Another May Cake

An interesting recipe I found in the Innsbruck MS:

May, Flemish Book of Hours courtesy of wikimnedia commons.

57 If you would make a May Cake (mauschen chuechen), take five eggs or seven and beat them well, and add three full spoons of milk. Heat a mortar and heat fat , and cover it above and place coals on it, this way it will rise.

Without the title, it would be doubtful whether this recipe belongs to the same family of ‘May cakes‘ or not. The parallels are obvious, but so are the differences. There is beaten egg cooked in a mortar, but unlike in the other three recipes from the fifteenth century, there is no mention of herbs. Instead, we get instructions to provide top heat so the mixture will rise. That may in fact have been a feature of May cake that went unmentioned in the parallel recipes, but is clearly expected in the sixteenth century pastries that continue the tradition. However, the fact that this dish is referred to as a mauschen chuechen clinches it. Like the weyschen of the Königsberg MS, it is a plausible clerical error.

If we combine the two traditions – perilous on its own, but plausible given what we know from later sources – we can speculate that the original May cake was a rich egg dish that involved dairy and herbs and was beaten and cooked with a mild heat below and a sharp heat above to produce a fluffy texture. It also suggests that what we ate at the symposium in Düsseldorf was close to the original intent in consistency.

A modern interpretation of the Renaissance May cake by master chef Maciej Nowicki

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

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