"Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey & butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.
—The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Chapter 29, pg. 176
At a signing event I attended, Maggie stated that her desire to invent a near palpable food was inspired by Diana Wynne Jones' creation and decadent description of butter-pies in her novel A Tale of Time City (can I tell you how much this made me love Maggie Stiefvater? Let's just say a lot, because Jones is one of my favorite authors, maybe even the favorite). I'd like to say that with Maggie's signature clarity and concise writing, she has accomplished what she desired in her November cakes. And then she went and worked really hard to make a recipe for the dang things in order to bring them into the real world. Now that is a rockstar author.
Note: Maggie's November cakes recipe is below, but I've rewritten it to include my observations, tips, and tweaks. For the original recipe, please click here.
Thisby Isle's Race Season November Cakes
(recipe by Maggie Stiefvater, rewritten w/ interjections by me)
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp. Veg. Oil
1 Tbsp. Butter
3 1/2 Cups (or so) All-Purpose Flour
3 tsp. (a little over 1 packet) Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsp Butter, melted
(or simply very soft)
1/4 tsp. Orange Extract
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
8 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp. Heavy/Whipping Cream
1 Tbsp Butter, melted or very soft
Up to 1 Tbsp. Water
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Orange Essence (optional)
"'Butter, milk, and salt, please.'Note: This butter tea, called "po cha", is a common drink in Tibet and is a boost of warmth and energy in high altitudes and rough, cold climates (said to protect against chapped lips which I assume would be a common ailment on Thisby). For the traditional drink, Nak's butter and milk are used (Nak being the female counterpart to Yak) which have a distinct flavor of their own, but you can get a general idea of the drink using the western ingredients in the recipe below.
I turn to Malvern, sure I'll see humor on his face. But there isn't any. I'm not sure, now that I think of it, that it's a face I could imagine humor on. It's more like a face I can imagine on a pound note. I hand him his cup of tea, a saltshaker, and our little butter bowl. Sitting down with the milk jug opposite, I watch him slice a small piece of butter into his tea, add a healthy dose of salt, and top it all up with milk before stirring it thoroughly. The liquid has a froth on it. It looks like something I saw come out from under a cow once. I don't think he'll drink it, but he does."
—The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Chapter 16, pg. 107
Benjamin Malvern's Salted Butter Tea (Po Cha)
Ingredients (for 2 sm. tea cups or 1 lrg. mug):
2 Cups Water
1 Black Tea Bag
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Milk (preferably goat's milk)
1 Tbsp. Butter
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg (optional)
Immersion Blender or Standing Blender
1. Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil & add the tea bag. Continue to heat at a low boil until the tea is nice & dark. Remove the tea bag with a slotted spoon & press the bag over the pot with the back of another spoon to get all of the potent tea liquid out of it that you can. Next, add the salt.
* For more Scorpio Races food, try my Apple Cake & Mint Tea. *