It is high time that we give serious and scholarly consideration to cake in the shape of a haunch of lamb.
Cake, shaped like meat? At the very least, it appears a scandalous mixing of culinary metaphors, at worst, a truly shocking proposition for the vegetarians among us. Yet, there is definitive historical precedence for a confection that would appeal to carnivores.
Certainly, the movement of patisserie inspired by architecture is well known to those who followed the exploits of the brilliant French pastry chef Antonin Careme, but the philosophical mingling of cake and animal protein is perhaps more obscure. One need only look to the Victorians who had a penchant for sculpting their food into whimsical creations. This recipe was uncovered by Australia’s Old Foodie in the Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery, by Theodore Garret published in London in 1895. This colossal tome included extravagant recipes from the top chefs of Britain’s grand hotels, and Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb could quite handily feed a banquet hall filled with Victorian dandies:
Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb (a la Soyer)
A dish of this character is of no extraordinary value, even as an eccentricity. Put the yolks of thirty-six eggs in a basin with 3lb. of caster sugar, stand the basin in another one containing hot water, and whisk the eggs till rather thick and warm, then take the basin out of the water, and continue whisking them till cold. Beat the whites of the thirty-six eggs and mix them with the yolks, then sift in gradually 3lb. of the best white flour and the finely-chopped peel of two lemons, stirring it lightly at the same time with a wooden spoon. When quite smooth, turn the batter into a very long mould and bake it. When cooked, take it out of the oven and leave till cold. If not convenient to use so large a mould, the Cake can be baked in two separate portions, and afterwards joined together with icing. When cold, trim the Cake with a sharp knife into the shape of a haunch of lamb. Make a hollow in the interior of the Cake, but fill it up again with the pieces, to keep it in shape. Colour some icing to a light gold with a small quantity of melted chocolate and cochineal, and coat the Cake over with it, and leave it till dry. Make sufficient strawberry or vanilla ice to fill the interior of the Cake. Form the knuckle-bone of the lamb with office-paste; moisten the interior with brandy and preserved strawberry-juice, then fill it with the ice. Put the haunch on to a dish, fix a paper frill round the knuckle-bone, and glaze it over with a mixture of apricot marmalade and currant jelly. Melt a small quantity of red-currant jelly with some red wine, pour it round the haunch, to imitate gravy, and serve. (Garrett, Theodore. The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery. London, 1895)
Certainly, lamb and it’s more mature sibling mutton have inspired everything from iconic images of great Kings to fanciful ladies’ fashions. Why not cake as well? The pool of gravy made with red-currant jelly is particularly captivating.
The discerning host must consider whether serving a dessert course that resembles an entrée would cause significant confusion to guests? Is the meal concluding, or is it beginning yet again?
Our homage to Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb does take certain liberties with the original recipe, but playing with one’s food is certainly an acceptable post-modern pursuit.
This post is dedicated to the Old Foodie, who never fails to unearth the most extraordinary events – and retro cakes – in culinary history. It is a trifle late for her Mock Food Week, but of course, one must always cook lamb to the proper temperature. There is no rushing these endeavors.
©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved