Sally Lunn Cake: A Sweet Bread Recipe from Colonial Williamsburg

Sally Lunn Cake, is a lightly sweet yeast bread made with flour, sugar, shortening, milk, eggs, and salt. My favorite way to eat this glorious treat is with lots of good butter and wonderful jams and preserves. It’s truly heaven on a plate and a recipe that you’ll find yourself making again and again.


This post is presented by Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is the largest outdoor living museum in America, upholding their educational mission through immersive, authentic 18th- century experiences and programming for their guests.

Who was Sally Lunn?

Legend has it that from her home in France, where the Protestant Huguenots were being cruelly persecuted, came young Sally Lunn to find employment with a baker who rented premises in Lilliput Alley. She sold his wares in the street, but when her skill at baking Brioche was discovered she no doubt spent for more time in the bakery itself. Sally Lunn’s Buns were a tremendous success; others tried hard to copy them, but her skill with the rich, soft and delicate dough inspired customers specifically to request the Sally Lunn.

This post includes the most beautiful products available in the shops of Colonial Williamsburg: WILLIAMSBURG Arcadia Crimson plates by Caskata, WILLIAMSBURG Quilt fabrics by Windham Fabrics, CW Shop Strawberry Preserves, CW Shop Fig Preserves, CW Shop Pecan Pie jar candle

Here’s the circa 1770 recipe which was reprinted in the Williamsburg cookbook:

Beat four eggs well; then melt a large Tablespoonful of Butter, put it in a Teacup of warm Water, and pour it to the Eggs with a Teaspoon of Salt and a Teacup of Yeast (this means Potato Yeast); beat in a Quart of Flour making the Batter stiff enough for a Spoon to stand in. Put it to rise before the Fire the Night before. Beat it over in the Morning, grease your Cake-mould and put it in Time enough to rise before baking. Should you want it for Supper, make it up at 10:00 o’Clock in the Morning in the Winter and 12: o’Clock in the Summer.

SERVES 10-12

You will need:
4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup softened butter
3 eggs, room temperature

  1. Mix 1 1/4 cups flour, the sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast in a large bowl.
  2. Combine milk, water and butter in a saucepan. Heat on low until liquids are warm. Add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes (medium speed) with electric mixer or stand mixer.
  3. Add eggs and 1 cup flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, then stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter.
  4. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow to proof for one hour.
  5. Punch down the batter and beat well again for 2 minutes.
  6. Place batter in a greased 9-inch tube pan or large Bundt pan. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof again for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 325F and bake bread for 45-50 minutes.
  8. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  9. Serve in large slices with best quality butter and lots of wonderful jams and preserves.

A wonderful way to gift this bread would be to wrap it up in beautiful fabric from Colonial Williamsburg and pair it with a couple of jars of fabulous preserves.

Photography by Paul Lowe