Adapted from Recipe Wise
Eilene is having friends over to watch the last Lord of the Rings movie. It is time to think up some new Shire themed recipes. I am thinking seed cake and honey chicken wings.
Tolkien based much of the food described in his Ring books on Medieval English fare. This is a very old English cake and just the type of thing that Samwise Gamgee would like for his lunch. However, being an English recipe, as an America, I had to struggle with the measurements.
While most Americans are used to using cups and tablespoons, The English use grams to measure butter, flour and sugar. A useful web site for this type of conversion is Diana’s Desserts.
Tip: No matter how obscure your problem is someone out there on the internet has found a way to make it easier for the next person.
Note: If you cannot find a solution to a particular problem, that person should be you.
Caster sugar is not the same as standard American granulated sugar. It is sold in America as super-fine or baker’s sugar. It has smaller crystals than the usual American sugar, but it is not as fine as powdered sugar. If you are in a pinch, you can grind regular sugar in a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, to get the correct crystal size. However, demerara sugar is simply the English term for turbinado sugar.
Note: You might be put off by the amount of caraway seeds used in this recipe. A quarter of a cup of any spice may seem like an awful lot to use. Don’t worry, be happy.
Self raising flour is not common in America. Fortunately, it is easy to make. Add one tablespoon of baking powder for every one and a half cups of flour. Mix the baking powder completely into the flour by sifting the mixture five or six times. You want the baking powder evenly distributed throughout the flour without any clumps of either ingredient.
Karl’s Shire Seed Cake
4 large eggs, beaten
2 sticks (1 cup) + 1 Tbs. butter, softened (240 g)
1 cup + 1 Tbs. caster sugar (240 g)
¼ cup caraway seeds (30 g)
½ tsp. ground mace
½ tsp. nutmeg, fresh grated
3 Tbs. brandy
2 7/8 cups A.P. flour (320 g)
2 Tbs. baking powder
4-6 Tbs. milk (or cream)
2 tbs. turbinado sugar (demerara sugar)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 500° F (260° C).
Tip: The latest Cooks Illustrated (March-April 2014) had a recipe for British scones. In addition to the recipe for making self raising flour, they found that chemically leavened baked goods could get a similar “oven spring” that yeasted breads get from starting in a super hot oven. This gives you a lighter cake.
2. Put a circle of parchment paper in a 9 inch round cake pan and butter the sides.
Tip: Place the bottom of the pan on a sheet of parchment paper and use it to draw a circle on the paper. Cut just inside the line and place it inside the pan. This keeps the bottom of the cake from sticking and makes removing the cake from the pan without damage it much easier.
3. Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium sized bowl.
4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Tip: An electric egg beater is very useful for this task.
5. Gradually beat in the eggs a little bit at a time.
6. When the egg, sugar and butter is thoroughly mixed, whisk in the caraway seeds, mace, nutmeg, and brandy.
7. Gently fold in the flour.
8. Add just enough milk (or cream) to make a thick batter, not dry, but not too wet either.
Note: Recipe Wise describes it as: “…the cake batter [will have] a good ‘dropping’ consistency (this means the mixture is neither wet nor dry, but will drop off a spoon when [the spoon is] tipped).”
9. Put the cake batter into the cake pan and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
10. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the top.
11. Put the cake in the oven on the middle rack and bake it for ten minutes at 500° F (260° C).
12. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F (180° C) and continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes.
Note: The original recipe called for a baking time of only 40 to 50 minutes, but I found this to be way too short a time.
12. Bake the seed cake until a skewer comes out clean.
13. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes.
14. Remove the cake from the pan and finish cooling it on a wire rack.
Note: Recipe Wise says: “This seed cake will taste even better after a day or two, so wrap it in foil or baking parchment and keep it in an air tight tin. It will keep for several days.”