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The Top 10 Traditional British Cakes
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The Top 10 Traditional British Cakes

Picture of Vy Dan Tran
Updated: 30 November 2016
British cuisine is well known for its baked goods, especially sweet treats. The national passion for baking dates back to the Middle Ages. These treats used to be a luxury afforded only by the wealthy. Today, baking has become more popular. Bakers can even show off their best bakes on television shows such as The Great British Bake Off, an annual baking contest in the UK. The following are 10 classic cakes loved by the nation.

Carrot Cake (900s)

The modern form of the carrot cake is believed to be a descendant of a 10th century Arabian carrot pudding. Carrots were used as alternatives to sweeteners, which were rare in the middle ages. The dessert was called a pudding until the 1800s, when a recipe for the cake was found. During the Second World War, the cake became particularly popular in Britain. The tradition to frost the cake with cream cheese icing first appeared in the 1960s.

Scone (1513)

A scone, served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, is a must for a traditional cream tea. It is said to be originally a part of a Scottish bannock, a type of flat quick bread. The source of the name may be a place called Scone, where Scottish kings were enthroned. The word ‘scone’ was first used in 1513, yet it is uncertain whether it referred to the scone with cream tea of today.

Victoria sponge cake
Victoria sponge cake | © Gordonplant/Flickr

Victoria Sponge (1615)

Sometimes called a Victoria sandwich, this type of sponge cake is typically filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam. Named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901), it became popular during afternoon tea in the 19th century. The traditional method of making a sponge cake dates back to 1615. Not until the 1840s did the Victoria sponge take its fluffy modern form, because baking powder was invented then. Nowadays, it is famous for being one of celebrity cook Mary Berry’s favorite recipes.

Chelsea buns
Chelsea buns | © Duncan Hull/Flickr

Chelsea Bun (1700s)

In the 18th century, this bun was first created in Chelsea Bun House, a bun shop in London’s sophisticated Chelsea. Until 1839, the store had served royal members such as King George II, who used to visit it in the morning. Its recipe is similar to that of a cinnamon roll. In addition to cinnamon, it sometimes has added lemon peel and mixed spice.

Madeira Cake (1700s)

Madeira is a wine from the Portuguese islands, and the Madeira cake is named after it. It tends to be served with the wine, but today it is also eaten with tea. The oldest recipe of the cake is from the 18th century. In 1845, Eliza Acton wrote a recipe for it in her cookbook, Modern Cookery for Private Families.

Shortbread (1736)

Shortbread is a variation of biscuits that originated in Scotland. The oldest printed recipe of shortbread was written by a Scottish woman, Mrs McLintoc, in 1736. However, it might have appeared earlier, as it is similar to a shortcake, which was eaten in the 16th century. Nowadays, shortbread is a signature product of Walkers Shortbread and is often bought as a souvenir by tourists.

Eccles Cake (1793)

An eccles cake is made from pastry filled with currants. It was named after Eccles, a town in Greater Manchester, England. In 1769, a similar recipe to that of the cake was found in a cookbook by Mrs Elizabeth Raffald, who lived in Arley Hall, Cheshire. It was referred to as a ‘sweet patty’. Twenty-four years later, the cake was sold by James Birch in Eccles, 20 miles away from Arley Hall.

Welsh Cake (1800s)

A Welsh cake is a traditional bake from Wales that is cooked on a bakestone. Similar to a scone, the Welsh cake is usually served at teatime. It tends to be eaten on its own, rather than with jam and cream, because it is sweetened with raisins, sultanas or currants, and sugar. It has been popular since the 19th century.

Battenberg Cake (1884)

Covered in marzipan, the pink and yellow colours and chequered pattern are a Battenberg’s signature features. It is thought to have been made for the occasion of the royal wedding between Prince Louis of Battenburg and Princess Victoria in 1884. It has not always had a four-sectioned pattern. In an early recipe in 1898, Frederick Vine instructed bakers to make nine pieces. Today, its elaborate recipe is used to challenge bakers of The Great British Bake Off.

Sticky toffee pudding
Sticky toffee pudding | © Katherine/Flickr

Sticky Toffee Pudding (1970s)

The most modern dessert on this list is the sticky toffee pudding. The original recipe was developed by Francis Coulson at Sharrow Bay, a hotel in the Lake District, in the 1970s. It is said to have Canadian origins, because it is similar to an American muffin. Usually served with vanilla custard or ice cream, it remains a popular dessert in Britain.