Yorkshire Recipes


Old Wife’s Cake

Old Wife’s Cake. Don’t blame me!  I didn’t call it this, and I’m not sure why anyone would. But they, or someone, did in Kirkby Fleetham, North Yorkshire, as this recipe comes from a branch of the W.I. (Women’s Institute) thereabouts.

Maybe some old codger having his lunch in the fields said, “‘ey up, this ‘ere cake by me auld wife is a goodun.”  Who knows.  But the original recipe book tells me that ‘Christmastide is possibly the true season for Old Wife’s Cake, but it is also eaten at other times of the year as well.’   It makes a tasty cake, with a crust on the outside and a soft shortbread-like texture inside.


  • 8 oz (225g)  butter
  • 8 oz (225g) sugar
  • 8 oz (225g) currants
  • 16 oz (450g/1 lb) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • Half a teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • A little lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of ‘old milk’ (I assume a little stale)


  1. Cream the butter and sugar
  2. Add the currants and flour and bicarbonate of soda
  3. Mix in the grated nutmeg and a little lemon juice, if liked
  4. Add a tablespoon of ‘old milk’.
  5. Mix well and separate the dough into three well-greased round tins, a 6″ in diameter
  6. Cook in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes until golden in colour.


Source:  Yorkshire W.I. Recipe Book (1957). Yorkshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, York (reprinted 1981)

One Response to Old Wife’s Cake

  • Lynne

    Yum, just eating the cake similar to my grandma’s the only difference, lard instead of butter and I know you add the lemon to sour the milk or add buttermilk which reacts with the bicarb to make it rise. I love this cake

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