Medieval Lemon Cake Recipe
Take fine flowre and good Damaske water you must have no other liquor but that, then take sweet butter, two or three yolkes of egges and a good quantity of Suger, and a fewe cloues, and mace, as your Cookes mouth shall serue him, and a lyttle saffron, and a little Gods good about a sponfull if you put in too much they shall arise, cutte them in squares lyke vnto trenchers, and pricke them well, and let your ouen be well swept and lay them vppon papers and so set them into the ouen. Do not burne them if they be three or foure dayes olde they bee the better.
- Dawson, Thomas. The good huswifes Iewell. London: Edward White, 1596.
Our Changes: To make these lemony cakes, we added lemon zest to the dough, and basted the finished cookies in a lemon-honey sauce. We also took out the rosewater to eliminated possible flavor rivalry.
- 3 Tbs. butter, softened
- 1/4 heaping cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- zest from one lemon
- 1/2 tsp. hartshorn (or baking soda), dissolved in 1 tsp. of hot water
- 1/4 tsp. each salt, cloves and mace
- pinch saffron
- 1 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- juice from one lemon
- 1 tbs honey
Cream together the butter & sugar until smooth; beat in the egg yolks. Blend in the dissolved hartshorn or baking soda, then the zest, salt & spices. Stir in the flour and work until a ball of dough is formed. Knead gently until smooth, working in more flour if necessary.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 1/4 ” thickness. With a floured butter knife, cut the dough into small squares or rectangles. Make decorative vent holes on the cakes by pricking with a fork, then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in a preheated 300° F oven for 14-15 minutes until just done. Be sure that they do not brown on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. While they are cooling, mix the lemon juice and honey together in a pan on the stove, over low heat. Let cool slightly before brushing onto cakes, and store in an air-tight container.
Cook’s Notes: Fun fact! Hartshorn, an early predecessor of baking soda, was literally made from reindeer antlers, or “hart’s horns”. It can still be purchased today, and gives baked goods an extra crispness.