You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘baking’ tag.

900x900px-LL-cd3e1638_gallery7831264949231

I started to do some research on beautiful and esoteric crowns of the world, but I was tragically distracted by hunger. Somehow the two extremely different impetuses fused into one peculiar quest and I wound up looking at a bunch of beautiful cakes shaped like crowns.

725874d0ed163ffdfa4d2db52f2ed691I guess crowns and cakes do share a few characteristics. A cake after all is a high status food for fancy occasions. Many cakes are cylindrical. Cakes tend to be highly decorated and they are often given over to the person of the hour in the manner of Roman crowns and garlands. Yet on a more fundamental level, crowns and cakes are quite dissimilar—one is a fancy hat betokening authority over others, whereas the other is a tasty dessert.

cake2500a Chrisbirthdaycake1 coolest-crown-cake-5-21348151 crown_l f6b356dfb9bffa5f5c59a2c9a6460501 IMG_1530_1 img_1671 Princess crown cake princess-crown-5x7 Yet there are so many crown cakes—many of them quite lovely. Is this because of the cylindrical shape, or is it because more people like crowns than you might expect? Is it part of “princess culture”–that formidable marketing confection which affects so many little girls? Maybe it has something to do with king cake or some other traditionalist throwback to customs of yesteryear. Whatever the reason, I really enjoy looking at these extraordinary confections. Also, thanks to the gifted royalist bakers of the internet, I have managed to throw together an airy yet still quasi-relevant post at the very end of a long day. I promise I will address weightier concerns tomorrow…

your-jubilee-cakes-and-bakes

Now if only I had one of these delicious cakes! Maybe there is something to this princess business.

queen-king-crown-cake

A Quince Tree with Ripe Quinces

The quince (Cydonia oblonga) is a flowering tree of the rose family which bears an edible golden fruit. Quinces are rare in America due to their susceptibility to fireblight disease (a bacterial infection caused by Erwinia amylovora).  Because the fruit are unusual here and because, without cooking or other treatment, they are very sour and bitter, quinces are regarded as a sort of poor relation to apples and pears (both of which are indeed very close relations within the rose family), but probably it should be the other way around.  Not only does the quince occupy an exalted place in literature and the arts, but the tree is believed to hold a treasure trove of medically useful compounds in its leaves, bark, and fruit.


Quince trees are small trees which, in spring, bear many large single blossoms of bright pink. The flowers are hermaphrodites, able to fertilize themselves.  When fertilized the blossoms develop into chartreuse-colored pubescent fruit which then further ripen into a bright golden yellow in autumn (when also the tiny fuzzy hairs fall off).  The knobbly pear-like fruit are exceptionally tart but become sweet if treated with salt, bletted (left on the tree to decompose slightly), or cooked. The quince is exceptional for baking, for making sweet wines and liquors, and for jams and sauces.  Additionally quinces have long been a feature of traditional medicine and a host of recent studiessuggest that different parts of the plant might have a number of therapeutic properties including lipid lowering effects, antidiabetic activity, and antiallergic properties among others (in addition to being a healthy nutrition and fiber source).

Detail of Eve (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1528)

The quince originated in the Caucasus region between the Caspian and the Black Sea (a region where wild quince trees can still be found). Cultivation of the little tree began in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  If that sounds like a familiar location, it should, for it was there that human hands created the first cities.  From the cradle of civilization, the quince spread to the Levant and the Mediterranean long before the apple or the pear.  For this reason the fruit is a favorite candidate (along with the fig) as the forbidden fruit of Genesis.  Additionally, anytime an apple appears in ancient Greek literature or myth, it can reasonably be assumed to be a quince–which means the infamous golden apple of Eriswhich caused the Trojan War was actually a golden quince.   Indeed quinces are gold colored and have been a traditional feature of classical Greek nuptial ceremonies since records exist.  The quince lingered on as a symbol of Aphrodite and is one of the trees sacred to the love goddess.  A number of fertility myths and superstitions remain attached to the quince in the Balkans and in Turkey.

Quinces and Medlars on a Table Ledge (Jan Jansz van de Velde, mid 17th Century)

Beyond the Mediterranean world, the quince has an active artistic life as well.  The knobby glowing fruits have been a source of inspiration to artists for a long time, but perhaps they are even more celebrated in literature.  Peter Quince is the rustic craftsman and playwright from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Wallace Stevens later borrowed the character to narrate Peter Quince at the Clavier, an examination of desire, music, and thought. Tennyson, Browning, and Keats all alluded to the fruit or flowers of the quince which feature frequently in Victorian poesy. In fact The golden fruits are the second fruit mentioned in the poem The Goblin Market (which must surely rank as the greatest fruit-themed poem ever written). Finally, the fruit features prominently in The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, a work of literature familiar to everyone which surely deserves mention here, involving as it does farm animals, mammals, a turkey, and the moon which was (and remains) in outer space.

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Detail of Two Quinces (Eliot Hodgkin, 1951)

 

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031