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King Alfred’s Cakes

Inedible Inedible
Autumn Autumn
Spring Spring
Summer Summer
Winter Winter

Although not edible, King Alfred’s Cakes make great firelighters, can be used as charcoal briquettes for campfire cooking, used to transport fire and as hand warmers on a cold day.

Mushroom Type
Common Names King Alfred's Cakes (EN), Cramp Balls (EN), Pelen Ddu (CY), Szenes Gömbgomba (HU)
Scientific Name Daldinia concentrica
Season Start All Year
Season End All Year
Average Mushroom height (CM)
Average Cap width (CM) 4-7
Please note that each and every mushroom you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Fruiting Body

4-7cm. The fruiting body is usually spherical and starts brown, this then becomes black. The outer surface appears smooth until very close inspection reveals tiny pores.


The pores are tiny and on the fruiting body surface.


Tough and dry with concentric circles of grey/silver and black. These are like growth rings in a tree and show the annual growth of the mushroom.


Mainly growing on dead Ash but can be found on Beech and occasionally other trees.

Spore Print

Black. Ellipsoid to fusiform. King Alfred’s Cakes can release spores long after collecting and should be stored in a sealed container to avoid the mess in the image.


Very common.

Other Facts

A very widespread and useful, if not edible, mushroom.
It can be used to catch a very weak spark when fire lighting with flint and steel or an ember when using a bow drill.
When lit, they can be used to transport fire as they will smoulder for quite a while, depending on size, and another one can be lit from the first one before it goes out.
They can be used as charcoal briquettes to cook food and produce minimal smoke so this mushroom is taught to the special forces.
On a cold day they make great little hand warmers, although care should always be taken as they burn quite hot.


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