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Mad-Hony-Cake-art - 6/15/17


"Bolo de Mel de Cana (Madeiran Honey Cake)" by Lady Marie Hélène of the New Forest.


NOTE: See also the files: fruitcakes-msg, sugar-msg, honey-msg, Manus-Christi-msg, desserts-msg, wine-msg.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Bolo de Mel de Cana

(Madeiran Honey Cake)

by Lady Marie Hélène of the New Forest


Madeira was colonized in 1416-18, accredited to Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) [1]. Sugarcane was produced on Madeira from 1420 to 1525. [2] Bolo de Mel is said to have been made since Madeira's sugar-production heyday (1420-1490). [3]


Mel is Portuguese for 'honey', and on Madeira, it refers to the honey brought forth from canes - thus the more modern qualifier "de Cana".


Spices, nuts, and candied rind were also utilized in this ancient dessert. This dessert is commonly made for Christmas, a Madeiran version of fruitcake, as this is most commonly made with the indigenous fortified wine, Madeira.


Finding a "period" recipe as proven to be difficult as the bakery which it was reputed to have been baked since the early 15th century, Fábrica da Estrela, was destroyed by fire in 1964.[i]


The "original recipe" takes about a week to make and is "fermented" in both wine and sourdough. I made a quick version, which had less alcoholic content.


Original recipes:


Recipe 1:


9 ounces bread dough from the baker's shop

90 ounces flour

36 ounces sugar

27 ounces banha (lard)

18 ounces butter

0.9 ounce erva-doce, this is anise herbs, mashed and sifted

1.8 ounces canela (cinnamon) 

0.9 ounce cravinho da India, (cloves in powder form)

18 ounces walnut, cut into halves

9 ounces ground almonds

1.8 ounces candied lemon peel, cut into cubes

92.14 ounces (1.8 l) molasses 

5 Tablespoons of baking soda, dissolved in the wine

1 cup of Madeira wine

Juice and zest of 4 oranges




One day before making the cake, buy the bread-dough at the baker's shop, sprinkle a little bit of flour on the dough, put it in a towel and keep it in a warm place until the next day.


Put the baking soda into the Madeira wine, dissolve. In a pan warm up the molasses, mix the butter and pork fat (if not available, just use butter), dissolve. Let this mixture cool.


Sift flour into a bowl, mix in the sugar, make a well and put the bread dough into it. Now work the flour-sugar mixture into the bread dough. As soon as this is well joined, start to incorporate little by little the (tepid) molasses-fat mixture. Add some of the candied lemon peel, as well as the Madeira wine, orange juice and orange zest, anise, cinnamon, and cloves.


Incorporate and knead thoroughly until the dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Cover the dough with a towel and put it in a warm spot. Keep it in a warm place for 3-4 days.


Divide the dough into parts of 250g or 500g or 750 g, depending on the pans to put into the oven. This cake is made in wide, round pans, which are rather low. Before going into the oven, the cake is decorated with half-walnuts, sliced almonds and the rest of the candied lemon peel.


Grease the baking pans. Bake about 50 minutes 355 °F (180 °C).  Let cool down before taking it out of the baking pan.


(from Wikibooks: Cookbook: Madeira Honey Cake)


Recipe 2:


2/3 cup finely chopped raisins, dates, or dried plums

2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

2/3 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground anise

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup sugar              

3 large eggs

2 packages active dry yeast softened in 1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 1/4 cups molasses, preferably light, unsulfured molasses


Dredge the fruits and nuts in 1/2 cup of the sifted flour and set aside.  Sift the remaining flour with the baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and anise onto a piece of wax paper and set aside also.  Cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffily-light, beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the softened yeast.  Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the molasses, beginning and ending with the dry.  Fold in the fruits and nuts with the dredging flour.


Transfer the batter to a large well-greased bowl, cover with a clean dry cloth, and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 2 hours.  Note:  The batter will rise only slightly, but it will become spongy and light.  Stir the batter down, divide between two well-greased and floured pans.  Using blanched almond halves, make three daisy type flowers on the top of each pan.  Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hour.  Toward the end of the second rising, preheat the oven to moderately hot (375 degrees).  When the batter looks properly risen, bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the edges of the pans and feel springy to the touch.  Cool the cakes right side-up for 10 minutes, loosen the sides with a knife and turn the cakes out. Allow to cool before cutting. These cakes keep well in the freezer for about six months if wrapped snugly in foil and/or plastic wrap.  (Can also be drizzle with Madeira wine both before freezing and after defrosting, I used "Boal".)


(From Bolos de Mel  or  Madeiran Honey Cake found at http://www.sanpedroassociation.com/spbolo.htm)


My adaptation (for 48 minicakes and 1 small cake):


11/2 cups finely chopped mixed dried fruits (I used golden raisins, dates and mission figs, which I had soaked in a mixture of white wine and cream sherry before chopping)

About 1/4 cup candied orange peel

2 cups almond meal

6 cups, sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp each, ground cloves, ground anise and ground cinnamon

1 pound and a half butter (6 sticks) (didn't have any vegetable shortening or lard)

2 cups sugar

4 packages active dry yeast, softened in a cup of warm water

12 oz. Unsulfured molasses

1 1/2 cups orange juice

About a cup and a half of the "wine mixture" into which a Tbsp. of baking soda was dissolved

Blanched almonds

Candied orange rind


In a large bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal and spices. Set aside. Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in alternating portions, the flour, dried fruit, wine, molasses, yeast, and orange juice; beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Meanwhile prepare the pans by oiling and flouring. After the first rising, divide into the pans. Let rise for up to an additional hour. Before baking, decorate with blanched almonds (and candied rind, opt.) in a flower pattern (traditional). Preheat oven to 375ºF and bake for about 25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note: I was going to add eggs, but forgot – turned out fine anyway. Note 2: it is traditional to sprinkle with powdered sugar.




[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-the-Navigator


[2] Madeira, Sugar, & the Conquest of Nature in the 'First' Sixteenth Century Part II: From Regional Crisis to Commodity Frontier, 1506-15301 by Jason W. Moore (http://www.jasonwmoore.com/uploads/Moore__Madeira__Sugar__and_the_Conquest_of_Nature__Part_II__Review_2010.pdf)


The Mariner's Museum "Captive Passage" exhibit: Sugar Introduction



[3] madeira-web.com http://www.madeira-web.com/PagesUK/food-uk.html


[4] My Culinary Saga https://myculinarysaga.com/2016/02/22/bolo-de-mel-madeira-honey-cake/


Copyright <year> by Sandi Rust. <feo2mouse at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place 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.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org