I was introduced to Game of Thrones by the HBO series, which prompted me to read the series of novels on which it’s based, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. I spent the better part of last year immersed in the fictional realm of Westeros. Cooking from the A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook has added a new dimension to the way I experience the story. If books open the door to this fantastical world, then the cookbook is like sneaking in through the kitchen. Did you know there’s an entire blog devoted to cooking food from books? It’s called Fictional Food, and they have their own version of Sansa’s lemon cakes.
Sansa Stark is not one of the most beloved of Martin’s characters, but often her critics are unduly harsh. She’s a young girl, and behaves like one, only her girlish infatuation has some pretty dire consequences. (When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. But if you want to debate Sansa’s role in her father’s fate, take it up in the comments.) Sansa’s fondness for lemon cakes is mentioned frequently in the books, so it was the first recipe I tried from the cook book.
The recipes in A Feast of Ice and Fire come in twos: a medieval version and a modern version. First I tried the more rustic version of lemon cakes, which looked like cakey cookies with a light glaze. They turned out hard and dry, and not very lemony at all. After the first failed attempt I made some adjustments to the recipe but the results were no better. This time around I made the modern lemon cakes. They’re basically lemon pound cake cubes with a confectioners’ sugar glaze. Though they were delicious, I followed the recipe exactly and was totally unable to make mine look like the photos in the book. Not even remotely.
I have to say I’m disappointed with these recipes. One could argue that the rustic preparation would be a bit dryer than modern cake, but these weren’t palatable at all. And the modern recipe actually had a typo in it. Very disappointing.
But since the recipe did turn out pretty well, I will post it here with my notes and corrections. It’s so basic that you could easily adapt it to suit your tastes, adding spices or substituting orange or lime for the lemon.
Adapted from A Feast of Ice and Fire
- Cake Ingredients
- 2 + 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 + 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- Juice from 1/2 lemon (or one whole lemon if your lemons are small)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons grated lemon zest*
- 1 cup whole milk
- Icing Ingredients
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
- Garnishes, such as candied orange or lemon peel, pomegranate seeds, or candied ginger.
- * This is what the original recipe recommends. I think this is too wide a range and the recipe writers should have picked a number of tablespoons. I used about three tablespoons and the cakes had a pleasant lemon flavor. You could use more or less depending on your taste.
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter the bottom of an 11×17 inch baking pan (a half sheet pan) and line it with parchment paper. Make sure the parchment covers the bottom of the pan completely. Now butter the parchment and dust lightly with flour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Avoid over mixing.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. (It’s a good idea to check things five minutes before they’re supposed to be done.) The top of the cake should be golden. Cool the cake in the pan, then turn it out to cool for another 15 minutes. Then place the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Cut the chilled cake into cubes and set them aside. (I used a very sharp pizza cutter for this and wound up with a lot of crumbs. You may want to try a sharp knife on part of the cake to see if it yields a cleaner cut.)
- In a double boiler over medium heat, mix the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Stir constantly. Stir in the butter. Mix until the icing is a nice smooth consistency, suitable for pouring. Add more juice if necessary.
- You’ll notice in the photos, some of the cakes are white and others are bright yellow. The white frosting is the glaze from this recipe. The yellow glaze is lemon curd that I heated gently in the microwave and spooned over the cakes. The general reaction from my party-goers was that they liked the texture of the sugar glaze and the flavor of the lemon curd.
- Drizzle the glaze over each cake. If desired, top with your choice of garnish. I was unable to find candied citrus peel or pomegranate seeds, so I used tiny pieces of candied ginger. The lemon and ginger flavors were perfectly complementary. Let the icing cool and set before serving or moving the cakes.
- Makes 45-60 cakes. Or in other words, a lot!
Many thanks to my friends George and Shannon for lending me their photography talents!