It is no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I am a huge Tolkien fan. My love started with the animated Rankin-Bass Hobbit and Return of the King when I was very young and with my dad, sitting on the couch with my sister and me on either side as he read The Hobbit aloud to us. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 11 (which took me the better part of a year, at that time!) and The Silmarillion at 12 (I didn’t understand it much then, but I have re-read it a handful of times since, and each time I love it more.)
I’m enough of a nerd (yes *that* kind) that if you get me started, I’ll tell you, in detail, all the things Peter Jackson’s movies did wrong and how he should have corrected them. However, I still enjoy the movies from time to time. Twice I have hosted a party for my friends to come and watch all three extended edition films and provided six Hobbit meals throughout the day. It is a lot of fun – even if it is a lot of work for me!
The most important part of planning it is to do as much ahead of time as I can. So if my menu looks like this:
Breakfast: Victorian twice-baked honey cakes, fresh fruit, coffee/tea
Elevensies: seed cakes, coffee/tea
Lunch: potato and onion soup, salad, bread
Afternoon tea: cheese, pickles, cured sausage, tea
Dinner: mushroom pot roast with mashed potatoes
Supper (dessert): apple tart
My week leading up to the Long-Expected Party looked like this:
Two nights before: seed cakes
Night before: honey cakes, start soup
Morning of: cut fruit, start pot roast
In the moment: finish soup, make salad; prep cheese and sausage; mash potatoes
As much as I would have loved to include a second breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, and potatoes, something like that requires me to stand at the stove for a long time and make a lot of things in small batches as people are coming and going and asking where the toilet paper is and it just wouldn’t work out. So second breakfast gets axed.
Instead, for breakfast I thought of Bilbo at Beorn’s home, eating bread with honey and clotted cream for breakfast before being packed up with food for the road including dried fruit and Beorn’s secret recipe twice baked cakes made with honey. I found the recipe for Victorian twice baked cakes in an article promoting An Unexpected Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oseland. They are easy to make, and very delicious! I received many compliments on them at the party, which made me happy.
“Beorn’s Honey Cakes”
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup room temperature butter
½ cup dried blueberries or currants
Zest of 1 lemon (Equivalents. 1 tsp dried lemon peel = grated peel of 1 medium lemon)
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup honey + ¼ cup honey, reserved
10-12 candied or plain almonds for decoration (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix the butter into the flour blend until you achieve a crumbly meal. Once it looks like gravel, add the lemon zest and blueberries or currants. Make sure it’s all well blended.
In another bowl, beat the milk, egg, and 3/4 cup honey until you get a nice, sloppy mess. Pour that into the crumbly flour blend and mix until the batter is just barely free of lumps. Avoid overworking it or else you’ll burst the blueberries.
Scoop about ⅓ cup of the batter into well-greased muffin tins. (Use a generous amount of butter instead of liners in order to achieve a nice, crispy crust.)
For the first baking, leave them in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes.
Take the cakes out of the oven. If you insert a toothpick in the middle, a little batter may still stick. That’s alright. If it spurts out when you press on the top, put them back in the oven for another 2-4 minutes.
If you used enough butter, the cakes should slide right out of the muffin tin. Arrange them 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet.
Gently press an almond (if using) into the middle of each honey cake then generously drizzle the rest of your honey on top of the cakes. The way I did this was to squeeze my honey bottle into a teaspoon so I was getting an even amount on each cake and use a finger to gently spread the honey on the top of the cake. You can let it drizzle over the sides a bit to get a nice honey glaze. Once you’ve done this, let the honey cakes sit for at least 5 minutes so the honey can soak in.
Put the baking sheet back in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden honey brown.
These were very quick to make and taste wonderful the next day when the crust is nice and crispy and the interior still soft and moist. Or, you can eat them fresh from the oven with a bit of jam and clotted cream.
“In the House of Beorn” – Capucine Mazille
For elevensies, I looked to Bilbo unexpected party with the Dwarves where they asked for tea, seed cake, ale, porter, coffee, buttered scones, red-wine, raspberry jam and apple tart, mince pies and cheese, pork pie and salad, a few eggs, and more cakes! Seed cake is similar to pound cake, flavored with carraway seeds. The first time I made it from Don’t Sweat the Recipe I was honestly surprised at how good it was and ate the whole cake myself. No regrets.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup extra fine sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup self-rising flour, sifted
4-6 tbsp milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp caraway seeds
3 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Pre-heat the oven to 350F and prepare a greased, 8″ round cake pan.
Beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk. Then in another larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then gradually whisk in the beaten eggs a little at a time.
When all the egg, sugar, and butter has been mixed, stir in the caraway seeds, ground mace and fresh ground nutmeg, then lightly fold in the flour.
Add the brandy, stirring it in
Lastly add just enough milk (or cream) to loosen the mixture and give the cake batter a good ‘dropping’ consistency (this means the mixture is neither wet nor dry, but will drop off a spoon when tipped). Once at this point, spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Level off the surface with the back of a spoon and then finally sprinkle the brown sugar all over the top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean. (If you want to divide this recipe into (4) 4.5inch springform pans, you may only need to bake for 30-40 minutes.)
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool further.
This seed cake will taste even better after a day or two, so wrap it in foil or baking parchment and keep it in an airtight container. It will keep for several days.
“Unexpected Party” by David T Wenzel