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The Raleigh Tavern’s Bake Shop in Colonial Williamsburg is a favorite destination for Virginia tourists. Queen’s Cake, a dense buttery pound cake studded with currants and bursting with bright citrus flavor, is one of the bakery’s most popular items. Now you can enjoy this easy dessert in your own kitchen with just a handful of simple ingredients — no vacation necessary!

Slices of Colonial Williamsburg Queen's Cake on a cutting board with blue and white striped towel

Ever since I shared my recipe for the soft, cake-like Gingerbread Cookies that you can find in Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop, I’ve received numerous requests for a similar copycat recipe of the bakery’s equally beloved Queen’s Cake. Finally, I’m here to deliver!

As a life-long Virginian, I have a soft spot in my heart for anything and everything Williamsburg. It was a family destination each year at Christmas when my grandmother came to visit, not to mention the countless field trips, soccer tournaments, and summer trips that also brought us to the quaint colonial town. In addition to the outlet malls (which I loved), the Raleigh Tavern’s bakery was always a highlight of our visit. Apparently I’m not alone, because I hear from so many of you who also love this step back in time!

Colonial Williamsburg Queen’s Cake:

Not to be confused with a Queen Victoria Sponge Cake (which is a layer cake with jam in the middle) or a Russian King’s Cake (a chocolate layer cake), the Queen’s Cake from Colonial Williamsburg is a recipe from 18th century England that has been updated for modern baking. The Colonial Queen Cakes were enjoyed in Virginia homes during the Colonial times, and one of the first known published recipes dates back to The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy from 1760.

This colonial Queen’s Cake is a citrus pound cake that’s baked in a loaf pan and studded with an abundance of dried currants. It’s dense, buttery, sweet and oh-so-decadent! One small slice is all you need to instantly transport you to a different era.

How to Make Queen’s Cake at Home:

The Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop has published its Queen’s Cake recipe in a variety of different places over the years — from cookbooks to websites — so I didn’t have too much trouble tweaking it slightly to work in my own kitchen. Here’s what you’ll need…

Ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Orange zest
  • Lemon zest
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried currants

Step 1: Cream together Butter and Sugar

Cream together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Process shot of making queen's cake recipe

Step 2: Add Eggs and Citrus Zest

Add the eggs (one at a time), as well as the orange zest and lemon zest.

Adding lemon and orange zest to pound cake batter

Step 3: Add Dry Ingredients

Gradually add the sifted flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt to the bowl. You should have a nice, thick pound cake batter at this point.

Batter for queen's cake in a large metal mixing bowl

Step 4: Fold in Currants

Mix the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour before folding them into the batter. This helps the currants stay suspended in the cake, rather than sinking to the bottom.

Small bowl of dried currants tossed with flour

Step 5: Transfer to Loaf Pan

Transfer the batter to the well-greased loaf pan.

Queen's cake batter in a loaf pan before baking

Step 6: Bake Cake

Bake in a 325 degree F oven for about 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake starts to get too dark while it’s baking, you can tent it loosely with foil.

Horizontal shot of sliced loaf of Queen's Cake

Preparation and Storage Tips:

  • Allow the cake to cool before slicing and serving — otherwise it may crumble or tear if it’s too warm.
  • Store the cake wrapped tightly at room temperature for 2-3 days.
  • To extend the life of the cake, you can freeze the loaf (or individual slices) wrapped tightly for up to 3 months.
Stack of slices of queen's cake on a cutting board

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • The dried currants are nice in this pound cake because they’re small, making it easy to cut thin slices. If you don’t have currants, though, you can substitute with raisins. Dried cranberries would be delicious during the holidays!
  • When zesting the orange and lemon, be sure that you’re only scraping off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the white pith from the fruit, because that is bitter and definitely not what you want in your cake.
  • Make sure that ingredients are all at room temperature before preparing the batter.
  • You can prepare the cake in mini loaf pans to share with friends. The little fruited pound cakes would be a perfect Christmas gift for neighbors. Smaller cakes will bake much faster, so start checking them at about the 45-minute mark.
Loaf of Queen's Cake from Colonial Williamsburg on a cutting board

More recipes from Colonial Williamsburg that you might enjoy:

Slices of Colonial Williamsburg Queen's Cake on a cutting board with blue and white striped towel

Williamsburg Queen’s Cake

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 1 loaf (about 12-14 thin slices)
Calories 316.8 kcal
Queen's Cake, a dense buttery pound cake studded with currants and bursting with citrus flavor, is one of Colonial Williamsburg's most popular desserts!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups dried currants

Instructions

  • Grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and orange zest. Mix well.
  • Sift together 2 cups of flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture.
  • Toss the currants with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. Fold the currants into the batter.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes – 1 hour, 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Tent with foil during the final 30 minutes if the top of the cake starts to get too brown while it’s baking.
  • Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Slice thinly and serve!

Notes

  • The dried currants are nice in this pound cake because they’re small, making it easy to cut thin slices. If you don’t have currants, though, you can substitute with raisins. Dried cranberries would be delicious during the holidays!
  • When zesting the orange and lemon, be sure that you’re only scraping off the outer layer of the peel (this is where the essential oils and delicious flavor can be found). Be careful not to grate any of the white pith from the fruit, because that is bitter and definitely not what you want in your cake.
  • Make sure that ingredients are all at room temperature before preparing the batter.
  • You can prepare the cake in mini loaf pans to share with friends. The little fruited pound cakes would be a perfect Christmas gift for neighbors. Smaller cakes will bake much faster, so start checking them at about the 45-minute mark.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/14 of the cakeCalories: 316.8kcalCarbohydrates: 40.8gProtein: 4.1gFat: 15.4gSaturated Fat: 8.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 4.6gCholesterol: 101.8mgSodium: 177.6mgPotassium: 51.8mgFiber: 2.9gSugar: 25.2g
Keyword: Pound Cake in Loaf Pan, Queen’s Cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this cake last week. It tasted perfect but my cake seem to be very heavy and too dent. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi, Sukunya! This cake is supposed to be dense — like the texture of a pound cake. It sounds like you didn’t do anything wrong. 🙂

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you, I make 4 more this weekend. It is a hit with my family. I will share with my coworkers on Monday

    1. Hi Trish,
      For the best results, we recommend using 9×5-inch loaf pans to double the recipe. We haven’t tested it, but a tube pan should work as well. Just be sure to keep an eye on your cake as the cooking time will likely vary!