I found this decorative weapon at an estate sale. My son told me it was a mace, but my research revealed that it is actually a morning star, the difference being that a mace does not have spikes. (The Cave Troll in the Lord of the Rings movies wields a morning star.) Personally, when it comes to medieval weaponry, I think I’m gonna stick with spikes.
Ooohh — spikey!
I spotted it on top of a cabinet from across a room. I think someone probably stuck it up there out of sight, hoping to come back for it the next day when the seller would start discounting. That is not proper estate sale etiquette.
Yesterday I witnessed another example of bad estate sale manners. As my friend and I entered the house, the seller was saying rather loudly to a departing customer, “I cannot believe how much you lie.” What a great line — I wish I could use it in a deposition. It turns out the customer had placed a number of items on the “I’m buying these table,” shooed other customers away when they wanted to look at them, and then after about an hour or so, decided not to buy them after all. As a general rule, if you declare you are buying something at an estate sale, you have pretty much committed yourself to buying it.
Back to my fancy weapon. Even though it wasn’t a mace, it got me thinking about the spice mace. I couldn’t remember if I had ever used mace, or if I even had any. Mace is the dried, lacy reddish covering of the nutmeg seed. Nutmeg is not a nut, but the kernel of a fruit, much like an apricot. Mace’s taste is similar to that of nutmeg, with a distinct pepper note, and maybe some steroids.
Turns out, I did not have mace, which was reason enough for me to run to the grocery store and get a bottle to add to the spices in the M section in my pantry.
Enjoying its new neighbors Mustard and Mint
So now that I own mace, what do I do with it? I found a recipe, originally published in Gourmet in 2005, for Mace Cake. Inspired by the morning star, and intrigued by the spice, I gave it a try. This was an interesting cake. The directions call for beating the eggs and sugar together for approximately 15 minutes with a hand held mixer (or 7-8 minutes in a stand mixer). If you are using a hand held mixer, I suggest painting the wall in front of you right before you start mixing — that way you can at least watch the paint dry while you stand there for what seems like an eternity beating eggs and sugar. Another unusual technique the cake called for was boiling the milk and butter together before adding them to the cake. The 1/2 cup of mace sugar sprinkled over the top, which forms a delicious crackly sugar crust, is also a little unusual. Then, of course, there’s the mace.
I loved this cake. Tasty on its own, it is even better with some sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. But I have to admit, it is a sophisticated cake, and the strong taste of mace did not appeal to my kids. The texture of the cake is so nice, however, that to please them, I am going to try using some of the techniques in the recipe with some other flavors.
|MACE CAKE|| |
- 4 eggs
- 2-1/2 cups sugar, divided use
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon ground mace, divided use
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 13" baking pan.
- Using an electric mixer, beat eggs with 2 cups sugar in a large bowl. Beat at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon when beater is lifted, 7 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer, or 14 to 16 minutes with a hand held mixer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon mace.
- Bring milk and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in hot milk mixture until combined. Batter will be thin (like pancake batter).
- Stir together remaining ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon mace in a small bowl.
- Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle evenly with mace sugar. Bake until lightly golden, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
Hot from the oven with its crackly sugar crust