From the buttery shortbread of Scotland, to the beloved sticky toffee pudding and the iconic Victoria Sponge, the UK is a nation of cake lovers.
Undeniably a crucial part of British culture, cake is serious business in the United Kingdom. No special occasion, afternoon tea, family gathering, or catch up with friends is complete without an accompanying sweet treat. And British people don’t just love to eat cake, they also love to bake them too!
Here, Musement looks at 10 traditional British cakes to make at home or try on your next visit to the UK:
1. Victoria Sponge
The most legendary of British cakes, the Victoria Sponge, also known as the Victorian Sandwich, is named after Queen Victoria. Apparently, a firm favourite with her majesty, it came to prominence with the rise of the afternoon tea in the 19th century. A relatively simple cake to make, two fluffy sponges dusted with caster sugar are sandwiched together with a layer of jam and whipped cream.
2. Sticky Toffee Pudding
The reigning champion on any menu, the sticky toffee pudding is Britain’s most loved dessert. Its origins are debated but it is thought to have been created in the 1970s at a hotel in the Lake District. Packed with sugar, sticky toffee pudding is a moist sponge cake made with chopped dates and drowned in toffee sauce. Best served warm topped with cream, custard or ice cream. This treacly treat is a classic for a reason.
3. Battenberg Cake
Contrary to the name, this marzipan delight is resolutely English. A light sponge cake consisting of two different coloured sponges are held together by apricot jam and covered in marzipan. A cake which requires patience and precision to assemble, Battenberg cake should resemble a checkerboard when sliced. This eye-catching cake has royal beginnings and was created as a homage to the marriage of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Queen Victoria’s granddaughter.
4. Carrot Cake
This classic cake is popular all over the world, but its origins are heavily disputed. Many food historians believe carrot cake originated in Europe in the Middle Ages when sugar and sweeteners were expensive, forcing people to use carrots as a substitute for sugar. But its popularity in the UK heightened during the Second World War because of rationing and it’s been a national favourite ever since. Carrot cake contains grated carrots mixed into cake batter, with a white cream cheese frosting.
With origins in Scotland, British scones are slightly sweet and sometimes have raisins, currants, dates or cheese in them. An essential part of an afternoon tea, they are usually best enjoyed warm from the oven and accompanied by butter, jam and clotted cream.
6. Welsh Cakes
A cross between a scone and a pancake, this traditional Welsh treat has been popular since the late 19th century. Cooked like bread on a scorching hot bakestone, they are served hot or cold and dusted with sugar. Unlike scones, they are usually eaten without any accompaniments.
7. Eccles Cake
Created in the town of Eccles in Manchester, this classic cake is often part of the British school dinner. Made from flaky pastry and butter, the small round cakes are stuffed with currants and raisins. They’re traditionally enjoyed with a cup of tea and accompanied by Lancashire cheese for a sweet savoury combination.
8. Madeira Cake
Named after the Portuguese island of Madeira, and the sweet dessert wine it produces, this spongy British cake doesn’t actually contain any wine. Dating back to the 1800s, the name was given as it was designed to be the perfect accompaniment for a glass of Maderia wine. This firm yet lemony cake is commonly served with tea or liqueurs.
9. Chelsea Bun
Similar to cinnamon rolls, the Chelsea Bun is a type of currant bun, first baked in the 18th century at the Chelsea Bun House in London. A popular bakery and favourite haunt of the royal family, the bakery was demolished in 1839, but the popularity of these baked buns remains the same. Made with rich yeast dough and flavoured with cinnamon, allspice, lemon peel and other aromatics, and baked, it is then drizzled with syrup or icing.
Although not technically a cake, this Scottish biscuit is famous all over the world. Traditionally made with just three ingredients, the buttery crumbly biscuit with a sugar topping is perfect for dipping into your cup of tea. A popular souvenir from any trip to Scotland, many variations are now available, such as fruit, nut and chocolate.