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Rich Seed Cake recipe w/ sourdough discard

When I first wrote the prologue scene between Laura and Sol in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer, I threw in that bit about Sol’s favorite seed cakes just on a whim. I had looked up different pastries in an old 1800 cookbook and chose those at random.

However, I got a lot of mileage out of those seed cakes. Sol mentioned his fondness for seed cakes in The Gentleman Thief, and the seed cakes showed up again for a team meeting in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 3: Aggressor.

I found a Regency-era recipe for Pound Seed Cakes, which I thought were exactly like the cakes that Laura’s cook makes for the team meeting in book 3 of my series. But I also wanted to find a recipe that was unusual enough that my character Sol would consider it his favorite, and so I tried the Rich Seed Cake recipe from the same book.

The recipe is on page 114 of a book published in 1800, The Complete Confectioner; or, Housekeeper’s Guide by Mrs. H. Glass and Maria Wilson. If you click on the link, you can download a .pdf scan of the original antique book.

Because of my IBS, I decided to see if I could make the seed cakes with sourdough, but I also included instructions so that you can make it with regular flour.

Here’s the original recipe from the book:

To make a rich Seed Cake.
Take five pounds of fine flour well dried, and four pounds of single-refined sugar beat and sifted ; mix these together, and sift them through an hair sieve; then wash four pounds of butter in eight spoonfuls of rose or orange-flour water, and work the butter with your hands till it is like cream; beat twenty yolks and ten whites of eggs, and put them to six spoonfuls of sack; put in the flour, a little at a time, and keep stirring it with your hand all the time; you must not begin mixing it till the oven is almost hot, and after it is mixed let it stand some time before you put it into the hoop; when you are ready to put it into the oven, put to it eight ounces of candied orange peel sliced, with as much citron, and a pound and a half of carraway comfits; mix them well and put it into the hoop. It must be a quick oven, and two or three hours will be sufficient to bake the cake; after which you may ice it if you please.

I did some internet research into what “sack” is, and it sounds like sack wine was from around the 1500s, referring to fortified wine from mostly Spain and the Canary Islands. The closest thing today is sherry, so that’s what I used.

Citron is probably lemon peel. When I chopped up both candied orange and candied lemon peel in the recipe below, it came out to only about 1/3 cup.
Since this was an experiment, I didn’t want to waste pounds of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs, so I divided the recipe to a tenth the original amounts.

In order to accommodate my IBS, I adjusted the recipe to use sourdough discard so that the bacteria has already broken down the wheat fructans, but the original recipe is also below so that you can use regular flour if you’d like.

Since I wanted to make tea cakes (to go with tea), I baked the seed cakes in my cast iron mini cake/biscuit pan. I liked the wide flat shape better, but you can try this in muffin tins instead.
You can also bake this in a loaf pan like a regular pound cake. It will make a small-ish loaf of pound cake. I would suggest increasing the baking time to one hour, but check it for doneness at around 45 minutes or so.

The original recipe sounds like it was baked as a flat, round cake, but you could also bake this in a square pan for 30 minutes, checking for doneness around 25 minutes or so.
The tea cakes turned out very moist and with a complex flavor from the sherry, flower water, and candied lemon and orange peels. If I’d used caraway seeds instead of poppy seeds, it would have probably been even more exotic.

I liked these Rich Seed Cakes quite a bit, but my husband said he preferred the simpler Pound Seed Cakes instead. I suppose it all boils down to personal preference. My husband doesn’t like candied fruit while I like them a lot, so that also might have been a factor.

Here’s my recipe. While I made it with sourdough, I have instructions below so you can try it as it’s written in the original recipe.

Rich Seed Cakes

Create a levain by mixing 294 grams of 100% hydration sourdough discard with 80 grams flour. (Because of my IBS, I either let it ferment 24 hours, or use buckwheat flour or oat flour (no need for additional ferment).)
Alternate: If you don’t want to use sourdough, just use 227 grams of flour in place of the levain. However, be warned that I have not tried this recipe with only flour (since I can’t eat it because of my IBS). Also, (according to some articles on the web) it’s the sourdough that weakens the gluten and makes the cakes tender, so omitting it will change the texture of the cake.
181 grams (14.5 tablespoons) of sugar
181 grams (13 tablespoons) butter
2.5 teaspoons rose or orange flower water (I preferred the flavor of orange flower water.)
1 whole egg
1 yolk
2 teaspoons sherry
23 grams each candied orange and lemon peel, chopped, total is a little less than 1/3 cup
68 grams caraway seeds (or the seeds/nuts of your choice) (That seemed like a lot of seeds, so instead I used 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 12 g.)


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Using a stand mixer with paddle accessory or hand mixer, cream the butter with rose or orange-flower water, then add sugar and beat to add air.

3. Whisk eggs with sherry, then add 1 tsp at a time to the sugar and butter while mixing.

4. Add levain or flour a little at at time, then add candied peels and seeds until mixed.

5. Pour into pan. If using the biscuit pan, pour about 1/3 cup batter per well, and you’ll need to do two trays.

6. Bake each pan at 350°F for 20 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

You can read about these seed cakes in my Christian Regency Romantic Suspense series, Lady Wynwood’s Spies. Book 1 in the series is only 99 cents on Kindle!


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