Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for Nun's Cake ...



The caraway seeds we find in so many of the old cake recipes were used for a reason .... 18th century cakes and biscuits were mostly eaten as accompaniments to wine between or after meals. 


Nun's Cake
 Caraway seeds were thought to be a digestive which prevented or relieved flatulence and insobriety.



The cake was popular in the 1700s, and through the Victorian era – recipes for it are included in many early cookbooks, including Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy” (1747) ...


Caraway Rose Nagpuria
... wherein she gives recipes for both “cheap feed-cake” and a “rich feed-cake, called the nun’s cake”...


Caraway seeds were a popular flavouring, as well as being used in other items, including soap, a treatment for “hysterics”, and as a bait for rat traps!


Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Pt II, V, iii ... confirms that caraways (little cakes) are much desired ...


“Nay, you shall see my orchard, where in an arbour, we will eat a last year’s pippin of my own grafting, with a dish of caraways.”   


We used to make caraway flavoured shortbread ... delicious!  One of my father’s favourites ...

Magnified version of the Caraway seed
(it is actually technically a fruit)

... the Nun’s Cake was not baked that often, however when it was – it would have been for a huge number of house party guests ... when it would have been stored for “cut-and-come-again” cake-digestif interludes ...


That is N for Nun’s Cake from Aspects of British Cookery

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

32 comments:

Ida Chiavaro said...

Caraway seeds are used in some breads in Denmark, there spice range is very limited and I have wondered how caraway made it here.

J.L. Murphey said...

I love caraway seeds in baking and cooking. The nun cakes are something I've made before or a variation of it.

Yes it does cut down the gas too, so your guest won't be asking, "Who cut the cheese?" later.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I love the flavour of Caraway but I did not know it was good for hysterics! Have a good day. Diane

Jo said...

We used to call them bird's toenails. They are often included in cheese but I cant remember which variety. I have carroway seeds in my herb cupboard, great for flavouring stews. Never heard of Nun's cake before though. Always so informative Hilary.

JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

Clarissa Draper said...

I may be wrong about this but when you finish eating at an Indian restaurant, at the door is a dish with a mixture of seeds and sweet candies. Isn't one of the ingredients Caraway?

Old Kitty said...

LOVE caraway cake but I never knew about Nun's cake!! Wonderful! take care
x

Bish Denham said...

I love caraway and Nun's Cake sound delicious. But alas, I cannot eat small seeds... :(

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I love caraway seed, so I know I love these. I can imagine their taste and smell.

Tracy Moore said...

Nun's cake sounds delicious. I love caraway and love rye bread with caraway seeds. Going to have to look this up and see if I can make it or something like it sometime.

Inger said...

I remember caraway seeds from when I was young, but you hardly ever see them now.

Julie Flanders said...

I don't know if I've ever eaten anything with caraway seeds. It seems most of the cakes and muffins here have poppy seeds instead.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't believe we've ever made anything using caraway seeds.

Tina said...

Caraway seeds are used in rye bread here...never thought of them as an accompaniment to something sweet, though. Fascinating as always!
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Shirley Wells said...

Oh, yum. Nun's cake sounds heavenly. I love caraway seeds.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ida - it sounds like rye breads .. I guess the caraway came across with the herbalists, who spread the word and the seeds ..

@ JL - caraway seeds give a wonderful flavour don't they .. and I'm sure seed cake is still made today .. but I did love the shortbreads ..

Does it cut down on flatulence - thanks for that confirmation ..

@ Diane - I'm not so sure it'd be good for hysterics now - but who knows!

@ Jo - that I can believe .. good name for them ... and yes you're right there is a cheese with caraway .. (cheese caraway!) ... I've never used it in stews .. Nun's cake fitted my N bill!

@ Clarissa - I have no idea .. but I'll try and find out - interesting thought though ..

@ Old Kitty - excellent = another lover of caraway

@ Bish - you too .. this is great that so many love caraway!

@ Lee - and you !! yes - that wafting smell is very definitely caraway ..

@ Tracy - and another lover of caraway in rye and cake ... I think it must be fairly easy .. but the shortbread I highly recommend!!

@ Inger - we have them in our spice shelves ... I guess you could get them online now ..

@ Julie - you would know if you'd had caraway - they are very distinctive .. and more delicious than poppy seed!

@ Alex - ah ah another to try caraway seed.. enjoy when you do.

@ Tina - they must be used in soused herrings - aren't they? If the kids enjoy the shortbread .. that'd be a good start ..

@ Shirley .. oh goodie another caraway lover .. perhaps a picnic addition for the football matches?!

Cheers everyone ..

Today has not been the easiest for everyone after the Boston explosions .. and very sad killings ...

With thoughts - Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

I had no idea that caraway seeds were used to treat so many different things. I guess it makes sense that problems with your digestive tract could lead to hysteria, so it's all related!

Julie

Janie Junebug said...

I like the flatulence relief idea, but I'm not saying why.

Love,
Janie

Suzanne Furness said...

Hysterics and rat traps - what diverse uses! Very interesting post, Hilary.

Nick Wilford said...

I'd never even heard of caraway seeds! They're very versatile, it seems.

Elise Fallson said...

I've never tried Nun's cake but it looks delicious. I need to look up what caraway seed translates to in French . . . (:

Manzanita said...

Caraway seeds are good in breads. I used to like to make bread with all kind of different seeds. No more, though. Nuns cake...I like the name.

Ciara said...

I'm not sure I've ever baked anything with Caraway seeds.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm so excited! I actually know NUN'S CAKE, and I love it! Big sigh of relief.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Thank you for this. Concise and yet informative. I'd totally forgotten about Nun's cake. You really took the cake with this one.

Happy alphabeting, Hilary.

Gary :)

Trisha F said...

Ha. A cake that prevents flatulence - noice! ;)

Chuck said...

I love bread with caraway seeds. You have given me other reasons to enjoy it now!

Thanks Hilary!

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Munir said...

I hope that I can find a recipe for this cake as I suffer from heart burn a lot because of my Asthma medicine. Also it sounds natural and tasty. Thanks for sharing:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - I too had no idea about the reasons for caraway .. but it does make sense - especially in those earlier corpulent days ..

@ Janie - oh do tell why you need the flatulence relief idea - must be for the old folk?!

@ Suzanne - the samplers and herbalists did have some wonderful ideas - some worked, some perhaps didn't!

@ Nick - they're probably a love or hate it spice in the kitchen .. so not knowing is understandable, I think!

@ Elise .. I couldn't see what caraway is in French .. I guess it's looking along the herb and spice shelves .. I hope you'll give the cake or shortbread a go ..

@ Manzanita - it's good to know you can recommend caraway in bread .. I've had seeded bread, but bread and I don't agree .. so I don't try different versions. Nun's cake is a good name isn't it.

@ Ciara - if you like them .. I'd recommend the shortbread .. and then see about a big cake for a party ..

@ Joylene - yeah! So pleased .. this isn't meant to be a guess what I'm posting about today A-Z ... just fun reminders and stories of some cookery thoughts ... and well I hadn't heard of Nun's cake!! but caraway I had ..

@ Gary - well I caught a few people with this cake .. but not the rats seemingly! Good to see you .. and thanks for popping by ..

@ Trisha - lovely to see you ..and it's a ?fun thought .. no flatulence!?!

@ Chuck - another caraway bread lover .. and yes cake or shortbread with the seeds in .. are rather good.

@ Munir - I'm sure there's a recipe on the net .. I'm not sure it helps heart burn .. but the digestif side of it might help .. good luck with finding some relief ..

Cheers to you all - thanks for commenting .. Hilary

Amanda Trought said...

Another one that I will have to try, will let you know how I get on.

Laura Eno said...

Hah! Oh dear. Bait for rat traps...

Lisa said...

Not a great fan of Caraway seeds, but love your history here!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amanda - if you like caraway seeds you'll enjoy this and I hope the family do too ..

@ Laura - I know bait for rats .. well they were inventive and tried everything .. dried seeds: why not!

@ Lisa - not everyone's flavour, I know. But Nun's cake fitted my N and that extra little bit of history ..

Thanks to you all .. cheers Hilary