Bilbo’s Seed Cakes

Bake an authentic seed cake and read The Hobbit.

Of all literature, JRR Tolkein’s Middle Earth tales, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, top the list for enrapturing my entire family. From my little girls to my older-than-me husband, we Fishers all love the hobbit folk and their funny ways.

Sometime this month, we’re going to head to the movie theatre to watch the first installment of The Hobbit. But, before we do, we’re testing out a number of hobbit-like recipes.

A few weeks ago, I posted my beloved SamWich. Over on the Mushroom Channel this week, I shared a breakfast to tempt any of the Shirefolk. Today, I present authentic seed cakes, worthy of any dwarf.

Seed cakes figure prominently in the Unexpected Party that Bilbo hosts for the band of dwarves that come knocking at his door. I did a fair amount of research about the cake before I made one. I was surprised to find out that the seed involved was caraway! Nowadays we associate the caraway seed with rye bread, but in olden days it was standard in a cake, much like a pound cake.

I took a seed cake recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861, and updated it for modern times. The result was quite interesting. Here’s the original recipe:

A VERY GOOD SEED-CAKE.1776. INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb. of sifted sugar, pounded mace and grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb. of flour, 3/4 oz. of caraway seeds, 1 wineglassful of brandy.

Mode.—Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, stir to them the brandy, and beat the cake again for 10 minutes. Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it from 1–1/2 to 2 hours. This cake would be equally nice made with currants, and omitting the caraway seeds.

Time.—1–1/2 to 2 hours.

Average cost, 2s. 6d.

Seasonable at any time.

My kids love rye bread with caraway seed, so it was hard to get over that savory association. You can certainly make the cake without caraway or substitute poppy seeds, something we might try next time. Or as Mrs. Beeton suggests, use raisins instead of seeds.

But this is a more authentic “seed cake,” similar (I hope) to what the dwarves might have been expecting as they sat in Bilbo’s parlor.

What’s your favorite food in The Hobbit?

This post does include Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees.

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Comments

  1. do you think this would work in a big springform pan? I love this idea, but don’t have individual pans. My son would get a kick out of this, they are reading that book this year in school and took a field trip to see the movie. and I’ve got everything on hand to make these tonight!

  2. We will try these as soon as the heating element arrives for my oven. BTW we saw “The Hobbit” last Friday at the theatre and loved it! Merry Christmas!

  3. Was it good? You said it was interesting. I’ve heard of seed cakes and I recall you posting about it a week or two ago, but I’ve only ever had a poppyseed cake.

    • @Stacy, if you eat a lot of seeded rye bread, there is an odd flavor expectation. But, it’s not bad. I’d say it’s good. Especially with tea.

  4. So have you seen The Hobbit yet??? We saw it and all my guys loved it!

  5. Deesselisa says:

    Been wanting to try these since you first posted, but we live in a dry county, so it took me a while to get ahold of the brandy. These were so good. We used mace and nutmeg as in the original recipe but followed yours the rest of the way, sprinkling with cinnamon sugar at the end. I think the mace was fantastic, you should try that way too. Also, we used a muffin pan and cooked for 25 minutes. My kids didn’t mind the taste of the seeds, they just didn’t like them in their teeth, so next time I’m going to try the currants for them. But the kids enjoyed the experience as I served them on the china bread plates with mulled cider in the tea cups and saucers for breakfast. Thank you so much for the recipe and fun!

  6. I used your wonderful recipe at my 4 year old daughter’s Hobbit party a couple weeks ago, and just started blogging about it today (including a link to this post). Thank you so much–everyone loved it! Post with the link: http://tikkido.com/node/826

  7. I made Bilbo’s Seed Cakes tonight in preparation of his birthday party tomorrow, and they are magnificent! Thag you very buch for this wonderful recipe!

  8. Sean Showalter says:

    So, I am currently reading The Hobbit and was curious as to what seed cakes are. I wanted to try one! After doing a google search, I found this page from a seed cake image! How cool! I will have to make these and share with some friends. Thanks!

  9. Sherry 717 says:

    If you don’t want to use alcohol, what would you suggest as an alternative?

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