There’s a long history of cake-making in Britain. One famous cake story goes all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon period. In the late 9th century, Alfred, the King of England, was hiding from Viking attackers and took refuge in the home of a peasant woman. Not realising that her visitor was the king, the woman asked Alfred to watch the cakes she was baking over the fire. But Alfred, lost in his worries, forgot the cakes and let them burn. History has never forgiven him and Alfred the Great, despite his many victories as king, is more often remembered as “the king who burnt the cakes.”


Through the Mediaeval period there are plenty of references to cakes, although they were more like bread rolls or biscuits than the large sliceable delicacies we see in magazines and on TV shows. Oats were often used in these small, heavy cakes, possibly sweetened with a little honey. Elizabethan cakes got creative with nuts and dried fruit and in the 17th century, bakers stopped using yeast and began beating air into the cake mixture to make it lighter. Then in the 18th century, bakers began attempting to make bigger cakes, lightened with beaten egg.


But it wasn’t until the mid to late 19th century, when white flour, sugar and baking powder were readily available, that the tradition of afternoon tea became fashionable. Upper-class ladies would meet for a light meal at around 4pm, where they would drink tea, accompanied by tiny sandwiches and cake. 

Today not many people in Britain stop for a formal afternoon tea, but a ‘cuppa’ and a piece of cake always go down well.


Best British Cakes

Desde galletas de mantequilla hasta bollos clásicos y pasteles más
elaborados, estos son los cinco pasteles británicos más populares,
ideales para disfrutar acompañados de la inevitable taza de té.

1 Victoria sponge

This most English of cakes was named after its biggest fan, Queen Victoria. Although the recipe seems simple, it’s vital to weigh the ingredients precisely. You need four eggs and the same weight of sugar, butter, and flour. Plus, of course, some jam to spread in the middle. 

2 Chelsea buns

This sticky, buttery bun made with currants and brown sugar used to be a favourite with the British royal family in the 18th century. The buns were first made at a bakery called the Bun House in London’s Chelsea district, hence the name. Still a delicious energy boost with a cup of coffee.

3 Scones

Serve scones warm with thick clotted cream and jam and you have a traditional cream tea, guaranteed to raise both your spirits and your cholesterol! But does scone rhyme with ‘gone’ or with ‘bone’? Disagreements over the pronunciation can get aggressive. In my house, it rhymes with ‘gone’. 

4 Scottish shortbread

The delicious buttery biscuit we enjoy today started out in the 12th century as a much simpler biscuit of hard-baked left-over dough. Over the years it became richer, with more butter, a treat served for weddings and feast days. The best shortbread undoubtedly comes from Scotland.

5 Welsh cakes

Another regional speciality, this time from Wales. Traditionally cooked on a hot stone rather than in the oven, this small cake is like a scone with currants. Small and solid enough to fit into a pocket, the cakes used to bring some comfort to Welsh miners as they laboured underground, digging coal.