Trayne Roste and other Spit Cakes
This fifteenth century English recipe makes an unusual roasted spice cake. Small pieces of dried fruit and almonds are threaded with a needle onto a 'thred of a man's length'. This is wound around a spit and then basted with a sweet wine batter flavoured with saffron, cloves and ginger.
As the spit rotates, the batter cooks and covers the fruit. The kitchen is filled with a wonderful smell of saffron and roasting battter. When the trayne roste has turned to a golden brown, the spit is taken away from the fire. If the thread is securely tied at each end, it pulls out of the cake when it is removed from the spit. If this is not done properly, you will end up with lengths of thread in each portion, though I suppose you could employ them as dental floss.
"Faire peces" of trayne roste
Urbain Dubois's Gâteau à la broche
Despite the elaborate decorations, this traditional French cake makes rather plain eating compared to a spicy medieval English trayne roste.
On the near right is Emile Bernard's even more fussy grosse pièce presenting a gateau à la broche on an ornate socle. It is highly embellished with spun sugar fountains and other pastillage ornaments. The cake itself is the tapering cylinder covered in little spikes. These form on the gateau when the batter drips and becomes solidified by the heat as the spit rotates in front of the fire, as in the photograph on the far right.
The black and white illustration opposite is from Conrad Hagger's Neues Saltzburgisches Koch-Buch (Augsburg: 1719). It shows the apparatus needed for making a spit cake of the baumkuchen or gateau à la broche type. The early date of this image and the recipe which it illustrates belie the often quoted myth that baumkuchen was invented in 1790 by the King of Prussia's master baker. Cakes more or less identical to baumkuchen are found all over Europe. In Poland, a cake of this kind is called Sękacz, in Lithuania - Šakotis, in Sweden - Spettekaka and in Luxemburg -Baamkuch. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, the popular cakes made by street vendors, which are called Trdelnik and Kurtoskalacs, also belong to this interesting and ancient family of spit cakes.
In fact, Hagger's spit cake is much more closely related to trdelnik and kurtoskalacs than to baumkuchen, as it is made by wrapping a spiral of dough round the conical spit, rather than drizzling batter on to it. His recipe is almost identical to that used for making modern Czech trdelnik. It is a sweetened bread dough, enriched with a little butter and eggs and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. The surface of the cake is finished with powdered sugar and finely chopped almonds. The modern trdelnik is almost certainly a direct descendent of this ancient Austro-Hungarian cake.
The necklace of almonds, dates, figs and 'grete raisins' warms before the fire.
The trayne roste is ready after about forty minutes in front of a moderate fire.
A Hapsburg Spit Cake
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