Friday, 28 February 2014

"Plain Jane" (2): Caraway Comfort

Having invited Helena and me to approach the table, and placed before each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast, she got up, unlocked a drawer and, taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good size 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. (Jane Eyre, 86)

There is some intrinsic bond between cake and comfort, especially when it is home-made. In Jane Eyre, Miss Temple is an influence of femininity and homeliness over the Lowood girls, and so it is apt that it is her who invites the two girls to her room for tea and cake. Of course, their "feasting" is a constituent of the wider evening in which they were "guests," and a part of; sitting in arm chairs next to a good fire is the ultimate comforting setting. (83) This Caraway seed cake is the most significant emblem of Miss Temple's goodwill and so I have recreated it as accurately to the novel as possible (with the help of Delia Smith.) Read on to see how the baking went, and I have given a recipe for you to make your own!


4 ounces of cooking butter
4 ounces of caster sugar

2 eggs
4 ounces of self-raising flour

1 ounce of ground almonds
2 heaped teaspoons of Caraway seeds

2 teaspoons of milk
*1 optional splash of brandy

1. Preheat the oven to 180'c.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together into a fine paste with a wooden spoon, in a mixing bowl.

3. Beat two whole eggs together into a bowl.

4. Add the eggs to the mixing bowl and whisk together. The consistency should become smooth.

5. Into a separate bowl, stir together the flour, almonds and Caraway seeds. (Although I recommend two heaped teaspoons of seeds, add them to taste - be generous!)

6. Gradually fold all the flour into the cake mixture.

7. Add a few drops of milk into the mixture, and if you have a taste for brandy some of that too - it should end up as what Delia Smith refers to as "dropping consistency" (look at the photo above for guidance, as mine was near perfect...!

8. Butter a non-stick cake tin that is the shape of a loaf, and dollop in the cake mixture, flattening the top with a wooden spoon.

 9. Put the mixture onto a mid-shelf on the oven, and wait! It should take about 35-45 minutes.

10. Don't open the oven until you think it's done. At this point, stab a knife into the cake and if it comes out clean... the seed cake is cooked! Enjoy with an authentic Jane Eyre cup of tea

The flavour is something I have never tried before, with the Caraway seeds giving it a strong unique essence somewhere in between mint and aniseed.
    I was a little unsure of this new flavour, however, but I gave some to my Grandma to eat and she was a big advocate of the cake and seed flavour combination. It suggests that for an older generation, this food encapsulates universal memories of the homely and domestic family place that is not just seen in Brontë's novel.


Smith, Delia. "Old-fashioned Seed Cake - Unlive". DeliaOnline: NC Internet. 2009. Web.

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

Acknowledgement to Pip Raven for photography.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, tasted this cake and it was delicious. Definately reminiscent of past times :-)