Literary Sustenance: When Reading About Medieval Honey Cake Creates a Craving
Since sometime in 2019, I’ve been living in the middle ages. Well, that is, literarily speaking. I’ve been reading every book I can get my hands on by Elizabeth Chadwick, foremost author of medieval tales, so thankfully I’m living my best 1100s to 1200s life in fiction. Sometimes however, it does feel like we are living in the middle ages, what with the floods, war (overseas and here with considerable civil unrest), wild beasts (murder hornets, anyone?) and our modern-day plague (COVID-19). I’m jesting, of course — mostly. Cue nervous laughter. Chadwick’s books are incredibly well-written and deeply researched; rich with color, detail and adventure; and filled with comprehensive descriptions of the meals and snacks of nobles and peasants alike. After countless references to what seemed to have been everyone’s favorite snack, honey cake, my curiosity finally got the best of me and I looked it up. (If you are interested in the books, I’ve read and recommend the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy and the Marshal, Bigod and Fitzwarin series.)
The recipe I discovered on the Jewish food history blog Poppy and Prune piqued my interest so much, I baked one this weekend. If you like honey, this cake is for you. I’m not going to go into the history of this 13th-century recipe, since writer and researcher Emily Sacharin has already done such a good job of it, so if you want to learn more, visit her post, which also includes various cited sources. (You’re welcome fellow nerds! I have your back). The only change I made to the recipe or instructions is to use an 8-inch baking pan greased with butter and olive oil, rather than a 9-inch oiled and lined with parchment paper. It’s a fairly dense cake, but moist and oh-so-flavorful. Enjoy!
Medieval Honey Cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 cup honey
- ½ cup oil
- ½ cup milk, dairy or plant-based
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of a 9” round cake pan with parchment paper and oil the interior. Mix together flour and honey. When reasonably combined, mix in oil. Then add the milk. When thoroughly mixed, the batter should have a consistency not unlike that of Play-Doh. Spread the batter into the pan, smoothing with a spatula. Bake 35-40 minutes. This cake is best served warm.
Have you ever been inspired to cook or bake a dish you read about in a book? Share in comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.