Great British Bakes: How to make Tottenham Cake

Great British Bakes: Follow Charlotte's recipe for Tottenham Cake Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Great British Bakes: Follow Charlotte's recipe for Tottenham Cake Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

On her journey around the cakes and bakes of the UK, this week our food editor recreates a London favourite served in schools all over Britain today.

This weekend’s Great British Bake brings a smile to my face because it’s so familiar. In fact, when I was putting the finishing touches to the icing, my children (who’ve been out of school in lockdown for nine weeks) appeared glassy-eyed, recalling their favourite ‘sponge slice’ of primary school.

Because, essentially, that’s what Tottenham Cake is. It’s the kind of cake thousands of children find at school dinners alongside custard and oaty biscuits. The kind of cake we might whip up for a kids’ tea party without a second thought.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not the fanciest thing in the world, but it certainly stands out amongst the roll call of bakes from across our isles. While the majority of Britain’s traditional cakes are studded with dried fruit, or cobbled together with bits and pieces from the cupboard, Tottenham Cake makes a statement with its blancmange pink icing. It steers more towards the teatime fodder of our great houses and palaces than the flour-strewn, modest kitchens of the average family of yesteryear.

The story has it that Quaker Henry Chalkley pieced together the original – the lurid pink topping made using the juice of mulberries growing on the grounds of the Tottenham Friends Meeting House.

Coconut is the authentic finishing touch...though I read it often got caught in Quakers’ false teeth!

Apparently when Tottenham won the FA Cup for the first time ever in 1901 this cake was cut into squares and given away free to local children.

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I’ve slightly adapted the original recipe given. While mulberries were eventually replaced by raspberries, as we’re in peak strawberry season it made sense to use those to flavour and colour the icing. I can’t (in lockdown) get desiccated coconut for love nor money, so I’ve used sprinkles (my kids prefer those anyway).

And the method is a tad different to what you might be used to...but it produces the lightest, fluffiest sponge.

Great British Bakes: Make our Norfolk shortcakes.

Strawberry Tottenham Cake

(makes a 20cm by 30cm sponge)


4 medium eggs, separated

200g caster sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

1/2tsp lemon extract

200g sunflower spread (this gives a lighter result than butter – I use the Pure brand)

250g plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2tsps baking powder

2tbsps milk

1tbsp cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

For the icing

100g strawberries, crushed and strained

280g icing sugar, sifted

Pink food colouring (optional)

Edible sprinkles or desiccated coconut (optional)


Heat the oven to 180C and line a 20cm x 30cm roasting or baking tin.

Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl to stiff peaks.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon and vanilla extracts until thick and creamy. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and spread and beat until smooth.

Add the milk and vinegar and beat again.

Now spoon in a third of the whisked eggs and beat to loosen the mix. Fold in the remaining egg whites carefully with a metal spoon, trying to retain as much air as possible.

Pour into your prepared tin, ensuring the top is level, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden.

Allow to cool in the tin.

For the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add a dash of food colouring if using, add the strawberry juice a little at a time (you may not need all of it), until you have a spreadable consistency.

Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle over the coconut or sugar strands.