Sand Cake with a Drizzle Topping

Sand cakes have been around in England for a very long time but they don’t seem to turn up all that often these days, unless I'm missing them somehow. In fact, various types of sand cakes seem to surface more frequently in other parts of the world such as Australia. The cakes don’t have sand in them, honest. They’re made largely with potato flour or cornflour (or cornstarch as it’s known in some parts of the world), which gives them a light and crumbly texture – a ‘sandy’ texture, I suppose. It’s a shame that they’re not better known because they’re beautifully light, very easy to make and they taste a lot better than sand.

Traditionally the cakes are associated primarily with Leicestershire, although in my head they’re forever associated with Ironbridge in Shropshire because that’s where I first came across the cake in a small, old-fashioned tea shop quite a few years ago. Many of the traditional recipes call for the cake to be iced with a light, usually lemon, icing but I've added a drizzle topping instead just for a change. Some people prefer to serve the cake without any form of topping and it works very well as a dessert that way alongside fruit and something creamy.
Sand Cake
I use a combination of cornflour and potato flour but replacing the potato flour with more cornflour will work – I'm just being a bit fussy with the texture. I've come across versions of the cake in the Lake District too and that explains why I add some rum – you can replace this with a lemon or orange liqueur or leave it out altogether.

70 g butter, softened
110 g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 lemon, very finely grated
1 tbsp dark rum
60 g cornflour
50 g potato flour
30 g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder

For the drizzle topping:
      Juice of 1 lemon
      35 g icing sugar
      20 g granulated sugar

Butter an 18 cm round cake tin – a springform or loose-bottomed tin is easiest for this cake, but the mixture is quite thin so make sure it doesn't leak. Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Beat the butter and caster sugar together thoroughly until very pale in colour. Gradually beat in the eggs, followed by the lemon zest and rum. Mix the three flours and the baking powder together, sift them over the mixture and fold in.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool a little before removing from the baking tin – you need to be a little careful because the cake is crumblier than a normal sponge cake. If you’re icing the cake or not adding any topping, then allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. If you want to add the drizzle topping, then poke some holes in the top of the cake with a knife and apply the drizzle while the cake is still warm. To make the drizzle mixture, simply mix together the juice and the sugars and pour as evenly as possible over the cake. (You don’t need to use both types of sugar, but adding a small amount of granulated sugar gives just a hint of crunch to the top of the cake, which I like.)
Incidentally, I can’t guarantee that you’ll find sand cake there, but if you've never visited Ironbridge and think you might one day then I’d just say:

          - There’s a lot more there than just the bridge (it’s a World Heritage Site, after all)

          - The bridge is probably smaller than you think it is

          - The bridge probably has more charm than you’d imagine a bridge made of iron could ever have


  1. I've never heard of this - it sounds SO great and looks delicious - lovely!
    Mary x

  2. I have never been to Ironbridge, have been meaning to go for years. Thanks for reminding me. I am however baffled by the connection between the Lake District and rum ,unless I'm just being a bit dim this morning.

    The cake looks and sounds delicious.

    1. The Lake District - or more properly Cumberland - has a historical connection with rum. Whitehaven used to be a very busy port importing, amongst other things, spices and rum. Because of that trade, a number of local dishes were developed using rum - rum nicky is probably the best known. Even though the trade has gone, there's still a tradition of using rum around the area and a number of the more traditional bakers tend to add a drop to some of their cakes. You can find the same thing happening in France in the Nantes area. Nantes used to import a lot of rum and it still turns up in a lot of the baking from that area. That's not like me to be so historical and erudite - I need a lie down.

    2. Thanks Phil, I will remember this when I next go to the Lake District, or to the Nantes area, and if rum appears in anything I will know why.

  3. I am drooling over your cake, as always Phil; it looks so moist and light; I don't recall having a Sand cake before and now quite curious. Being a lemon fan, would love that drizzle!:)

    1. I think the drizzle topping has more of a lemon flavour than any lemon icing I've tried, but they're both good.

  4. i've never heard of this but I totally get it and it looks wonderful... I love a really crumby cake. Gorgeous little post x

  5. Very much like Lemon Drizzle cake but it sounds just as delicious! Especially with a few shots of dark rum! :)

  6. I've not heard of a sand cake either, but it looks good, and I love simple cakes without lots of decoration.

  7. A fascinating culinary social history as always, and it sounds delicious too. I think Ironbridge is a great place to visit and I love the wintry photo - I'll certainly look out for Sand Cake when I'm there next.

  8. I just hope that cake lives up to more than it's name - eating sand is not something I have happy memories of. I do have happy memories of visiting Ironbridge though, it is a lovely bridge and I really ought to visit it again.

  9. Can't say I've ever tasted sand, but I'm sure your sand cake is far superior! It sounds very tasty indeed, especially with the drizzle, mmmm! Ironbridge looks so quaint and beautiful, I must put it on my "To Visit" list! :)

  10. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I've heard of it. But as I love anything lemon flavoured I will be very tempted to try it.

  11. Well I like the cake, but I love that you have featured my home town. I am trying to work out which cafe it might have been that served sand cake. I think I know which one it was, and if it was then I am sad to say that it is no longer there.

    1. I wish I could remember more about the tea shop, but it was many years ago and I tend to remember what I eat far better than where I eat it. I do remember that it was very traditional and that all the other customers seemed to be regulars. My kind of place, really. Sadly, many such places have gone.

  12. Sounds delicious, particularly the addition of rum... And I too love Ironbridge, I first visited there on a school trip and loved it so much I asked my parents to take me back every year. Haven't been back for years though... must remedy that! Did you take that photo by the way? It's beautiful

    1. Thanks for that. Yes, I did take that picture many, many years ago when cameras still used film (I think that's what it was called). Thank heavens for scanners. If my memory can be trusted (and, to be honest, it can't really), it was taken on Christmas Eve.

  13. looks delicious...just mouthwatering!

  14. Ooh yes...anything with rum gets my vote. I've never heard of sand cake but it looks really delicious. Bookmarking to try.


Post a Comment

Sorry but I've had to switch word verification on due to a vast amount of very depressing spam.

Popular posts from this blog

Duck Apicius

Bolton Flat Cakes

Damson and Sloe Vinegar