Pope Lady Cake

History books tell us there is an old custom in St. Albans, dating back many centuries, where the eating of small, sweet cakes in human form, having currants to mark the features, are eaten on New Years Day. The ‘Pope Lady Bun’ is decorated with seven currants that are supposed to denote the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. These, probably, are like the pain bénit of Brittany that were intended to represent the Virgin Mary. Opponents of the Roman Catholic religion scoffingly termed these cakes Popes' Ladies, and hence their present name.

Pope Lady Cake is also a traditional recipe unique to St Albans. However, no one seems to know how this originated but they were traditionally given as gifts on New Year’s Day.


8oz self raising flour 8oz caster sugar
1oz cornflour 8 egg whites
6oz butter ¼ teaspoon almond extract


  1. Grease and line the bottom of an 8” round, deep cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar and 4 of the egg whites together.
  3. Add the almond extract and fold in the self raising flour and cornflour.
  4. Beat the remaining egg whites till they are very still and gently but thoroughly fold into the cake mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and stand it on a baking sheet.
  6. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 110°C/220°F/Gas mark ½ for 1½ hours.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.


St Albans