Funeral Cakes

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.

 

Funeral Cakes are a Yorkshire Dales tradition, with links back to the Arval bread of the Vikings.  They are decorated, shortcake-like biscuits, flavoured with caraway seeds, and wrapped in paper printed with the deceased's favourite verse or hymn. The cakes are given to visitors to the household, and those attending the funeral.

A funeral cake marker


This hand-carved wooden stamp was used to decorate the funeral cakes, and was made in the late 19th Century. It's possible that it was made by a single family, for their own use. The tradition of Funeral Cakes is not just limited to the Dales: many regions of Northern England have some sort of cake or biscuit specially eaten at funerals. The biscuits were traditionally decorated with a heart symbol to represent the soul of the deceased.

Discussion Ideas:

  • Local history and traditions
  • Looking at the carving and thinking about how it was made, who made it and why
  • Where can we find out more about this tradition?
  • How England has connections with the rest of the world through the importation and use of spices
  • Can we find other shared traditions with links to other cultures and parts of the world?