The solilème or "Sally Lunn"

A bread-like cake to be eaten warm with tea or coffee.

The bizarrely named solilème is a slightly salted cake that has an interesting history. Originally from the French region of Alsace, the name probably came from the French words “soleil” et “lune”, a term that was already used to describe a similar roundish cake-like bread. During the 17th century, the recipe arrived in Britain and became known as “Sally Lunn bread”. This gave rise to the legend that a English baker, a certain Sally Lunn, perfected the recipe that remains popular to this day, particularly in its “home-town” of Bath. Another, more romantic, version of the story describes how a love-struck baker and musician wrote a song and baked a cake for a certain Sally Lunn, the object of his affections.
The solilème returned to popularity in France during the Second Empire, in the form of the typically English habit of taking tea and cake.


- 5 teaspoons of yeast, active dry
- 1/2 a cup of warm water
- 5 1/2 cup of flour* 
- 1/4 cup of shortening or butter
- 1 1/2 cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt**
- 2 large eggs
* If using bread flour, 5 cups will probably be sufficient as it uses more liquid. All purpose flour will take the 5 1/2 cups.
** If using self-raising flour, omit the salt in this recipe. The flour itself will have enough.

Period Recipe

"Pass a litron (0.79 litres) of fine flour through a seive: separate from this the quarter that you will use to make the well; place in the well three gros (roughly 12g) of beer yeast, with a bit of warm cream; mix the ingredients, adding little by little the surrounding flour. When you have worked this mixture well, pour it into a bowl and leave it to rise to two times its original volume; now prepare the three quarters of flour that remains; pour into the well two gros (roughly 7.5 g) of fine salt, an once (30.6g) of powdered sugar, four egg yolks, five onces (150g) of warm butter and half a glass of heated cream. Mix the lot together.  Place this mixture into a buttered mould. Leave your solilème in an place that will encourage the fermentation process, and once it has risen to roughly twice its original volume, glaze the top and place it in the oven. Leave it for an hour, then, upon serving, cut it in half horizontally; separate the top from the bottom; the top will be replaced so that the cake ressembles a beehive. Add a light dusting of salt and five onces (150g) of fine warm butter to the two halves; replace the top and serve hot."  (Extract from: La cuisinière des cuisinières, Limoges: Ardent, 1867, tr. & ed. H.D.W.)

Bon appetit

1. In a small sauce pan heat the milk and shortening (or butter) enough to let the shortening melt. Let cool to lukewarm.
2. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir together until completely blended.
3. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let set a few minutes until foamy. (Proving)
4. When the liquid mixture is lukewarm, add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
5. Add all the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and beat until very smooth. Note: This mixture will be moist and sticky. The beating will not clean the sides of the bowl, but the dough should not look wet, only moist.
6. Put in a warm place and let rise until double in bulk. It is best if not covered.
7. Well grease a 10X4 tube pan* (Angel Food Cake pan)
8. When doubled in bulk, punch down and knead slightly to make smooth again. You may have to flour your hands lightly to keep dough from sticking to you. Spread dough into the greased tube pan. Try to keep as even a thickness as possible.
9. Let rise until about 1/2 inch from the top of the tube pan. Note: This seems to always take less time in rising than before.
10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaf about 50 minutes, until top is golden brown and crusty. Hint: If you are going to error in baking time, error on the long side, this is a wet dough.
11. When baked, run a thin knife around the edge of the tube and outside to ensure the loaf is loose. If you have greased properly, it will be. Remove loaf from the tube pan immediately and place on a rack to cool.
Recipe taken from the Lyon Den website (external link).

Type of Recipe