Martin · Song of Ice and Fire

Sansa’s Lemon Cakes

Author: Martin, George R.R.
Book: A Song of Ice and Fire
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds ExpectationsSansa's Lemon Cakes

Happy (?) Game of Thrones season finale night! In honor of Sansa’s newfound badassery and the death of yet another favorite character, I bring you rose-shaped lemon cakes.

Did it measure up?
The truth: I personally don’t like marzipan much. I think it’s mealy and kinda bland. So I’m not a great judge of whether these lemon cakes were very good or not. I can say that I liked them better than most marzipan items I’ve had before, and many at our viewing went back for second, third, even fourth slices! They’re definitely intense because they’re zesty and tart — you wouldn’t pick one up and take a big bite out of it, but instead you’d cut off a thin wedge, and then go back for another small bit once you’ve had a break.

Recipe Research Notes:
I asked one of our favorite culinary historians, Dr. Annie Gray, for advice on making period-appropriate lemon cakes for a Game of Thrones season finale celebration. Since A Song of Ice and Fire is sort of based on the War of the Roses, I was looking for a 15th-century recipe. But those are hard to find and to decipher.

According to Dr. Gray, there aren’t a lot of pre-16th century sources, so most people working in that period are flexible when picking “medieval” recipes. Cakes before the 17th century were usually sweet lumps made of marchpane (marzipan)/gum paste, or they could be enriched breads.

Dr. Gray had several guesses about what a medieval lemon cake would be like:

  1. A marchpane enriched with lemon zest.
  2. Something like “Fine Ginger Cake” from Gervase Markham.
  3. A bready cake with candied lemon zest.

I went with the first option, since marzipan’s apparently been around forever and hasn’t changed too much. Living History Today and Dame Alys Katharine‘s posts on medieval marchpane were super-helpful reading, especially since I can’t make heads or tails of recipes written in ye olde English.

I didn’t try to be super-strict with historical authenticity when cooking. Obviously, Game of Thrones cooks wouldn’t have had the luxury of buying pre-ground super-fine blanched almond flour at the natural foods supermarket. Nor would they have used a silicon rose pan for molding. Also, since I was fresh out of gold leaf, I used gold luster dust instead. I was cooking alone, since Jenne had to work that day (which is why I have exactly 1 photo for this post), and it’s a fantasy series, not a strictly historical one. That means I get lots of leeway!

Jenne was to be present at this GoT viewing party; therefore, I was especially mindful of the fact that she strongly dislikes lemon desserts that are too sweet and easy on real lemon flavor. So I added lots of juice and zest. You can lessen both if you’d like something a bit more mellow.

SANSA’S LEMON CAKES
Based on Living History Today‘s and Dame Alys Katharine‘s recipes

Ingredients & Supplies Needed:


Cakes

  • Rose cupcake pan
  • Cookie sheet
  • 16 oz super-fine blanched almond flour (Make sure it’s blanched, a.k.a. made from peeled almonds. It makes a huge difference.)
  • 8 oz baker’s sugar
  • 6 tbs of lemon juice
  • 3-5 lemons’ worth of zest (I used 3 small lemons and 1 large one)
  • 1 egg white
  • A pinch or two of salt

Lemon Icing

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Put the almond flour, 6 oz sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg white. Mix with your hands. Then, start with 3 tbs of lemon juice and 2 lemons’ worth of zest.
  3. Knead until it’s similar to the consistency of play dough. Add more of either the juice or zest if you like, according to taste.
  4. Grease the rose pan with cooking oil or butter. Wipe off the excess with paper towel or cloth.
  5. Push the dough into each rose-shaped cup in the pan so it’s flat and even across. (If you don’t have a rose pan, you can really use whatever you like — ramekins, small bowls… You could even just cut them into strips.)
  6. Put the pan on a cookie sheet and put in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Flip the rose cakes out onto the cookie sheet so the flat side is down.
  8. Put the sheet in the oven and bake another 15 minutes. They shouldn’t brown — the outside of the cakes will dry out a little. If they do start browning, turn the oven down a little.
  9. Take out of the oven and cool.
  10. Mix lemon juice, sugar, and gold dust to make the glaze, and brush it on the tops of the cakes.
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One thought on “Sansa’s Lemon Cakes

  1. I love that you are re interpreting old recipes. We can learn so much from them and I’m glad you found the page useful. I found a Victorian version of what is essentially the marchpane recipe, but this time it’s rolled out as a dough and stamped into small biscuits which are just dried for 15-20 minutes in a low oven. They would take well to the addition of finely grated zest and keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight tin.

    Liked by 2 people

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