The Coventry godcake…

One of my favourite cities is Coventry; I first visited when the new cathedral rebuilt adjacent to the one which was bombed during the war, and it was very much a modern marvel and a wonder of the age. I love the cathedral, and if I lived nearer I would visit it often, however we are usually on a day trip and other things may be on the itinerary.

Visiting yesterday we went with the main purpose of seeing my friend, and going to the Grayson Perry exhibition, The Vanity of Small Differences; it is a series of six huge tapestries telling a story – and if you get the chance to see it you really must. It is on in Coventry until next weekend, and then later in the year it is moving to:

  • Croome, Worcester, 9th July – 11th September
  • The Beaney, Canterbury, 7th October – 4th Dec ember

We did other things as well, there is always so much to see and do in Coventry – and we ended up at the Coventry Transport Museum looking at a tractor exhibition, after having a cup of tea at the adjacent coffee shop, Esquires. As I mentioned, I have been to Coventry many times, and each time the mythical ‘god cake’ has been mentioned, a speciality of the city… but until yesterday I had never had one!


As you can see from the picture, it is a triangular pastry, a large triangular pastry, a bit like a turnover but made with puff pastry. Inside is a delicious mixture of dried fruit – mainly raisins I think although there may have been some sultanas, candied peel and spices. it has a topping of sugar crystals and it’s impossible to eat without sprinkling crumbs everywhere!

I wondered if it was called god cake after Lady Godiva, probably the city’s most famous person, but it seems not; apparently the triangular shape represents the Trinity, and there are also three slashes in the top. However this is a little hazy and it ma be that the name comes from somewhere or something else completely!

They were traditionally eaten at Christenings, having been made by the godparents, or given to godchildren at New Year… which sounds a lovely idea. the ones we had were very generous, but apparently they can be made in different sizes; they may date back over seven hundred years, and were made by bakers as well as godparents.

There must be many different recipes, and the ones I’ve looked at are quite similar, although some do contain rum or brandy; sometimes it’s suggested that the fruit is mixed and macerated with the spirit for at least twenty-four hours before. Different spices are suggested, including ground cloves and cinnamon, and the ‘cakes’ are brushed with egg white before being sprinkled with the sugar. Some recipes suggest mincemeat, but that doesn’t seem the same at all – it contains suet and other fruits for a start!

Apparently a similar sort of pastry comes from my side of the country, from east Anglia and Suffolk in particular; there they are called  God’s kitchels/kichels and when I looked them up they don’t actually seem at all similar apart from the ‘god’ bit of the name, as they have honey and almonds and are a different shape too! They are given by a new mayor to children, thrown from the balcony of Harwich Town Hall. There are similar sorts of pastries with fruit inside from all over the country, from Eccles and Banbury for example… But I am going to try making a godcake, in tribute to Coventry!

An intersting article about them:


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