Bilbo’s Seed Cakes – Perfect for a Hobbit Tea

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Time for a hobbit tea! Seed Cakes are a tasty pound cake filled with caraway seeds. Their distinct flavor makes them delicious as well as memorable.

cheese cake and fruit on a plate with tea cup

Are you looking for something unusual to feature on your tea or dessert table this season? Hungry for something fun as well as fancy? 

Seed cakes are for you!

Bilbo’s Seed Cakes

Seed cakes figure prominently in the Unexpected Party that Bilbo hosts for the band of dwarves that come knocking at his door.

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.

So years ago when the Hobbit films were released, I recreated Bilbo’s Seed Cakes at home. This recipe has become one of my children’s very favorites EVER. Seriously. Their eyes light up whenever anyone mentions the words, seed cakes.

tables set with cakes cheese fruit nuts and tea

What are seed cakes?

Good question! I did a fair amount of research about the cakes and was surprised to find out that the seed involved was caraway! I 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. 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.

seed cake cut in slices on tea table

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.

How do you serve seed cakes?

In the story, Bilbo isn’t really expecting company. In fact, “he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.”

So, clearly seed cakes go with beer. 😉

Our family enjoys these cakes as a dessert (aka after-supper morsel) or snack, with fruit, nuts, and cheese. They are also delicious as part of a larger dessert tray.

step by step photos of making seed cakes

How do you make seed cakes?

Seed cakes are very much a pound cake with the addition of spices and caraway seeds. To prepare them, 

  1. Soften the butter and allow the eggs to come to room temperature.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream it together with the butter.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between blending.
  4. In a second bowl, combine the flour, spices, and caraway seeds.
  5. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
  6. Add the brandy and stir.
  7. Stir in the last of the flour mixture and gently combine.
  8. Grease four 4.5-inch mini springform pans.
  9. Divide the batter evenly among the pans. Sprinkle demerara sugar over the tops.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes on wire racks before removing them from the pans.
  11. Cakes may be frozen. Cool them completely, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in a ziptop bag. Store in the freezer until a few hours before serving. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.

cakes cooling on rack

How can I make this recipe economically?

This recipe isn’t expensive to make, even from scratch. However, there are things that you can do to make your sweet treat even better.

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When you see a good price on butter and sugar, buy a few extra to stash for later. You know you’ll use them. Stocking up can save you money.
  • Stock up on groceries during post-holiday clearance sales. The clearance aisle is a great place to snatch up baking ingredients. You may even find brandy at lower prices at the holidays.
  • Buy spices and seeds in bulk. If you don’t use caraway very often, you may not want to invest in a full bottle. My kids would disagree! Until you know how much you love caraway seeds, head to the health food store where you can buy just what you need in bulk.

How I make this recipe easily:

This cupcakes recipe really couldn’t be easier than it is, but having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs.

Here are the tools that I use for this recipe:

plate of treats with tea on laden tea table

If you prepare this recipe, be sure to take a picture and hashtag it #GOODCHEAPEATS. I can't wait to see what you cook up!
0 from 0 votes
tables set with cakes cheese fruit nuts and tea
Bilbo's Seed Cakes
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 
Featured prominently in Tolkein's The Hobbit, Seed Cakes are a tasty pound cake filled with caraway seeds. Their distinct flavor makes them delicious as well as memorable.
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, English
Keyword: caraway cake, pound cake, seed cake
Servings: 16
Calories: 132 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 4 teaspoons demerara sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Grease four 4 1/2-inch springform pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl in between additions.
  4. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, caraway seeds, and spices.
  5. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring well.
  6. Add the brandy and combine.
  7. Add the remaining flour mixture, being sure not to overmix.
  8. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon demerara sugar over the top of each cake.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
Recipe Notes

For freezing: Wrap cooled cakes in plastic wrap and place in a ziptop freezer bag. Freeze. To serve, thaw cakes, wrapped, at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts
Bilbo's Seed Cakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 132 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Cholesterol 31mg10%
Sodium 13mg1%
Potassium 33mg1%
Carbohydrates 26g9%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 45IU1%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 10mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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Comments

  1. Heidi says

    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!

    • Jessica says

      @Heidi, Yes, it should. Just check for doneness and add time if you need to.

    • Carol the Dabbler says

      The four 4-1/2 inch pans called for by this recipe have exactly the same footprint area (64 square inches) as one 9 inch pan. How convenient!

  2. Sue R says

    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. Stacy says

    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.

    • Jessica says

      @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!

    • Jessica says

      @Angela, we did! Right after Christmas. Loved it. I thought it was slow going, though, and my men thought it was all action. Weird.

  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!

    • Jessica says

      @Deesselisa, so fun! Thanks for sharing your experience. Love the feedback on the muffin size, too.

  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. Lisa says

    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?

    • You could use milk so that it’s not too dry.

    • Carol the Dabbler says

      Or fruit juice, since that’s what brandy is made from.

      Jessica, thanks so much for the “translated” recipe! I’m planning to make this for Bilbo’s birthday on Monday (along with a nice potful of mushroom stew).

  10. Liz Mccue says

    I just began reading The Hobbit – I know I’m a little late to the party – and at the mention of Bilbo’s seedcakes I was immediately intrigued. I am laughing now because I see I am not alone in this! Could you please help me out here? I am not sure what the volume wine glass is in ounces or liters.
    Thanks for the recipe. I will be trying it.

    • Scroll down. I translated the vintage proportions into normal measures. My son makes these all the time. 😉

  11. CookingLikeClockwork says

    I just love these! The sweet and savory is just right. Might I also note that fennel seeds can also be used. I like to bake mine as cupcakes so they’re nicely portioned for afternoon tea.

  12. Robbie Hobbs says

    I never have Brandy on hand so I use apple juice.
    Also I make it in a regular cake pan.
    I’ve been making this recipe for years and just made it again for Bilbo Baggins’ Birthday tomorrow!
    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, I’ve made it many times and never commented. My husband loves it!

  13. A Roz says

    I made this today and it didn’t rise at all. Should there be any baking powder in the recipe? Thanks!

  14. Mary says

    I made some changes in the recipe. Changed the flour to 1/2 whole wheat with about a tablespoon of buckwheat flour– a little buckwheat goes a long way and I love the taste of it. I did use caraway, but also poppy seeds and about 1/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds, and a 1/4 cup of homemade candied orange rind that I had in my freezer. I left out the cinnamon, replacing with mace, cloves, and cardamom. I changed the sugar to 1/2 brown sugar, and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla. It is a bit more rustic and hearty, but DANG, it is GOOD. Fairly certain that Bilbo would have approved.

  15. Jean McKern says

    How many 4 1/2″ springform pans does this seed cake recipe fill? I need to be prepared. Is there some reason to not make it in a larger spring form pan?

    • You can make it in a larger pan, just check to adjust for the cooking time. We use four of the smaller pans because they’re cuter for tea. 😉

  16. Rick says

    I’ve always wondered about the Hobbit seed cakes and was really excited to find this! I wanted to make them but not serve them for 1-2 days. What would be the best way to keep them for that time, and do you think this is a good idea, or are they really best served right away? Thanks!

    • I would cool them completely on wire racks and then wrap securely in plastic wrap and place in ziptop freezer bags. Store them in the freezer if making more than 1 day in advance, lest they dry out. They’ll thaw in a few hours, wrapped, on the counter.

      • Rick says

        Thanks a lot! I made them and froze as you suggested and they came out great! Everyone at our party was a huge fan. The caraway seeds really provide a unique flavor in a cake like this and we all thought it really worked.

  17. Shannon Kobayashi says

    Making this in advance for Bilbos birthday, Sept 22, this was one of the two recipes my 13 year old demanded i make, the other being Beorns honey cakes. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe and everybody else, thanks for the recipe adaptations!

    • This is one of my kids’ favorites! We need to retake photos soon, though. Have fun!

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