I wrote a post on Caraway Seed Cake in March 2018 and in doing so found that although caraway is such a popular herb/spice in Poland and used in breads, meat & vegetable dishes, it is quite surprising that it is not used in cakes.
I looked in all my recipe books and did not find any use of caraway in Polish cakes.
Caraway seed cake seem to be a quintessential British cake and recently whilst doing some research into Victorian cooking in the north of England I came across this delicious version.
As I live a short walk away from a house that Charlotte Brontë used to visit, I was very interested to find that seed cake is mentioned in her novel Jane Eyre (1847)
“And then Miss Temple invited Jane and her new friend Helen into her parlour for tea and I began to warm up. The kindly teacher unwrapped before their eager eyes a parcel containing ‘a good-sized seed-cake’.
‘I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,’ said she, ‘but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,’ and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.
We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.”
This recipe has been adapted from –
Mrs Somerville’s Cookery and Domestic Economy, published in 1862 and found in – The Victorian Kitchen by Jennifer Davies BBC 1989 TV Series.
The original recipe used 10 eggs! – here the ingredients have been adjusted to 5 eggs.
How large the bowl must have been & how hard the whisking of the whites without an electric whisk.
225g caster sugar
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of cornflour
2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
50g ground almonds
5 eggs separated
Pre-heat the oven to GM4 180°C.
Use a loose bottomed cake tin – 24cm in diameter.
Grease the tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, cornflour, ground almonds & caraway seeds.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the yolks, one at a time creaming the mixture on each addition.
Fold the flour mixture into the creamed mixture.
Whisk the egg whites till firm and stiff.
Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth over the top.
Bake for 60 minutes, check after 50 minutes and cover with grease-proof paper if necessary – to prevent burning.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Caraway Seeds are thought to aid digestion – so this is a good cake to have at the end of a meal.
Royal Albert – Primulette tea set from the 1950s.
Lead Crystal cake stand – Tortenplatte – Venus by Nachtmann(Germany).
I would describe this cake as a “Pseudo-piernik” as granulated sugar rather than honey is used.
My Polish friend in Leeds gave me this recipe and she got it from another Polish lady. The written copy could be described as being in “Ponglish” being written partly in English with additional notes in Polish!
The original recipe used cups which except for liquids I find hard to work with and much prefer weights.
I tried out a few alterations & variations until I reached this final version which I feel is the easiest way to get consistent results.
I made it is two different tins: the longer tin gave a thinner cake which was better for cutting in two and adding a filling, the shorter tin gave a thicker cake which was better with just a topping.
225g granulated sugar
250ml sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Zest of 1 large orange
225g coarse grated carrots
225g plain flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of mixed spice (I use Marks & Spencer’s) or cinnamon
Grease and line a 32cm x 22cm or a 27cm x 21cm tin.
Pre-heat oven to GM5 – 190°C
Mix well together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla essence & orange rind (I use an electric whisk).
Mix together the flour, baking powder, spices & salt and lightly mix this into the whisked mixture.
Mix in the grated carrots.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Depending on the tin size, bake for 25 – 35 minutes but keep an eye on it and cover with foil or greaseproof if it starts to burn.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Finishing – several ways
Dust with icing sugar
Drizzle with a melted chocolate & butter mixture
Cut into two and sandwich together with powidła – Polish plumjam* or sour cherry jam– then dust with icing and drizzle with chocolate & butter topping
Top with orange butter icing
*Powidła is a lovely spread – often translated as jam but is not really a jam.
It is made from fresh ripe plums which are heated and stirred for hours until the water is driven off and you get a thick paste. The traditional version does not have any extra sugar added.
I bought some in my local Polish shop, I have seen it for sale in glass jars or in plastic tubs.
50g of plain chocolate
1 tablespoon of butter
Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it.
Heat the water in the pan and stir the mixture to combine it together.
Use a spoon to drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake.
Orange Butter Icing
50g of butter
2 tablespoon of orange juice
Grated rind of 1/2 a large orange
Around 250g of icing sugar
Melt the butter with the juice and rind in a small saucepan.
Leave to cool slightly.
Mix in the icing sugar to get a thick spreadable icing.
Royal Albert – Primulette – tea set – from the 1950s
Green teapot – Café Culture by Maxwell Williams
Add 100g of sultanas to the mixture.
I have posted a previous carrot recipe which I have used to make small buns.
The ingredients are similar but in different proportions – soft dark brown sugar is used which is not usually available in Poland.
Mushroom gathering in Poland is a National pastime and has been in the past, a source of food and income for many.
Mushrooms can be dried, pickled, salted and marinated.
On those damp misty days in autumn when in England people would think – what a dull day, a Pole would wake up and think – Great, a good day for gathering mushrooms!
Most Poles think the best dried mushrooms are Boletus edulis, in Poland they are called borowik, prawdzik or prawdziwek(translates as – the real thing!), in Italy porcini and I try and use these whenever I can.
Packets of dried mushroom in England tend to be 25g or 30g and can be of mixed types.
My father knew all about mushrooms but never really passed the knowledge on to me – mainly because of the limited availbility of transport to suitable woods around where we lived in Lancashire.
On my first visit to Poland I did go to Białowieża forest and went with a guide and collected lots of mushrooms including chanterelles which in Poland are called kurki.
Nowadays, the common field mushroom – Agaricus bisporus – is produced on a huge scale and makes up a large part of commercial mushroom production with Poland being the 3rd biggest producer in Europe, following Italy and The Netherlands.
Mushroom soup in olden days was nearly always made with just dried mushrooms.
I make my soup with both dried and fresh mushrooms.
As with all soups the quantities do not have to be exact.
I came across this recipe in the book my Polish friend, who lives in Leeds, bought for me in Poland this summer.
I thought it sounded interesting and I have adapted it slightly.
Piernik is a honey spice cake which has its origins in the 12th Century.
The spices used will have originaly been brought back by the Crusadors. I make up a mixture of equal parts of cinnamon, cloves and cardamon.
Piernik in Poland is associated with the Christmas season and would be made for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day, it would also be made for Święty Mikołaj – December 6th – St Nicholas Day. This a day for present giving in Poland to children and I would always get a piernik shaped and decorated to look like the bishop that was St Nicholas.
As it is Święty Mikołaj next week on December 6th – St Nicholas Day – I thought this was a good day to post this recipe.
The addition of chocolate to coat the piernik is more recent. Chocolate made by Wedel in Poland started in 1851.
Here the chocolate is grated or chopped finely and added to the cake mixture.
The result is delicious and I will certainly be adding this to my Wigilia (Christmas Eve) menu.
I found grating the chocolate hard work – it was easier for me to chop this amount into very small pieces, using a cleaver type knife.
250ml runny honey
230g granulated sugar
2 large eggs (or 3 medium)
1.5 teaspoons of piernik spices (cinnamon: cloves: cardamon in equal amounts so a half teaspoon of each).
350g plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
100g dark chocolate – grated or finely chopped
100g chopped mixed peel
Icing Sugar to serve
Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160°C
Grease and line a 32cm x 22cm shallow Mermaid tin (use one sheet for the two long sides and the base).
Put the honey, eggs, sugar and the spices into a large bowl and whisk well together.
In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder, chopped/grated chocolate and the mixed peel.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the honey mixture and then mix it all together.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for around 1 hour 10 minutes, check it after 40 minutes and cover if it is starting to catch.
Test with a cake tester to check it is done and then leave it in the oven for 10 minutes with the door slightly open.
Then put on a cake rack to cool.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Plates, cups & saucers are Lyndale by Royal Standard from the 1950s