Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb from 1895



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

14 comments:

The Old Foodie said...

What do I say t.w? You have outdone yourself! You will have a hard time following this one - and I will certainly have a hard time coming up with another challenge worthy of your talents. Amazing.

sharon said...

Oh dear - every time I look at the photos I just go into hysterics. (But in a good way of course.) I think your're right - it's the puddle of redcurrant jelly that tips it over from being mildly entertaining to levels of genius. Excuse me, I have to go and lie down now...

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm laughing so hard I can hardly type! I'd be proud to serve this cake -- perhaps at the end of a vegetarian meal....

Veron said...

This is soooo funny. This is actually brilliant...I do love lamb!

Kathy said...

It's been a long day--and reading about your cake makes me smile. It's terrific!

Cakespy said...

This is simply amazing! This is clever, beautiful, and I feel smarter for having read it! I am really quite close to being speechless. Oh, and by the way, I think yours sounds far more toothsome than the original recipe! :-)

Cakespy said...

Oh, and also--I think this cake would be PERFECT in an offbeat / hipster type of neighborhood. Take it to Williamsburg or Greenpoint, T.W!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Janet - as always, thanks for the inspiration! I am looking forward to seeing the next challenge you send my way!

Sharon - thanks for visiting! I really liked the additiono of the knife and fork! Oddly enough, I'm not sure if I should be tasting savory or sweet when I bite into a slice ...

Lydia - I'm thinking a roast turkey cake next. I could imagine an entire Thanksgiving dinner crafted from cake!

Hi Veron - this is just a little sweeter than grass-fed lamb!

Kathy -Thanks so much! I was smiling through most of the baking and writing too!

Hi Cakespy - If I have left you, a cake gumshoe, speechless, I know I have been successful! Many thanks! (Heading off to Williamsburg with my cake now.)

Lidian said...

Absolutely brilliant, T.W. - I love it!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

This is too much, TW! I never thought I'd see a "cake in imitation of a haunch of lamb from 1895." Just typing that makes me giggle. Your historical cakes never cease to amaze me.

Maryann said...

36 eggs?! Just think of it! haha
The old foodie is the bomb :)
Great post, TW!

Helene said...

I don't think I could resist that cake.

~~Louise~~ said...

Oh T.W!

Once again, I am speechless.

he:) he;) he:0

I don't know which is more amazing the notion or the toil!

Stella (Sweet Temptations) said...

What a perfect imitation of a haunch lamb! I'm ever so impressed & it's original!