Misadventures in Medieval Cooking Part 3 (Recipe)
by Nicole Locke, author of The Knight’s Scarred Maiden
The Knight’s Scarred Maiden is a story all about honey cakes. Okay, maybe there’s a hero and a heroine, both with tragic pasts, both with an enemy out to kill them. There’s tons of attraction, tension, and kisses. Oh, and they most definitely fall in love.
But no matter what, this book is about honey…and cakes.
And there lies the problem. Because no matter how accomplished a baker I am, my imagination has these honey cakes at epic proportions. Let me give you an idea why.
First, you have Helissent, whose family died in a tragic fire. Burned severely on the right side of her body, she was healed with honey. When the innkeepers adopt her, she helps bring in more patrons by learning to bake honey cakes.
Second, you have Rhain, who irritated a few people in the mercenary business and now has a powerful warlord after him. On the run with his band of mercenaries, he stops at an inn and tastes some cakes. Though it risks his life, he stays.
Here’s a sneak peek into that scene:
‘Thank you,’ Rhain said as she walked away. He untied one of the sacks in front of him and released a cake. It was warm and the smell of butter and honey were extravagant in the musty, almost putrid smells of the tavern. It fit perfectly in his hand and he revelled in the colour, and the springy texture of his first bite.
He knew the taste would be better out of the darkness of the tavern. For a man of his wealth and status, a man who made his money on his mercenary skills and diplomacy, he knew the art of patience. He could wait until he reached the lodging and his men, but he didn’t want to.
Cakes. Such a little pleasure to most, but to him all the more precious since a price went on his head.
Roman Honey Cake
During Helissent’s time, she would have baked something similar to the Roman Honey Cake. And because of the cost, she would have practiced using breadcrumbs versus actual flour.
I played around with several recipes. I used white flour first, then rye-spelt flour. I even doubled, then halved the amount of honey. But the perfect combo for my stalwart family was 100% wheat flour, just the right amount of honey, and a deep small dish/pan (I used a quiche dish). The cake came out fluffy, soft, and delicious.
3 large eggs
190g liquid honey (a lighter honey is best—these cakes have a strong honey flavour)
60g 100% wheat flour
Whip eggs for at least 6 minutes, add the honey on a lower setting. Then fold in the flour. Cook at 350 for 20-30 until dark golden brown. Buttering the top makes it decadent.
While this cake is good, Helissent is an avid baker—and my imagination didn’t have the humble Roman Honey Cake in mind when this intimate scene occurred:
Sitting up, Rhain shucked off his tunic. Not an ounce of hair covering him like she’d seen with others. Just more of that golden skin and lean muscles. Each line so symmetrically formed, she could level cakes with them.
‘You laugh?’ he said.
Was she laughing? ‘I was thinking of baking.’
‘Baking.’ His voice was deadpan.
She knew she had to explain. ‘I often think of baking when I look at you.’
He glanced down at his bare chest. ‘I should be insulted if you think I look like a cake. If Nicholas ever knew, I’d never hear the end of it.’
She did laugh then. ‘It’s your colouring. I can’t help it. Your hair is the colour of lavender honey in spring. Your eyes the colour of a winter’s batch carved from the beeswax.’
His body eased beside her, his head resting on his hand, his eyes warm. ‘Coming from you, these are compliments. Anything else inspire you?’
She wished she could blush then. ‘The texture of your hair.’ She could still feel it between her fingers.
‘What of it?’
‘It’s like the coarsest of rye flours sifted with the richest of butters. And your skin…’ she swallowed ‘…it’s golden like—’
‘Your honey cakes?’ His lips twitched. ‘If you compare me to your honey cakes, I may just boast to my men what you think of me.’
Now the lumpy Roman cake wouldn’t be the work of art Helissent meant. But while searching for different recipes I came across a layered honey cake. Alright it has sugar, which makes it too pricy for Helissent to bake. Thus, I played around with it, lowered the sugar content, and added more honey.
Without a doubt, if Helissent describes Rhain’s washboard abs to cakes then this, with its many layers, would be the cake.
90g soft room temp butter
4 large egg yolks
50 g flour
55g corn flour (not medieval!)
Dash of salt
4 large egg whites
Into the butter hand-whisk the egg yolks one by one. You don’t want it to get grainy or lumpy (this happened to me when the butter, at room temp, was still too cold and I had to bin it). Pour in honey, whisk. Fold in flours and salt.
Separately, whip large egg whites with sugar. Fold into the previous batter.
In an 8-inch lined/buttered cake pan, ladle enough batter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Place the filled cake pan on a baking sheet that has water (like a water bath with barely any water). Bake at 350 for 7 min until golden brown. Take cake out, ladle another bit of batter to cover that until each layer is baked.
While it’s still warm, do a honey glaze on top (light honey mixed in hot water). Then wrap it tightly because this cake dries up fast
After tasting these recipes, I think Rhain had the right idea of eating these cakes immediately…they certainly didn’t last with my family.
About The Knight’s Scarred Maiden:
A maiden for the mercenary
Mercenary knight Rhain is living on borrowed time. With a vengeful warlord pursuing him, he has accepted his fate—though first he must get his men to safety.
When he rescues mysterious and deeply scarred Helissent from her attackers, Rhain soon wishes he wasn’t marked for death. He can never be the man she deserves—his scandalous lineage alone dictates that—but Rhain can’t resist the temptation to show this innocent maiden how beautiful she truly is…