Last Friday at 10:00 a.m., I sent my son to the basement for a beer. All in the name of Classic Literature, of course.
No, I’m not running a Fagin-style home for wayward boys, in fact this was a Jane Eyre project, and yet another in our fantastically popular line of blog posts about Classic Recipes.
Remember those sparknote quizes on the books that we’ve mentioned before? Sometimes the questions are, how shall I say, um, irrelevant. Such as this one from the Jane Eyre quiz:
13. What does the kind teacher give Jane and Helen to eat?
(A) Bundt cake
(D) Seed cake
Unless Brontë is using some motif unbeknownst to this reader, the type of food Miss Temple gives them is not important. At all. By the way, it’s seed cake, in case you didn’t know either.
You’re right, I’m just bitter because I missed the question, but that is not the point.
Okay, so it is the point. But let’s take that point and run with it, shall we? In order to make sure that I never, ever, ever forget the importance of seed cake I decided to bake one.
I used this recipe based on recipes from the 16th-17th centuries. It also claims that a similar cake is mentioned by Chaucer in Canterbury Tales, so I guess I can make another one in 22 years when we get to that part of our reading list.
Before we proceed, it’s important for you to know that no birds were starved in the making of this cake. A yeast or two might have given their life, though. But I can’t imagine that drowning in a vat of warm ale is a horrid way to go.
The seed in question for the seed cake was up to me. The recipe suggests anise, caraway, coriander, cardamom or anything flavorful and pleasant. That last adjective seemed important, so I went with anise. Because not only do I think anise is pleasant, I also had some on hand, I couldn’t say as much for the other seeds.
I made a big mess of it all by trying to be fancy with my left hand while my right hand held a crying baby. Someday I’ll learn, or the kids will grow up, one or the other.
The end result didn’t taste as weird as a feared. It was dense, but fairly moist, and if you don’t mind the distinct flavor of anise then it seemed perfectly “pleasant.”
But I probably won’t be making it again any time soon. In fact, next time I’ll just pretend the answer is C and pick up some Oreos for our get together.