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Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Words on Wednesdays: Delicious Cakes

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience”

James Beard

In last week's blog I described cooking in the Roman period, but to provide the full experience at my handling table, I also did some Roman cooking!

Putting the finishing touches on my Roman cakes; a sprinkle of nuts and a drizzle of honey

From the bookshelf I pulled ‘The Roman Cookery of Apicius’ (De Re Coquinaria), translated by John Edwards.

Apicius was a Roman man who wrote a recipe book during the first century BC. It is not what we would call a recipe book today, with his recipes giving little to no indication of quantities or cooking time. We can assume his book was meant for the experienced cook who could use their own judgement.

Flicking through the book, many of the recipes didn’t seem so bad, pleasant even; pears cooked with cinnamon and wine, lentil soup, marinated pork chops. But there were some recipes that I wasn’t too keen to try; apples and calf’s brain casserole, liver, chicken and onion hors d’oeuvres.

I settled on the recipe for aliter dulcia (sweets), a rich sweet honey cake topped with nuts. YUM! John Edwards’ book provided a modern adapted recipe which I used to make the cakes. Wine and honey replace the sugars we use to sweeten our cakes and cinnamon and rosemary fill the cake with a burst of flavour.

Rich sweet Roman cakes, fresh from the oven!

Apicius recipe:

Mix pepper, nuts, honey, rue and raisin wine. Cook in milk and pastry. Thicken with a little egg and bake. Pour honey on top, sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Adapted Recipe: 

Rich Sweet Cakes

2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup almonds (chopped)
½ tsp ground rosemary (rue)
2 cups pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ cup sweet raisin wine
1 egg
4 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
¾ cup milk

In a mixing bowl, put cinnamon, chopped almonds and rosemary (rue). Add flour, baking powder and mix. Next, combine sweet wine, well beaten egg, honey and milk. Blend and stir into the dry ingredients. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven in a greased 9 inch round pan, for 30 minutes. Pour a little honey on top of the finished cake, garnish with nuts and serve.

From De Re Coquinaria (Roman Cookery of Apicius), translated by John Edwards.

Why not have a go at making them yourself?

Imogen Westcott
Collections Placement

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