Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them: Unexpected Caraway Seed Cake

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake–seed-cake if you have any.” 

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and 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. — The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

Hello this is Fenrir here with yet another exciting addition to Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them. As many of you may (or may  not know, and that’s okay) I’m an Anglophile and Tolkein-fan and am doubly excited for the new Hobbit trilogy that will hit theaters this December. (And conveniently on my birthday, too!) For those of you who have not read The Hobbit–for shame, for shame–or even had a peek at the Rankin Bass animated version, there are many delightful scenes of food, drinking, and general revelry that seem to be the hallmark of any good fantasy series. And of the many mentions of food (Since our hero Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit and food is one of his top priorities), none are quite as delightful or whimsical as the botched tea-time escapade that happens in the chapter, “An Unexpected Party”.

So without further preamble, let’s dive into this tea-party and the tasty treats hidden within~

According to the annotated version of The Hobbit a seed-cake is simply: a sweetened cake with caraway seeds. Nothing terribly magical or mystical about it, it’s a no-nonsense slightly sweet tea-cake that makes an excellent shovel for good butter and jam and pairs well with strong black tea.  It’s a traditional British favorite and were once prepared to mark the ending of the sowing of spring wheat; it reigned as a popular flavor from the 1700s through the Victorian Era although it seems to have declined in popularity in recent years…

The mysterious caraway seed!

Perhaps it’s the taste of caraway seeds which is… well. Very medicinal, in a way, it adds a bit of crunch (That may stick in your teeth watch out), and overall has a spicy sort of earthy-herby aftertaste that reminded me mostly of the incense and other “weird” Asian remedies that run the walls of my local Filipino store. And, as one recipe in my research on this particular cake warns: Less caraway seeds is more.

The recipe itself reminds me of a typical pound cake (Although you get a crispier, hardier pastry than a soft pound cake), so there is a bit of sweetness that is accentuated when you bite into a caraway seed. All in all, it’s novel for first-time caraway seed tasters, and overall a very enjoyable cake. I can see why the dwarves ate poor Bilbo out of house and home with these lovely cakes on top of the other foodstuffs set out for the feast.

Anyhow — if you’re in the mood for an unusual tea-time treat to pair up with a black tea then this cake is just for you!

Annnd to get started you will need:

The cast of characters; a lot of these guys are pantry staples save for the caraway seeds so making this cake is easier than a dragon’s riddle

  • 1 tablespoon of butter softened (For buttering the pan)
  • 1/2 cup of butter, that’s one stick, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt to taste; I used half a teaspoon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • one egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk
*Note: Forgive me for not taking too many pictures of the process; I was a little preoccupied while baking but I hope the finished product is enough to convince you all to give it a try!
Okay first you need to preheat the oven to 350 degrees and let it sit and get nice and hot.
Then butter your baking pan and then dust it with flour. Essentially you butter up the sides of the pan then throw in a spoon-full of flour and tilt the pan this way and that to coat the butter with the flour; it’ll help remove the cake easily from the pan. Then set aside.
Next sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl – and set aside for now.

Now take your butter and your sugar and, with an electric beater or a strong kendo-arm, cream the butter and sugar together so that they are incorporated well. They’ll make a sort of fluffy but pasty, sugary mix. For further instruction, check out this slideshow.

Next add the egg and the caraway seeds and stir to combine.

And now, take your milk, and your flour-salt-baking-powder mixture and add it to the liquid ingredients. Stir well, and if it’s a little “dry” you can add more milk as necessary.

To kind of make sure that the mixture wasn’t too dry, I added the flour and the milk in thirds; so I’d pour in one third of flour, one third of milk, and stir to combine, then another third of flour and milk, to control how dry or wet it was.

Once everything is mixed together, pour it into your pan and then plop into the oven for forty five minutes!

And then through some strange alchemy you end up with this beauty:

To serve, take out of the oven, let it rest for about, ten minutes, then — and while it’s still a little hot — cut into wedges and serve with butter and a little jam alongside tea.

Hardy seed-cake and a cup of tea — nothing more complicated than that!

Pure heaven, seriously, and a cinch to make; I had a nice wedge of hot, buttered seed-cake along with a cup of English breakfast to wash it all down while I sobbed over my Contemporary British Literature homework. All in all? It was a good night, and I even got to channel a little of Bilbo’s dismay as my family descended upon the cake and well… There’s nothing left at the moment.

Anyhow, tune in next time as we continue to explore the delectable foods found in The Hobbit and other fantastic feasts!

 

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Fenrir

A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

Latest posts by Fenrir (see all)

Fenrir

A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

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