Slices of Quince

What could be more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than a sweet inspired by lovers. To be sure, not your typical lovers, but fanciful, fictional ones – the Owl and the Pussycat – in a nonsense poem by Edward Lear.

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Under the light of the moon, the dapper Owl and his sweetheart Pussycat sailed away in a pea-green boat, met a Pig with a ring through his nose and were married by a Turkey on the hill. The wedding feast that followed is described in the last verse:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon

I recently ran across a Medieval cake recipe which is made with slices of quince that reminded me of the “slices of quince” line in Lear’s poem. It also seemed a perfect use of my preserved Brandied Quince I made last autumn after harvesting the quinces from the tree in my garden.

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Medieval Quince Cake
If you don’t have brandied quince available, simply peel and core two quinces and poach gently in a light syrup flavored with a cinnamon stick. The quinces should be soft, but not falling apart. I’ve simplified the original recipe and modified some of the techniques. It seems the perfect cake recipe to have on hand when you have excess egg whites. It produces a light moist cake – the moistness primarily due to the ground almonds – and is delightfully flavored with cinnamon.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-1/4 cups powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 “stick”) butter – 4 oz.
  • 2 poached (brandied) quinces
  • 2 Tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 9 inch baking pan by lining the bottom with baking parchment, lightly buttering and flouring the pan.

Put the egg whites in a mixer with the whisk attachment and beat until soft peaks form. Sift in the powdered sugar a little at a time, mixing until it is all incorporated. Add the flour, ground almonds and cinnamon and mix until you get a smooth batter. Melt the butter and while still warm, add this in. a steady stream to the batter while whisking.

Slice the quinces, each into 16 slices – a total of 32 thin slices of poached (brandied) quince. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Lay the quince slices on top and sprinkle the almond slivers.

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Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned. Cool completely in the pan. Remove, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Notes:
1. It is not necessary to eat the cake with a runcible spoon – another fantastical creation by Lear. Many have tried to define this particular utensil – as part spoon, part fork (“spork”) or something like a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges.
2. Contrary to the theme of this post (slices of quince), this cake would be fabulous with apples or pears – slices lightly sautéd in butter before topping the batter.

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13 comments

  1. Not too many more months before quinces appear thankfully. Your cake sounds delicious, and if it’s good enough for an infatuated owl and his pussycat, it’s good enough for me.

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    • I love quince and am always on the lookout for recipes using this under-used fruit. Edward Lear is a favorite with our family, not only because of his whimsical poems and limericks, but also because of his wonderful scenic watercolors. He painted any number of them while touring Greece.

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      • I love Lear’s nonsense but was never aware he was an artist too. Just did a quick internet search, what gorgeous images he created in a style very typical of that Victorian era. Thanks for that gem of info!! I love quince quarters poached in a slow oven until they are the colour of rubies, their heady perfume fills the house while they cook.

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  2. We are quince friends ;)))
    Shame i finished my quince stock… Next time i’ll preserve some as you did and i’ll be able to make this cake 😉

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    • Perhaps we should start The Society for the Appreciation of the Quince? 😉 I still have two, slightly shrivelled quinces stored in the cool basement. However, having some in jars already to use is preferable.

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    • Quince are fabulous! A number of years ago, I planted a “fan-shaped” quince tree that grows flat along our garden wall. In good years it produces several dozen quince. However, if you can’t grow your own, they are usually available in shops that cater to Middle Eastern specialities. Hope your quince-quest is successful!

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