23: Modern Lemon Cakes — A Feast of Ice & Fire
It may be mid-April, but WINTER IS HERE.
*insert a million Game of Thrones GIFs*
A girl loves to eat on theme, and I’ve been planning to make this very recipe on this very week basically since I started this project. Because the final season is finally here, I’m House Stark all the way, and Sansa has been through some shit and deserves those damn lemon cakes she likes so much.
The Assignment: Modern Lemon Cakes from A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer
“Official”? OFFICIAL. George R. R. Martin himself wrote the forward for it (WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN FINISHING THE WINDS OF WINTER COME ON GRRM).
Food features a bit in the HBO series Game of Thrones, but far more prominently in the show’s source material, the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books (OF WHICH WE STILL HAVE NOT GOTTEN THE FINAL TWO INSTALLMENTS WHAT IS GOING ON, MAN). Which makes sense: You’re writing a book, you need to put in all the little details to flesh out the universe — it can’t all be tits and wine, people — and that includes the food. And the food shout-out that I remember most was the mention repeated mentions of Sansa loving her lemon cakes:
“Later came sweetbreads and pigeon pie and baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and lemon cakes frosted in sugar, but by then Sansa was so stuffed that she could not manage more than two little lemon cakes, as much as she loved them.”— A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
No wonder I like these books so much.
The book supplies 2 different recipe options for lemon cakes: one traditional Elizabethan style, and one in the style of classic French petit fours. For me, the choice came down to “Which one will taste more lemony?” The Elizabethan cakes only called for lemon zest and no juice, so I went with the latter.
Additionally, it should absolutely be noted that this book was written by the team behind the blog The Inn at the Crossroads, which is just an awesomely nerdy good time. They also have produced cookbooks themed off World of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls. (Note: The lemon cakes on the blog are not the ones that ultimately made it into the cookbook.)
Things to Note About This Recipe:
- I don’t have a ton of critique for this one, y’all. It turned out pretty great. But there are a couple main things…
- A 7×11 pan is a) an obnoxious pan size, and b) it’s too small. Seeing as I don’t have a 7×11 pan, I went to The Internet to find out what else I could use. Using this handy volume conversion info + the square-inch area of the pans, I determined that using my 9×9 pan (81 sq. inches) should be fine in place of the 7×11 pan (77 sq. inches). And it was… kind of. YES, it held all the batter just fine… but it was SO DEEP! The situation would not have been better in a 7×11 either. My feeling? Pour that batter into a 9×13 pan, and you’ll be in better shape all around. Because…
- The cake was very thick, and I really couldn’t cut it into more than 36 squares. I absolutely could have cut it into 45 or more pieces had the cake been cooked in a larger pan. And because of that thickness…
- I had to increase the cook time. And that’s even after I adjusted up the cook temp on my cool-running oven. Baked for 30 minutes, and the center was still jigglin’. Put it in for 10 more, and it looked fine… but then after it cooled and collapsed, I discovered the center was a bit squidgier than it should have been (but ultimately fine once chilled). Another problem solved by baking in a larger pan.
- I’m now referring to my oven as The Jamaican Bobsled because COOL RUNNINGS.
- Before you cut your cake into cubes, trim it to level off the top and sides. Your cubes will be prettier, and the extra is Chef Snacks for you.
- I just remembered I have Chef Snacks in the fridge.
- THAT ICING IS GREAT. Lemon juice + powdered sugar is basically magic, so you can’t go wrong. That said…
- There’s not enough of it. I only had 36 cakes to top, and I couldn’t cover all of them. I would at LEAST increase the amount by half, if not double. The icing is a star here. It’s what everyone goes nuts over. You do NOT want to shortchange the icing.
- If you add the larger amount of lemon juice as I — lover of all things lemon and hard-core acid stan — absolutely did, your icing may be a bit thinner.
- I take issue with the direction “Drizzle icing over each cube, making sure to coat the sides.” Maybe it was just my thinner, still hot icing, but you drizzle that icing, and you’re gonna end up losing a lot of it to runoff. You want ALL OF THAT ICING. You want to make sure as much of it stays on the cakes as possible. What did I do? I did the half-dunk. I dipped the top half of each cube into the icing, and let the extra drip down. I have no regrets. Some drips were lost, but not as much as if I’d just drizzled.
- You gotta work fast with this icing. It WANTS to firm up.
- If you want to add decorative toppings, ice your cakes in batches. Ice a few, top a few, ice a few, top a few. If you wait ’til you’re through the whole batch, the icing on your first cakes will be firm already and nothing will stick.
- Apparently I had more critique than I remembered at first.
- I wish I had extra icing for my Chef Snacks.
How did they taste?
SO GREAT. The texture of the cake itself is just the right density and the icing is divine. The flavors all balance beautifully together. All my notes above are on the physical technicalities of making this dessert; the flavor is beyond reproach. I served these up to my sketch comedy class and my group of GoT-watching buddies, and everyone fell hard for these suckers.
Would I make them again?
Hell yes. Absolutely. I’d just double the icing and bake them in a bigger pan.
Do I recommend this book?
I do! It’s nichey, for sure, but it’s really fun and smart as hell. If you’re this kind of nerd — which is real damn likely if you’re reading my blog — you may wanna check it out. Or at least first poke around The Inn at the Crossroads. If you’re a novice cook, maybe not, as the recipes may need some tweaks, as you can see, but I feel like it’s worth playing with.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
I can’t resist a savory pie, so I’ll go for the the Beef and Bacon Pie, mostly because where the hell am I going to get pigeon for the Pigeon Pie. Because if you think I’m gonna chase down the pigeons in Hollywood, think again. That said, before the series ends, I’m absolutely making this recipe for Hot Pie’s Wolfbread from the blog, inspired by the show and not the books, because Hot Pie is my boy and I hope he makes it.
(scraping sound that starts the GoT theme)
NOM NOM NOM NOMMM
NOM NOM NOMMM
NOM NOM NOM NOMMM
NOM NOM NOMMM
Enough of that. One more damn recipe down.