The 2000 year old honey cake from Pompeii | How To Cook That Ann Reardon


Welcome to How To Cook That I’m Ann
Reardon and today we’re gonna be making a cake from 2000 years ago! So how do we
even know what they ate back then? Well our trip to Italy helped us find some clues.
So we are here in ancient Pompeii which was a city destroyed by an eruption of
Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 so 2,000 years ago almost and a lot of it was preserved
by the ash that fell over the course of really one or two days, just covered the
entire city and is preserved that city for thousands of years this incredible place.
To think that thousands of people lived here and they all died all at once I
think it’s a bit a eerie. It’s quite incredible really, the size of it how
well-preserved it is it’s basically untouched. As we walked around Pompeii we
saw the fast-food street vendor stands for selling hot meals and these huge
stone mills for grinding corn and wheat into flour. These were all positioned in
a bakery and they even found preserved loaves of bread here. Bread is great but
I want to know about sweet food. A lot of the buildings have these ornate mosaics
and paintings in the plaster and about 10 minutes away from Pompeii there’s a
seaside villa thought to have been owned by Nero himself and there you can see a
painting of this cake on a pedestal. Cake stands have got a lot smaller over the
years! According to Pompeii.org.uk this is likely to have been a Dulcia Piperata or honey cake … I don’t know if I said that right but
anyway. From their recipe it says we need flour baking powder rosemary cinnamon
almonds grape juice passum which is like a sweet white wine
honey milk and chopped hazelnuts. My only problem with this recipe is that it has
baking powder and baking powder wasn’t invented until 1843 so we’re around 1700
years too early for that. So I’m gonna try and make this cake three ways …once
with baking powder like they’ve got suggested here, once using nothing at all
and once using yeast which we know they had because they needed it for their
bread. Okay so let’s start with a hundred and forty grams of flour. I don’t have
one of those huge stone mills like they had in Pompeii but I did manage to get
this smaller version. I guess I just pour some wheat kernels and let them fall
down the hole in the middle there and then turn it around. This is not heavy
enough I don’t think look it’s just spitting out wheat down
the bottom that doesn’t help me having whole wheat kernels that’s what I put
into it 🧐 It’s not grinding them at all don’t buy
one of these. Now if I push down hard on it as I turn instead of using the handle
I can get some flour mixed in with whole wheat kernels coming out the other end.
Now if I lift the top off this it’s quite heavy but you can see some of it
is getting crushed but lots of it is not getting crushed at all. Strangely enough
I have actually ground wheat before using a stone mill and it should work
really well so this is definitely a dodgy model. If I tip that into a sieve
you’ll be able to see we are getting some flour but not enough to make a cake.
So seeing as it’s not working I’m gonna cheat and put the wheat kernels into my
blender and grind it up that way. We have it so easy now with electrical
appliances we just don’t even think about it we’re just using for everything.
Next we need half a teaspoon of ground rosemary. Rosemary is one of those
herbs that’s easy to grow in the garden it’s quite hardy, it grows really well
in every state of Australia here. It’s pretty hard to grind fresh rosemary
though but I’ll resist the urge to put it in the blender with the flower. Let me
just fast forward! Put myself into blender speed
⏩There we go we’ve got some ground rosemary. Next we need some ground
almonds again the blender would be super handy for this job.
Baking even basic things just took them so long to do everything back then. Now
we need some honey and some cinnamon… it’s interesting that this recipe has no
eggs and no oil. I wonder what it’s going to taste like?
So we ground our wheat to make flour we crushed the almonds to make the almond
meal, pounded the rosemary to break that up and we’ve got the honey, cinnamon and
baking powder which as I said they didn’t have back then so I’m only going
to use that in one of the cakes and not the others. We’ve also got here some milk
and they used a wine called passum. Now I couldn’t get that here so I’m swapping
it for this one which is apparently a thick sweet white wine which is very
similar to passum. So we’ll start by adding the cinnamon to the bowl with the
whole wheat flour and the crushed almonds and rosemary and stir that
together and you can see how out of place the very white baking powder looks
compared to everything else which is like these light brownish colors. Add in
the honey and the milk and the wine and stir them together. Wow that looks very
healthy very wholesome compared to normal cake batter. And now I’m going to
split this into three bowls. To this one I’m adding baking powder, to this bowl
I’m adding some instant dried yeast and this one is staying plain with
nothing. Mix those through and put them into cake pans. Now I assume they would
have had pottery dishes to bake these in but I don’t have little pottery dishes
so forgive me for using metal baking tins. Now we need to leave the one with
the yeast in it to rise and you’ll notice I didn’t kneed it because I don’t
want it to develop the gluten in it and become like a bread dough I want it to
have more of a cakey texture. We can bake the baking powder and plain one
straightaway just pop those into the oven and
while they’re baking chop up some hazelnuts. Once those are done take them
out of the oven and drizzle the top with honey and then sprinkle some hazelnuts
on top and you want to do this while they’re still hot so that honey kind of
melts down into it and makes the hazelnuts stick. Our plain and baking
powder ones are ready but the one with yeast in it has only just risen to the
top so I’ll put that one in the oven to bake now. Once that’s done you want to
drizzle that one as well with your honey and add the nuts on top. Now we’ve got
the one with no raising agent the one with the baking powder and lastly the
one that had the yeast in it. The yeast one has quite big air bubbles on the
outside compared to the others. If we slice that in half we can see inside it
looks a bit like a carrot cake that actually looks really yummy. The baking
powder one if we cut that open looks pretty much like a normal cake texture
and the one with no baking powder at all or that one is solid there’s no air
bubbles to be found in it. Now to taste the two-thousand-year-old cake recipe…
the one with no raising agent as you would imagine is very dense that had no
air bubbles in it it’s a bit like eating how can I describe it it’s a bit like
eating a protein ball it’s that dense. It almost tastes fruity as well it’s like I
can taste some apricot or maybe even some orange in there which is weird
because we didn’t add any fruit. I’m wondering if that flavor is from the
wine? The baking powder one I can really taste the bitterness of the baking
powder I think it’s not very sweet this cake it doesn’t have a lot of honey in
it so just that little bit of baking powder is quite noticeable in it. The
texture of it is nicer but the flavour of the first one was better. Now for the
yeast … this texture is quite cake like it’s not exactly the same as with baking
powder but it’s actually pretty good and it tastes much more like the first one
did without the baking powder flavor in it.
You can taste a little bit of yeast but it’s not very strong it’s not overpowering. So
if you want to recreate a 2000 year old cake, use yeast in your recipe or you
could use sourdough starter if you’ve got that I didn’t have any of that and
make sure you use freshly ground wheat it gives it a really wholesome flavor to
it it’s a bit like eating a whole wheat muffin almost but it’s different you
have to make it yourself and taste it. You can check out my other two hundred
year old recipes here or if you’re not already subscribed you can do that now
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it a Great Week and I’ll see you on Friday 💝

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