Tottenham Cake is a simple, moist sponge cake. Baked as a traybake and covered with fruit flavoured glaze icing. It's mostly found in the East End of London and has a great history.
How I discovered Tottenham Cake
To many people, well actually most people, they don't really know what Tottenham Cake is. But work or live in the East end of London and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
I worked in Hackney, in London’s East end for over 10 years, and was lucky to regularly enjoy delights from Percy Ingles Bakery, from ‘down the Roman Road’….and wow did they have some yummy delights. Percy Ingles is a household name in Hackney, but step away from the Capital and few people will know what you’re talking about. It is a family bakery with ov er 50 shops in London and makes a great classic Tottenham Cake.
What is Tottenham Cake?
I remember the first time someone bought some into the office it reminded me of cakes I used to eat as a child. It’s light, sweet sponge covered in bright pink glacé icing.
However, if you delve a bit deeper, and it has real history. It was first made in the late 1800’s by a Baker called Henry Chalkley, who was a Quaker. He baked it in long trays and cut it into cubes which were sold for 1 penny a slice – off cuts and dodgy looking slices were sold for half a penny. As a Quaker, Henry kept the cake simple but tasty. The pink icing was reportedly made from Mulberries that grew in the garden of The Tottenham Friends Meeting House.
In 1901 Tottenham Hotspur’s won the FA Cup, and to celebrate children in the area were given a cube of cake for free…..now that’s my kind of celebration! Sadly, Mulberries aren’t quite as easy to come by, and most of today’s icing is made pink by colouring. But made well, it’s a cake that you just can’t resist. It’ll take you back to being 7 years old again.
So, after a bit of research, I found a few historic recipes and made my own. I combined and tweaked them, to make what I hope is a great, classic Tottenham Cake. It’s slightly denser than a normal sponge and is sweet and moist from the syrup that’s poured on it while warm. I used a high-concentrate, low sugar Summer Berry Squash for the icing, which gives it an extra fruity zing.
Tottenham Cake Ingredients
Essentially this is a classic sponge cake recipe consisting of butter/baking spread, sugar, eggs, and flour. It is slightly denser due to a higher proportion of flour than most sponges, but it’s extra moist because of the syrup you pour onto it when it’s baked.
I used baking spread in my recipe to keep costs down. However real butter will work well, or a plant based alternative.
Sugar and Vanilla Flavour
Use white sugar in this bake for a classic caramelisation. Caster or granulated will both work equally well. Read my article on Granulated and Caster Sugar for more information.
Vanilla is an important part to the flavour of this cake. Vanilla extract or paste is best for a natural vanilla flavour. Essence is ok, but the flavour may be a little more artificial.
I use large free-range eggs.
Flour and Raising Agent
As with most of my recipes I use plain (all purpose) flour with baking powder for better control over the raising agent. However, you can us self-raising flour and omit the baking powder.
This cake can be made using a Gluten free alternative.
This cake has a sugar syrup poured over it to give it extra moistness, similar to what you would use on a lemon drizzle cake. Use an icing sugar to give a clean sugary flavour. Granulated or caster sugar can be used but will give a crunchy topping as the crystals may not dissolve so well.
Traditionally Tottenham Cake was glazed with Mulberry Juice Icing. However, Mulberries are pretty tricky to come by nowadays. You can use either a simple icing sugar and water glaze icing with pink food colouring. Or, if you are looking for something a little fruitier you can add some fruit cordial to icing sugar, which I did.
Dairy Free and Gluten Free.
This cake can easily be made with both dairy free/plant based butter, and gluten free flour should you need too.
I would recommend using Xanthan Gum (as per the packet instructions) if using Gluten Free Flour to ensure the cake is not too crumbly.
Tottenham Cake Technique
This is a classic Creaming Method Sponge Mix, where you cream the butter/baking spread together with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. You then add the eggs, vanilla, and flour to form a dropping consistency batter.
Read my blog on the best light and fluffy sponge cake to learn more about this technique of mixing your batter.
When syruping your cake, it’s best done whilst still warm. This means some of the moisture will evaporate, leaving a sweet moistness. If you leave your cake to cool before adding the syrup it may become soggy.
Tottenham Cake FAQs
Because it comes from Tottenham in the East end of London. It was first made by Quakers and was later handed out for free when the football team Tottenham Hotspurs won the FA cup.
In all the years I ate Tottenham Cake made by the East end bakery Percy Ingles, I never had coconut on top of it.
Many recipes do include sprinkling it with desiccated coconut. I’m sure it’s just personal preference. Personally, I don’t like the texture of it so would never include it. But if you like a bit of desiccated coconut, then go ahead and sprinkle it on!
Tottenham Cake, with its syrup, is a lovely moist cake. It will keep for several days. I recommend popping it in an airtight container to retain the moisture.
It can also be frozen for up to 3 months if well wrapped. However, I would recommend freezing it before you ice it with the glaze. When you want to eat it, remove it from the freezer and allow it to come back to temperature whilst still in it’s wrapping but on a wire rack.
Yes, absolutely. To make it dairy free replace the butter/baking spread for a plant based alternative.
To make it gluten free use your favourite gluten free flour and baking powder. Be sure to add Xanthan Gum (using the packets instructions) so the cake doesn’t become too crumbly.
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Tottenham Cake Recipe
- 170 gms Caster or Granulated Sugar
- 170 gms Butter at room temp, or baking spread
- 1 tspn Vanilla Extract or Paste
- 3 Eggs
- 230 gms Plain Flour
- 2 tspn Baking Powder
- 50 ml Cold Water
- 2 tbsn Icing Sugar
- 150-200 gms Icing Sugar
- 1-2 tbspn Fruit Squash or Cordial
- Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan, 180c, 350f, GM 3
- Line a baking tray - an 8" brownie tin is ideal. Line it so the paper comes up out of the sides
- Either with an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy
- Add the vanilla and mix through
- Add the eggs one at a time, adding a small spoon of the flour if it starts to curdle
- Beat everything together until light in colour
- Now, by hand, fold in the remaining of the flour until all incorporated
- Pour into the baking tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until light and golden, and a skewer stuck into the centre comes out clean
- One baked remove from the oven and place to one side while you make the syrup
- Mix together the icing sugar and water until the sugar is fully dissolved
- Whilst still in the tin spoon the syrup all over the sponge and allow to cool.
- Once cooled removed from the tin and now its time for the icing
- Mix together the icing sugar and fruit squash until you have a very thick pouring consistency. I would mix 1 tablespoon at a time of the squash or you’ll badding extra icing sugar to get it thick again
- Spread over your cake
- Cut and enjoy!!!!
Have you Tried this recipe?
I would love to see it or hear about your experience of it.
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