Traditional Welsh Shearing Cake

One 8 inch cake – good for 6-9 people

This Traditional Welsh Shearing Cake combines our Welsh heritage with our current sheep raising. It’s something we celebrate at Leystone to connect us to our roots and to the community.

10min Prep

45min Cook

Traditional Welsh Shearing Cake
(Cacen Gneifo) pronounced “c-ack-en guh-nigh-fo” in Welsh


  • 8 ounces butter
  • 8 ounces caster sugar
  • 8 ounces self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 ounces candied citrus peel
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar



    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch round cake tin. You can also use any glass or ceramic casserole dishes.
    2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until it is well combined, light and fluffy. I like to do this in our stand mixer on high. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.
    3. Gradually, whisk the eggs and buttermilk into the butter and sugar mixture. You want this to become light and fluffy.
    4. Once all the eggs and buttermilk have been added, fold in the self-raising flour a little at a time.
    5. Stir in the lemon zest, caraway seeds, nutmeg, and candied citrus peel. It’s not uncommon for people to drop the candied citrus peel (we’ve all had bad Christmas fruit cake experiences!)
    6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan or dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick comes out completely clean.
    7. Let the cake cool, then dust with confectioner’s sugar to serve.
    Traditional Welsh Shearing Cake

    Traditional Welsh Shearing Cake


    Shearing Day is pretty special at Leystone farms. In part because of the absolute joy of seeing the sheep freshly shorn and dancing about. It’s quite something to see!!!

    But it also holds a special place in the traditions of Welsh sheep farming, occurring annually during the early summer and occasionally in the fall. My family is Welsh so this is important to us because we are continuing a tradition that goes back in the forgotten moments of time.

    This occasion sees sheep farmers gathering with shearers and farmhands to undertake the task of shearing sheep. While it’s lots of work, it comes with cups of tea, lots of food, and a special cake known as shearing cake or cacen gneifo in Welsh.

    The roots of Shearing Day date back to a time when communal efforts were essential for agricultural tasks in Wales. Before the advent of modern farming tools, activities like harvesting, corn threshing, and sheep shearing required collaboration among neighboring farms and communities. Each farm would host its own Shearing Day, where the surrounding community would come together to assist with shearing, sorting, and cleaning the wool. This collective endeavor not only benefited the humans involved but also contributed to the well-being of the sheep by reducing heat exhaustion and parasites.

    Central to Shearing Day was the tradition of communal dining, with the women from the host farm preparing various dishes to be enjoyed by all participants. This practice of communal sharing of food was particularly significant during times of hardship, such as the agricultural depression of the late 1800s, when families often relied on food as payment for labor during Harvest, Shearing, and Threshing days.

    The exact origins of shearing cake are difficult to trace, but it has become an integral part of Shearing Day celebrations. This simple yet delicious buttery sponge cake, infused with caraway seeds, lemon rind, and candied citrus peel, symbolizes the festive spirit of the occasion. It serves as a token of appreciation to the hardworking participants, embodying the spirit of gratitude and generosity within the community. If you’re looking for an even older recipe, you can try this one from the Museum of Wales. 

    While Shearing Day has evolved over time to adapt to modern agricultural practices, the tradition of providing lunch for shearers and helpers remains a significant aspect of the celebration.

    Shearing Day also serves as a reminder of the intergenerational nature of farming traditions, with many families passing down the practice from one generation to the next. Despite changes in agricultural practices and societal norms, the spirit of Shearing Day continues to resonate with those who cherish the memories of past celebrations. For them, the tradition of Shearing Day and the making of shearing cake hold a special place in their hearts and recipe books, serving as a testament to the enduring importance of community, gratitude, and shared labor in Welsh agricultural heritage.