The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication: October 18, 2011 Genre: Fantasy My rating: 5/5 stars
November cakes, a Thisby luxury Puck and her younger brother can rarely afford, are described twice. The first time, the cake Puck is eating "oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of [her] hand." A cake was later noted for "the moist crumb, the nectar that seeps from the base of it, the icing that soaks into the cake before you can lick it off." Based on those descriptions, I think November cakes may be a derivative of Welsh honey cakes, or Tiessennau Mel. I adapted this Genius Kitchen recipe to better match the book's depiction.
For the cakes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened but not melted
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
For the sauce and icing
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp butter (I prefer salted here, but either is fine)
1 cup powdered/confectioner's sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 400°F and grease the cups of a large muffin pan. (The pan in my photos is for enormous muffins, so it made five generously portioned November cakes. It's fine to use a regular muffin tin or even a mini one, but you'll need to adjust the bake time and keep an eye on the cakes while they're in the oven.)
Using an electric mixer, beat ONLY the egg white until it froths and forms soft peaks when you lift the beaters out. Set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl; set that aside too.
In a larger bowl, cream brown sugar and butter for one minute. Add the egg yolk and honey and beat until combined. Beat half the milk into the sugar mixture, then sift in half the flour mixture and mix just until no large pockets of flour remain. Repeat with the other half of the milk and flour.
Finally, use a spatula to gently fold the beaten egg white into the main mixture until there are no visible streaks.
Divide the mixture evenly between the cups of your pan. This will make approximately 18 mini-muffin sized cakes, ten regular-muffin ones, or five super jumbo ones. The bake time on my five big cakes was a bit under 20 minutes, but be sure to decrease that for smaller cakes and/or a dark-coated pan! When checking doneness, look for domed brown tops that are no longer wobbly or glossy in the middle.
While cakes are baking, prepare the sauce components and the icing. For the sauce, cut the 3 tbsp butter into the same number of chunks as you have cakes. Measure the honey and get a spoon or scoop to portion it once the cakes are out of the oven. For the icing, gradually stir milk into the powdered sugar until it forms a thick mixture that barely drips from the spoon.
Remove cakes from oven and cool in the pan for one minute. Take them out of the pan and set them on a wire rack. To each cup of the pan (it should still be pretty warm so watch your fingers!) add a piece of butter and a spoonful of honey. Carefully return the cakes to their cups to soak up the honey-butter mixture.
Use a spoon to drizzle/spread icing over each cake. The icing should melt and drip slightly.
Serve immediately! (The cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to a day, but they go stale quickly. Reheat briefly before serving.)
(Looking for the review? In order to streamline my blog format, I'm transferring my reviews fully to Goodreads. If I've reviewed the book I'm posting about, I'll provide a link here!)