We love a good cookie recipe, especially when there is a wonderful tradition attached to them. These lacemaker’s cattern cakes are filled with yummy fruit and spices, perfect for the holidays and beyond. Cattern is a colloquialism for the name Catherine, two of which feature in the history of these cookies.
In various parts of the world, these cookies have a storied past. We know them as lacemaker’s cattern cakes, named for Catherine of Aragon who took pity on the lacemakers of Bedford, just north of London. It is said that Catherine, while confined during the separation from her husband, King VIII, took pity on the nearby lacemakers and commissioned from them many new pieces of lace so that they would not want for work.
The cookies are enjoyed during the month November as the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria is on November 25th. In Canada these cookies are known as St. Catherine wheel cookies because she is the patron saint of wheelmakers. She is also the patron saint of unmarried girls and milliners, two of the groups who often became lacemakers in the old days and during St. Catherine celebrations in England young, unmarried women traditionally used the day to pray to St. Catherine for husbands.
Whatever you want to call these cookies (or cakes!) they are simply delicious. The combination of currants, caraway seeds, almonds, and cinnamon is both festive and comforting. For this recipe we used zante currants since those are more readily available in the U.S., but you can use black currants, raisins, or other dried fruit of your choice.
To make these cookies you will need to first make the dough, which is simple to do. Combine flour, powdered sugar, cinnamon, currants, almonds, and caraway seeds. Then add the melted butter and egg and mix until a dough forms.
Once this is made roll the dough out to about 12″x12″ size on your cutting board or countertop. Sprinkle the reserved cinnamon and brown sugar on top and roll the dough up. From this pinwheel log cut the dough into 12 equal slices. After that bake for 10 minutes and you have yourself a wonderful and fragrant batch of cookies from a recipe that goes back to Tudor England.
These cookies are perfect with a cup of hot tea or coffee and are a nice change of pace from more modern cookie recipes. They are light inside, with a spiced flavor that makes them absolutely irresistible.
Lacemaker's Cattern Cakes
Makes 12 cookies
25m prep time
10m cook time
Vegetarian diet suitable
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- 1/3 cup zante currants
- 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
- 2 teaspoons caraway seed
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 400˚. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, currants, almonds, and caraway seeds.
- Stir in melted butter and then egg to flour mixture until dough forms.
- Roll dough out to a 12”x12” size on countertop. Brush dough with water and sprinkle reserved cinnamon and brown sugar on top.
- Roll dough up like a Swiss roll. Cut 12 slices from roll and place on a greased or lined baking sheet at about 3/4” apart.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until turning golden on top.
Recipe adapted from Lavender and Lovage.