Recipe/Tutorial: The Abbot’s Cake from Great Redwall Feast for #RedwallAugust

When Diana over at Fiction Food Cafe decided to host a Redwall themed blog link-up for this month, I have to admit I had no clue what Redwall was. I don’t think Redwall ever gained great popularity in Germany, or at least it wasn’t well known with my family. In any case, I managed to miss this phenomenon even through some 20-odd book releases, multiple picture books and a television series. It’s almost impressive, really.

I did want to participate, though, and Redwall in general looked right up my alley. My first purchase was The Great Redwall Feast, which is a Redwall picture book predictably abrim with food! In this book we see the creatures of Redwall creating a massive cake. The exact flavoring of the cake isn’t really mentioned, but we know it contains greensap milk, honeyed cream, “marchpane” (marzipan) and fruits. For those wondering, “greensap milk” is essentially a plant-based milk. In Redwall recipes–of which there are many–it’s usually almond or soy milk. You can use these in this recipe or just go with cow’s milk.

Using these cues, I created this delightful cake consisting of a genoise sponge soaked in a “greensap” milk syrup. I filled the cake with poached apples and a generous helping of honeyed cream. The whole thing is wrapped in marzipan and topped with icing roses, just like in the book. You’ll notice it isn’t quite as massive as its book counterpart… in fact, this cake is quite cute and small. Just imagine you’ve plucked the very top layer from the cake when no one was looking, much like thieving little Bungo in the book.

THE ABBOT’S CAKE
(Greensap milk sponge with ginger poached apples and honeyed cream)

Yields: 1 6″ cake (8 servings)

SPONGE CAKE
3 large eggs
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
120g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) cake flour, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (reserve some scrapings for the cream)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp almond, soy or cow’s milk

1. Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F and grease 2 6″ cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, beat your eggs on high speed for 10-15 minutes, gradually drizzling in the sugar. The eggs should be nearly white, more than doubled in volume and significantly thickened. If they aren’t at this stage after 10-15 minutes, continue beating them until they are.
2. In the microwave, heat the milk and butter together with the vanilla bean until the butter has melted. Mix well, then remove the vanilla bean pod.
3. Sift the flour over the egg mixture in 3 parts, carefully folding in between each addition. Take care not to deflate your egg foam. Pour the butter mixture over the batter and fold until barely combined. Pour into your cake pans and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until just set in the center. Cover immediately with a layer of foil and allow to cool, covered.

HONEYED CREAM
800ml (just over 3 cups) heavy whipping cream
3 tsp gelatin
3 tbsp water
3.5 tbsp good honey
Vanilla bean scrapings (from sponge recipe)

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. In a larger bowl, combine the cream, honey and vanilla bean and whip to soft peaks.
2. Microwave the gelatin 5 seconds at a time until just melted, but not boiling. Now drizzle the gelatin into the whipped cream WHILE beating, and beat the cream to medium peaks. The cream will continue to set up as you ice, so try to avoid reaching very stiff peaks. Use immediately.

GINGER POACHED APPLES + CAKE SYRUP
1 large or two small apples, peeled, cored and halved (I like golden delicious or granny smith for this)
350ml (1 1/2 cups) white wine
350ml (1 1/2 cups) water
1/2 cup sugar
6 thick slices of fresh ginger root
5 allspice berries (optional)

+

100g (1/2 cup) sugar
250ml (1 cup) almond, soy or cow’s milk

1. In a saucepan, combine the wine, water, 1/2 cup sugar, allspice berries and ginger root. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar has dissolved. Place the apple pieces in the saucepan and weigh them down with a small plate or cake pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender.
2. Remove the allspice berries and ginger from the poaching liquid. Measure out 250ml (1 cup) of the hot poaching liquid and pour it over the other 1/2 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve. Now stir in the milk. Store the apples in the remaining poaching liquid until it’s time to assemble. Store the milk syrup and apples in the fridge until ready to use.

ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES
400g (14 oz) marzipan
Cornstarch for dusting
Yellow, pink and green food coloring
Edible pearls (optional)

ASSEMBLY
1. If necessary, use a serrated kitchen knife to level off the tops of the cakes. Heavily soak both cakes in the milk syrup using either a brush or very careful pouring. You want syrup to squish out if you push down the sponge with your finger, but don’t worry about using up all the syrup at all. It will permeate as it sits, so don’t worry too much about leaking either.  Slice your poached apple into 1/2″ thick slices. Set one cake layer onto your cake plate and arrange the slices of poached apple on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to let the apple’s juices to soak into the cake.
2. Place a healthy dollop of your honeyed cream onto the apples and spread it flat. Place your second cake layer on top. Now use more cream to ice the cake. Don’t worry too much about crumbs, just make sure the sides are level and smooth. Measure the height of your cake and make note of it. Place the cake in the fridge.
3. Use your yellow food coloring to color 300g of your marzipan a nice spring-y yellow. Roll the marzipan out into a very long rectangle, keeping it roughly 1/8″ thick. The dimensions of this rectangle should be about 1/3″ taller than your cake and approximately 22″ long (for a 6″ cake). Dust the top with cornstarch and carefully roll it up. Pull out the cake and unroll the marzipan around the sides to cover the cake. Using a knife of scissors, trim off any excess marzipan at the seams.


4. Fill about half of your honeyed cream into a large piping bag fitted with a round tip (I used a #804). Pipe the cream in a spiral on top of the cake as shown in the first photo of this section, then smooth it off with a cake spatula.
6. Place about half of your remaining honeyed cream into a small bowl and color it light green. Fill it into a bag fitted with a leaf tip (I used a #66). Whatever is leftover and uncolored is extra for serving or fixing up the cake.


7. Color 100g of your marzipan a light red/pinkish color. Pinch off 6 pieces roughly the size of a large grape. Form them into roses. The easiest way to make a rose is as follows: roll each piece into a rope shape about 8″ long. Flatten out the rope, making sure one side is thicker. Now  roll it up, thick side down, tightly at first. As you get closer to the outside, pinch the marzipan a bit to ruffle it and let things get looser. Once you’re done, trim off any excess at the bottom. Marzipan sticks to itself very well, but if it’s been dusted too liberally to stick you can always use a very small amount of water to make things stick.


8. Now for the final touches: place the roses out around the tops of the cake, spaced out as evenly as possible. Use a toothpick to lightly mark swags between each rose.

9. Finally, pipe leaves along this swag line and at the base of each rose. If necessary, use a small brush to remove any excess cornstarch. If desired, add a row of edible pearls around the base of the cake and then… you’re done! Just keep the cake in the fridge until it’s time to serve.

 

This cake was absolutely scrumptious! The apples really went well with the honeyed cream, and the sponge was insanely moist and flavorful. I was honestly a bit worried going in since many of the components had been decided for me, but I ended up really liking it.

Be sure to head over to Fiction Food Cafe to see all the other AWESOME Redwall recipes people have whipped up! There’s still time to contribute your own recipe, too! Just make sure to use the hashtag #RedwallAugust in any posts you make!

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