Great-Cake-art - 6/1/08
"A Great Cake from the Rose Tourney" by Johnnae llyn Lewis.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
A Great Cake from the Rose Tourney
by Johnnae llyn Lewis
S 151 TO MAKE A GREAT CAKE
Take a peck of flower & put to it 10 eggs beaten; take out 3 of ye whites. Put in nutmeg, cinnamond, cloves, & mace, of each a quarter of an ounce; A full quart of Ale barme, & mingle with ye flower two pound of fresh butter. When it
allmoste kneaded, put in 6 spoonfulls of hot water to it, & 10 pounds of currans, & halfe a pound of sugar beaten. Let it ly by ye fire to rise, & then bake it.
Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. pp.315
This is one of four recipes for ale barm or yeast leavened cakes found
in 'A Booke of Sweetmeats', which is the second manuscripts of the two Tudor-Jacobean manuscripts that make up Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. Kenelme Digbie or Digby in his The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby, Opened had a similar recipe for "An Excellent Cake" in his collection. Other cakes of the same type include Gervase Markham's Banbury Cake and one entitled "To Make a Good Cake" from The Gentlewoman's Cabinet Unlocked of the 1590's. Rebecca Price in her culinary manuscript included recipes for "rich" and "not rich" cakes, "good" and "very good" cakes, and lastly a recipe for "A very good, and a Rich Cake, often made by me." Elizabeth David would remark that over the
centuries every village and town in the British Isles would develop its own specialty yeast bread or cake. The recipes mentioned here form the background of those cakes or breads.
Food Historian Karen Hess provided some suggestions as to the amounts required for a quarter version of the S 151 recipe.
8 cups flour, 3 eggs, minus 1 white, 3/4 teaspoons each of the
spices, 1 cup barm made from 1 cup imported ale and 1 ounce
yeast, 1 cup sweet butter, 2 tablespoons hot water, and 2 1/2
pounds currants, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt.
Bake at 350 degrees F for an hour.
When one examines the proportions given in the suggested amounts of the flour to the currants in these original recipes, one often comes up with a one to one ratio of flour to currants. Hess holds to this rule as 8 cups of flour at 3 1/3 cups of flour per pound equals approximately 2 and 1/2 pounds, which is her suggested amount of currants. I thought 1/2 pound of currants would be adequate for my cake and for a banquet in June.
Pepys may have dined on a very rich currant cake in the winter of 1661, but for our ladies a less rich cake might well do better. There would after all be currants incorporated in some of the other dishes as well. I cut back on the currants and to compensate for losing part of the sweetness of the currants, increased the sugar to 1 cup. I also used Sam Adams' Summer Ale, an American product for the Ale. Since I used a whole 12 ounce bottle, I did not add the called for 2 Tablespoons hot water. Sam Adams' uses Grains of Paradise and lemon zest in its summer ale.
Ingredients used for my cake:
8 cups all purpose flour, 3 eggs, minus 1 white, 1 teaspoon each of the spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, & mace, ale barm made from 1 bottle of Sam Adams' Summer Ale and 1 tablespoon yeast, 1 cup butter, and one half pound currants, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt.
I did not have a fire to let the cake rise by, so I used my kitchen's modern equivalent. I combined all the ingredients, except for the currants in my bread machine and let the dough mix and rise on the machine's dough cycle. I then added the currants to the dough just prior to placing the dough into the chosen baking pan. This kept the currants whole and prevented the bread machine blade from knocking them about into bits and pieces.
[Be sure that your machine can handle a dough of 8 cups of flour before doing the cake in your machine. Otherwise one should make the recipe up and handle it as one does a rich yeasted dough. It works up well in a 5 quart heavy duty mixer with bread hook. Mix, knead and let rise and then place in a cake pan of one's choice.] I baked mine in a reproduction [albeit non-stick] early 18th century cake pan, which is the earliest documented cake tin style that I own. A 12 cup pan is necessary for this amount of dough. Hess thinks they may have been baked originally in hoops or even baked without a hoop. I thought it worked well in this pan. [For a similar pan, although not exactly the same as mine, see Kaiser's cakepan sold as a "Charlotte Bundform."]
Bake in an oven at 350 degrees F for approximately an hour. Check to make sure that the cake is not burning on the top or that the currants are getting too brown. Cover with foil, if needed. Turn out and cool on a rake. Ice or serve plain. Mine baked in exactly an hour, but this may vary depending on the pan used.
My survey article on the recipes, history and uses of the words "icing", "glazing", and "frosting", appear in the file: Sugar-Icing-art -11/10/01 "Sugar Icing" by Johnnae llyn Lewis. Described as: "Some notes on sugar icing in late periodÉ" with appropriate dated recipes. The article includes recipes that contain the word "icing" that predate OED's earliest quotations. The article is some 20 plus pages, so I shall not produce it here. It is located in Stefan's Florilegium at http://www.florilegium.org/
Digby, Kenelm. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, Kt. Opened. 1669. Ed. By Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson. Prospect Books, 1997.
Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. Edited by Michael R. Best. McGill-Queen's University Press, 1986.
Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. Ed. By Karen Hess. Columbia University Press, 1981.
Price, Rebecca. The Compleat Cook, Or the Secrets of a Seventeenth-Century Housewife. Complied and introduced by Madeleine Masson. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.
[Recipe from The Gentlewoman's Cabinet Unlocked may be found in Bridget Henisch's Cakes and Characters. London: Prospect Books, 1984.]
Pepys At Table. Edited by Christopher Driver and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson. Bell & Hyman, 1984.
David, Elizabeth. English Bread and Yeast Cookery. 1977. American edition with notes by Karen Hess. Viking Press, 1980. [See especially her chapter on moulds and tins and regional cakes.]
This ends the recipe for the Great Cake.
Copyright 2002 by Johnna H. Holloway. <Johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>. Please don't reprint without permission from the author.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.