Somehow, I didn’t appreciate the magic of Narnia until I was all grown up and in college. As a kid, my brother loved the series and my parents repeatedly encouraged me to read it, but I was so independent in my reading habits that I refused to take their suggestions. I wanted to choose what I read. Thus, I didn’t fall in love with CS Lewis and his magical Chronicles until I was 19 years old with a year of college under my belt. It was so wonderful that ever since then I have wondered how I could let my childhood pass without Tumnus, the Pevensies, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Aslan…Such fantastic characters, verging on as masterful as those of the Harry Potter series. They became my lifelong friends as soon as I read their characters into being in my imagination. Of course, I probably appreciated them so much more as an educated woman than I would have as a little kid. There’s a lot to those books, which is what makes them the perfect read for all ages.
In honor of Narnia (and with a little encouragement from a recipe contest I discovered on Facebook’s Narnia page) I have created a cake I think would do the Narnians proud. There is not a whole lot of emphasis on food in the Narnia series – other than that obvious reference to Turkish Delight when Edmund meets the White Witch for the first time – but those times it is mentioned, a few defining characteristics shine through. These are:
1. The food is very British. Tea, sardines and toast, wild game, porridge, etc. All things that just scream Britain.
2.The food is natural and simple. Lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, oats; no processed foods. Obviously. If Narnia is supposed to be like heaven there most certainly would not be processed foods.
3. The food is light, for the most part. Springy flavors. Honey is referred to rather frequently, as is milk, wine, fruit. Aside from hot chocolate and pudding, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of chocolate in Narnia. (Not counting that feast at which the trees indulged in chocolate-like dirt.)
That being said, I tried to think of a food that was simple, natural, british, and light, and I don’t think I could have better captured those characteristics than with this Honey Fig Tea Cake.
Like I said earlier, the Narnians like to eat a lot of fresh produce. Fruit specifically. Though they are never specifically mentioned in the books, figs would be a natural thing to come across in Narnia and the surrounding countries, I believe. Narnia is the perfect environment for the fig, which originated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. While figs can grow well in many climates, it thrives in those in which there is plenty of water and plenty of sun. Another reason for choosing fig is its obvious biblical symbolism. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after they sinned in the garden. The fig tree, in fact, was the third tree to be mentioned in the Bible. Further, a lovely verse describing the Promised Land is Deuteronomy 8:7-10:
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything.”
The fig, simply put, is most definitely a biblical fruit, and as we all should know, The Chronicles of Narnia draws a specific and illuminated parallel to the biblical story – with Narnia being the Promised Land itself.
I was excited to make this cake for many reasons: 1) the chance to enter something pretty into a contest (please vote for me here on The Chronicles of Narnia Facebook page!) 2) the excuse to buy figs and bake with them (they’re sorta expensive) and 3) the opportunity to talk about Narnia on my blog. It is such a fantastic book series for so many reasons, and CS Lewis was truly one of the most enlightened and godly men of our age. But the cake was extra delicious, too.
Many thanks to my sister, Mickenzie, for helping me bake and decorate and for letting me use her fantastic and sophisticated camera!
Honey Fig Tea Cake
2 bags green tea
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup squished figs
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Quarter figs and scoop the pink inside out of skin and squish. Set aside.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and contents of tea bags into a bowl. Stir.
3. In separate bowl, whip eggs, honey, greek yogurt, oil, and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir well.
4. Fold squished figs into batter. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Garnish with powdered sugar, fresh fig slices, grapes and harvarti.