Wondering the different types of iconic and popular British cakes?
Cakes have always been a classic favourite British dessert. Afternoon tea would not be complete without the traditional cake served on a tiered plate stand.
The love and passion of the great British baking have been deeply rooted for hundreds of years.
Some of the famous British cakes and sweets are named after monarchs or the towns they originated from. From British royal desserts to a pub classic, puddings and cakes have got it all covered.
Traditional British cakes are one of the main highlights of weddings and events in British culture.
Just a warning that this post will make you hungry! It’s making me hungry just by writing it.
list of classic British cakes that you should try when you visit the UK.
1. Victoria Sponge
Also known as Victorian Sandwich, this is one of the best British cakes and any pastry lover should try it at least once. It is a sponge cake with a middle layer of jam and cream. The classic jam is raspberry but modern versions may differ. It is often served in small pieces and thus sandwich-like.
This English cake for afternoon tea is named after Queen Victoria. The invention of baking powder and baking soda can be traced back to Queen Victoria’s time. The creation of these two ingredients made it possible for the Victoria Sponge to have that unique airy and fluffy texture.
This classic British cake is a royal’s favourite. Why not try out a delectable pastry fit for a queen?!
2. Battenberg Cake
If you’re a newbie to English baked goods, you’ll know when you’re having a Battenberg Cake as it’s covered with marzipan, has a checkerboard design, and apricot jam between the layers.
This cake has a history of being a wedding gift for Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenberg, Germany in 1884. The ingredients used were popular with the English palate, whilst its design reflects German architecture.
If you want to have a sensible afternoon tea-time, this cake and its history is a perfect conversation starter.
3. Coffee and Walnut Cake
This is an iconic sponge cake that is a staple on a British table. Generally, it is round and has a coffee flavoured butter icing in between two pastry layers.
The spongy layer and buttercream are caramel flavoured. Melting into one delectable whole, it is hard to tell whether it’s the coffee or the caramel that’s tickling your taste buds.
4. Fruit Cake
Fruit Cake is synonymous with Christmas. Though this seasonal dessert’s history goes all the way back to ancient Rome.
It is made from dried fruits and nuts soaked in sugar. Due to the sugar, it has a long shelf life and this helps to make it a perfect gift for the holiday season. Some recipes add alcohol, which is an additional component for its preservation. The alcohol gets rid of the bacteria and makes the fruit cake last longer. It is also labelled as a traditional British wedding cake!
5. Collin the Caterpillar Cake
Collin the Caterpillar Cake has been a favourite chocolate sponge roll cake of Engish children since 1990. It is also dubbed as the ultimate birthday cake and one of the best British cakes known to man, thanks to its creator – Marks & Spencer.
This cake is easy to identify via its milk chocolate shell. It is also filled with chocolate buttercream. Aside from that, you can expect milk chocolate beans that are richly coated in sugar to complete the overall look of a Collin the Caterpillar Cake.
The cake has a decorative face and feet made to resemble a caterpillar as well, hence its name. It comes in different sizes, making it a perfect go-to birthday cake.
6. Dundee Cake
Dundee Cake is the Scottish traditional version of fruit cake. It was first commercially developed in the 1800s but its origin can be traced back to 350 years ago.
This dessert was originally baked for Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. Lore has it that the queen abhorred cherries. Unfortunately, these were traditional ingredients in fruit cakes during that time. So instead of cherries, bakers had to be creative and they made a version with almonds.
Soon, the Dunkee cake became famous in other bakeries across Scotland. And now it has become a favourite British cake.
7. Carrot Cake
It is believed that the carrot cake’s origin, one of the most famous British cakes out there, is the carrot pudding made in the Middle Ages. The major influence for its evolution is the scarcity of sugar and sweeteners.
Therefore, people during the Middle Ages used carrots as a substitute for sugar. Most of the time, pineapple, raisins, and nuts are added to the recipe. The cake is then glazed with a thick coat of cream cheese frosting — giving it a mild but distinct taste. The carrot cake is a classic British cake that never goes out of style.
8. Madeira Cakes
Contrary to its name, this cake wasn’t created in the Madeira Islands of Portugal. However, it was designed to accompany a glass of Madeira wine and other sweet wines during the 19th century. Overall, it is inarguably a very British cake.
This is the most straightforward of cakes with its plain recipe. But do not underestimate its dense texture and rich flavour. If you want a hearty British cake, this classic remains a great choice.
9. Chorley cake
Chorley is a small town in Lancashire, England. Chorley cake, meanwhile, is a fruit-filled and flattened pastry cake that resembles a cookie. And, yes, it is also one of the most famous British cakes and you shouldn’t miss.
It is a relative of the more widely known Eccles cake. Chorley cake is significantly less sweet than its cousin, though. Eccles cake uses flaky pastry while Chorley cake has two layers of unsweetened shortcrust pastry. The latter also has currants concentrated in the middle part of the cake.
10. Chelsea cake
Also known as the Chelsea Bun. It is a classic pastry that initially became popular during the 18th century and was made in the Bun House located in Chelsea.
The Bun House was regularly visited by the royal family and other aristocrats during this time. Its origin story tells us that during the Chelsea Bun’s introduction to the public, 50,000 people queued up to buy one!
The process of making a Chelsea cake is similar to producing a cinnamon roll. You have to bake a dough that is richly flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon, or mixed spice.
11. Queen Elizabeth Cakes
It is customary for the British to name a confectionary after a royal. Hence, this tasty treat is named after Queen Elizabeth II.
It originated in 1953 and was baked for the queen’s coronation. Though there is another version of its origin story, which says that it might have been first made in honour of the queen’s father— King George — and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1937.
This classic date nut cake recipe is topped with icing infused with shredded coconut. It may not look much but its scrumptiousness is undeniable.
12. Banbury Cakes
Banbury Cakes originated from Banbury, England. Its creation is attributed to Edward Welchman. He owned a pastry shop located in Parsons Street. Before, it was exclusively made in that area since the recipe was kept secret until 1586.
It is a currant-filled, spiced, flat pastry cake similar to the Chorley cake. Aside from currants, other recipes include rose water, brown sugar, mixed peel, nutmeg, and rum as fillings. Traditionally, Banbury cakes are enjoyed with afternoon tea.
13. French Fancies
French Fancies were among the varieties of cakes that were launched in 1967 by Mr Kipling. These are also known as Fondant Fancies and are considered traditional English tea cakes.
French Fancies is a type of British sponge cake that is small in size. They resemble petits fours, topped with buttercream. The cakes are coated with fondant icing drizzled with a variety of toppings. Standard varieties are strawberry with pink drizzle, lemon with yellow drizzle, and brown with chocolate drizzle. It is hard to imagine completing the aesthetics of a tea party without these cakes.
14. Simnel Cakes
Simnel Cakes were made for the pre-easter season. Its name is derived from Mothering Sunday also known as Simnel-Sunday. As for its origin, that is rooted as far back as the medieval times.
A Simnel cake is a light fruitcake. It has two layers of almond paste and the top layer is capped by a circle of “eggs” made of the same paste. This classic Easter delicacy is something you shouldn’t miss.
15. Cherry Bakewell
Suggested by Michele Minnaar of Greedy Gourmet
If you are looking for a delicious British cake, then you definitely must have considered a delicious Bakewell recipe. You’ve most likely heard of the traditional Bakewell tart which includes shortcrust pastry with some sort of fruit-based jam and frangipane.
Well, my Cherry Bakewell cake puts an interesting spin on this traditional British recipe. Instead of the shortcrust pastry, I’ve incorporated almonds and almond extract into a sponge which is the base of the cake. With that gorgeous infused almond flavour, the cherries and the icing go hand in hand, making this one of my favourite cake recipes.
The best part is, you can decorate the cake as you please, and what better way than to use fresh picota cherries as a topping. For more information on this fantastic Cherry Bakewell cake recipe, check out my Food and Travel blog here.
I hope that this collection of popular and classic British cakes inspired you to experience an integral part of British culture.