of Total Notions for which you only truly get away with at Christmas time!
Caraway seeds are used a lot in German cookery. It is often mixed with sauerkraut and used as a topping on a bratwurst along with hot mustard. It is also combined with apples for a very traditional Bavarian accompaniment to roast Goose. It is also used to flavour breads, biscuits and cookies, so it is versatile for use in both sweet and savoury dishes. I love it!
But to pull the Irish Caraway Seed Cake out of purgatory and turn it into something altogether more indulgent, I took inspiration from apples to really elevate this tea cake into something much more indulgent and festive!
And here’s how you do it…
- 180g soft unsalted butter
- 150g white caster sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- 225g all purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tbsp whole caraway seeds, toasted
- 4 tsbp / 50ml of apple liqueur (I used Kilahora Orchards Pomm’O)
- 150g fresh apple puree
- Royal icing sugar and either a dash more apple brandy or apple juice
- Chocolate covered apple sticks to decorate (I like Lismore Food Co)
To make the apple puree, peel, core and quarter 4 – 6 apples in a saucepan with a dash of water. Cover and cook until broken down into pulp. Spoon out into a bowl, set aside and allow to cool. Any puree you don’t use for the cake will be lovely used for breakfast in porridge or with yogurt.
- Set the oven temperature to 170 degrees Celsius, fan.
- In a dry frying pan over a medium high heat, toast the caraway seeds lightly then place into a small bowl to cool.
- Grease a cake tin, either a 20cm circular spring form or a 1lb loaf tin.
- Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl, and beat together until light and fluffy. Using an electric whisk of some kind makes this even easier!
- Add the eggs one by one and whisk each one in until fully combined.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into the same bowl. Add half the amount of caraway seeds and fold the mixture together.
- Then add the apple liqueur and the apple puree. Beat together to form a light batter.
- Pour into the cake/loaf tin, and bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking at 50 minutes. Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
- Take out the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Mix up some royal icing with either the apple liqueur or apple juice to a consistency you like. I like mine not too thick, more like a frosting. Pour over and let drizzle down the sides of the cake a little.
- Garnish the cake with the remaining caraway seeds and chocolate dipped apple sticks.
Cut a generous slice, and, leaving all the seeds in situ, devour with a freshly brewed pot of tea, or even a snifter of apple brandy. Enjoy…