Old Wives Cake

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This Old Wives Cake is fragrant and so delicious. It’s a traditional Dutch cake, super simple to make and it has a secret ingredient. 


 My good friend Fenne dumped a big pile of books, magazines and recipes she’s printed from everywhere on my kitchen table. This was a couple weeks ago. I’ve been waiting for some time to go through them all and try out some fun recipes.

So yesterday for a couple hours I sat myself down at the kitchen table and put the pile of books in front of me. I have to tell you that my friend is very organized. She had magazine clippings and printed recipes all organized by type of dish, main course, appetizers, desserts, etc in these plastic clear envelopes. Of course my eyes went directly to the desserts envelope.

Here in this envelope I find a gem. At the back there was this old piece of paper with a hand written recipe and it was called Mom’s Old Wives Cake. I got all excited and I just knew I had to make this right away. My friend is Dutch so she told me this is her mom’s old recipe and that this cake is a popular traditional Dutch cake. You have to understand why I was intrigued by this cake. First of all the name, love the name, and secondly the cake has anise seeds in it.

Old Wives Cake

In my day I’ve made my share of cakes, but not once have I used anise seeds in a cake before. Yes I have the mystery cake which was weird enough with tomato soup, but this cake has 2 whole teaspoons of anise seeds. I thought the anise seeds would be overwhelming but I was wrong. Speaking of mystery cake, this recipe was also in the same envelope handwritten on a piece of paper. This cake is very fragrant and it’s such a simple and delicious cake to make. Even my picky husband loved it, and he’s a hard one to please. I chose to use a bundt pan here just because I thought it would be prettier but you can use a regular cake pan. The only thing I modified in this recipe is I just added 1/2 tsp of salt to bring out all the flavors.

My friend suggested to me that this cake is best if you spread a bit of butter over it and enjoy it with a good cup of tea. I tried it with butter, YUM, I tried with Nutella, YUM, I tried with whipping cream and some berries, YUM, and I tried it plain, YUM. Doesn’t matter how you eat it, you will love it!

Thank you Fenne for a wonderful and easy recipe! I can’t wait to go through the rest of the pile, who knows what else I’ll find.

Old Wives Cake

Old Wives Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp anise seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream / yogurt, I used yogurt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.
  2. Spray a cake pan or a bundt pan with cooking spray.
  3. In the mixer of your bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add egg, water and sour cream or yogurt and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.


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  1. susan says

    such a quick cake to bake and so tasty – next time i will not use the cinnamon and up the anise seed to 3 tsps

  2. says

    This looks delicious! I absolutely love anise and I love the name! I’m going to have to make this one the next time I need to bring dessert somewhere.

  3. says

    Very interesting, but definitely a great name! I had no idea anise seeds are a part of Dutch cuisine! live and learn… Great post!

  4. Vicki Peterson says

    Jo, You talk about fennel seeds in the history of this cake, but the recipe lists anise seeds. Which one is correct or are they interchangeable? Thanks.

    • says

      Thanks Vicki, fixed it, should be anise seeds, though they are quite similar in that they both have that licorice aroma and flavor.

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