The fruiting bodies of this inedible fungus form hard rounded dark brown balls that turn black with age. They are usually found on fallen or dead branches of ash and beech trees. Once cut open, they reveal silver-grey concentric growth rings a little like those of a tree. Bush craft anyone? The dry inner flesh of old black fruiting bodies make excellent starter tinder, smouldering like a barbeque briquette.
As for the name? The legend goes that in the year 878, King Alfred was hiding out in a peasant’s house on the Somerset levels whilst on the run from a surprise Viking attack. He was asked to watch over the cakes (bread) baking on the hearth but as he was deep in thought and distracted the cakes burnt. The ruined cakes were thrown out into the forest.