So Mockingjay part II, the final film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, is finally out. I’ve yet to see it; that is certainly on my list of to-do’s this weekend. However, I have read the entire book series and wanted to put together a recipe that hasn’t already been done to death by the various fan cookbooks and food blogs already. I love lamb. The idea of it in stew with dried plums sounds delicious; but there’s not really much I can do with it that hasn’t already been done. Besides, it already sounds like my Doctor Who-inspired Last Centurion Lamb Stew based on a recipe from the Ancient Roman Apicius – which I wonder if Suzanne Collins used as reference when coming up with the food in the book since the Capital is supposed to parallel Rome.
So the first thought I had, since it was going to be featured in the film, was Finnick and Annie’s Wedding Cake. I ended nixing that thought pretty quickly because my skills in cake decorating at the moment are rather laughable (think Jackson Pollack’s fictional toddler nephew hyped up on sugar instead of Peeta Mellark), and the flavor agents available to Peeta in District 13 would be too limited for my tastes. So I’m afraid for this post, unless you’ve read the books, I’m going to have to issue a
In the Epilogue for Mockingjay we discover that Katniss and Peeta eventually moved back to District 12, married, and had children. District 12 is based off of the Appalachia region of America and an interesting recipe I had found awhile back from that area was a Molasses Stack Cake. This cake is composed of several, pancake-like layers with a gingerbread consistency and spiced-apple filling in between each one.
Folk stories mention how each guest brought a layer of cake as a gift, sometimes in different flavors and varieties, and a bride’s popularity was often measured on how high and how many stacks of cake were at the wedding. Though we know that Peeta is very skilled at decorating cakes, Katniss has never been one for much fuss. More than likely he would want to make something simple to share with the few close friends still alive, and to commemorate those who have passed on.
So what I did was take a recipe for a standard stack cake and picked extra flavor ingredients to symbolize mutual friends who brought Katniss and Peeta together, and those who lost their lives to protect them. Cinnamon is obviously for Cinna, whose spice for fashion, and designs full of fire changed the nature of the game. Bourbon is for Haymitch, flavored like a virgin barrel of oak burned and ravaged for years by alcohol into something harsh, complex, but utterly rich in character.
Rosemary’s piney flavor recalls Joanna Mason’s life among the forests, as well as a works as symbol of remembrance in Western culture . Dried blueberries are for Rue, who used to forage for them in the meadows of District 11. Toasted nori (seaweed) is in remembrance of Finnick Odair, the trident king of District 4. Powdered sugar represents the delicate extravagance of Effie Trinket. Finally, the addition of goat cheese to the apple filling is in remembrance of Prim’s cooking and the apple and goat cheese tarts Peeta’s family made in their bakery.
**END SPOILER ALERT**
Fun fact – my roommate was a regular extra on Catching Fire as well as Mockingjay parts I and II. That rose garnish on top of the cake was one of the props used for President Snow on set. Peeta would probably think twice before putting it on the actual cake. But since no actual PTSD-suffering former Hunger Games tributes live in my house, we thought it would be pretty for this shoot. Don’t worry; it wasn’t poisoned.
A couple of things to keep in mind about this cake. You will need to pay attention to timing when baking the rounds so the next layer of cake is ready to go into the oven as soon as one comes out. I had three 9-inch diameter cake pans, so it was a little easier than if I had fewer. The dough will be sticky, so make sure that you flour your hands before handling it and pressing it into the pans. Make sure to let the cake sit 24 hours before serving to let the filling seep into the cake.
When serving I suggest warming each slice about thirty seconds in the microwave, spreading on a little butter or sprinkling some sea salt on top before adding a drizzle of honey.
Katniss’s Wedding Stack Cake
Equipment – 2-3 9-inch diameter round cake pans, electric or stand mixer, large saucepan, potato masher, large bowl, oven, stovetop.
- 1 pound dried apples
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup bourbon
- 3-4 cups water, divided
- 10 oz goat cheese crumbles
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 6-8 sheets snack size toasted nori, cut into tiny rectangles
- Large sprig fresh rosemary, stripped and minced
- ½ cup dried blueberries
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Cooking spray
- Powdered sugar
- Heat up a large saucepan with the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, dried apples, bourbon, and enough water to cover the apples. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, stir frequently to keep mixture from overflowing. Add the rest of the water bit by bit as the mixture cooks down. When the apples are soft and the mixture thickened, turn off the heat and mash with a potato masher. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, seaweed, and rosemary in a large bowl.
- Beat granulated sugar and molasses into butter in another bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Leave mixer and add one egg at a time.
- Add a third of the flour, then half of the buttermilk, allow the mixer to blend. Then add another third of flour, then the rest of the buttermilk. Add the rest of the flour and the blueberries, mix completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Spray the inside of the cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pour batter onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the batter into six portions and with lightly floured hands, press each portion into a prepared cake pan so the bottom is completely covered – about ½ inch thick. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake in the oven 15 minutes for each layer.
- When the first layer comes out of the oven, set aside to cool for about a minute or two. Then carefully turn out layer on a cake plate. Spread out a cup’s worth apple filling on top, then sprinkle some goat cheese crumbles on top of that. Repeat with each layer until the fifth layer is covered with filling.
- Add top layer of cake and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate, or unwrapped inside a sealable cake saver and allow to sit for at least 24 hours before serving.