The best in Finistere Crossing, Afissa’s Harken Cake is the perfect treat for any social tea party.
[Disclaimer: This unofficial fan recipe is inspired by the world of Carnival Row, a television series created by Travis Beacham and produced by Amazon Studios and Legendary Television Studios.]
Based on recipes for traditional Madeira Cakes, this recipe for Carnival Row’s lauded Harken Cake is made of firm vanilla sponge and topped with a thin powdered sugar glaze. Cutting into the loaf reveals a spattering of blueberries and raspberries, adding a tart sweetness to the otherwise delicate dessert. Served in slices, the Harken Cake will be the center of attention at your next parliamentary social gathering (whether or not you live in Finistere Crossing).Jump to Recipe
The World of Carnival Row
“Carnival Row offers a dark, fantastic world that calls back to the styles and social graces of Edwardian London, in a society still shakily recovering from a conflict that resembles European colonial wars — but with industrialized destruction that resembles World War I.”The Carnival Row Role–Playing Guide, Travis Beacham
Premiered on August 30, 2019, Carnival Row is an American-made television series created by René Echevarria and Travis Beacham. The rich setting beautifully combines elements of Tolkien fantasy, Victorian Era steampunk, and old-world European legends with real world socio-political conflict to create a lush and detailed universe.
While the story spans the known world of its main characters, the primary setting is in the capital city of The Burgue in northern Mesogea. The predominantly human city is divided into multiple precincts, with the upper and lower classes literally separated by the Beorn River that runs through it. While the precinct of Gloamingside – nicknamed Carnival Row – lies to the south and is populated primarily by Otherkin immigrants such as Fae, Fauns, and Kobolds, the almost exclusively human-populated Finistere Crossing lies to the north, near the centers of Parliament. Finistere Crossing is home to opulence, grand architecture, and the city’s elite – and it’s in the parlors of this precinct that the Harken Cake can be found.
Afissa’s Harken Cake
My interpretation of Afissa’s Harken Cake – as it appears in episode five of Carnival Row’s first season – takes its inspirations from historic Edwardian & Victorian confections. On screen, it is a simple cake to modern eyes – A rectangular loaf of yellow sponge, a simple translucent glaze, and a few dots of blue and red fruit at its center. But looks can often be deceiving, and similar sweets were quite popular in the elite sitting rooms of Victorian England. The similarly modest Madeira Cake, a predecessor to the traditional pound cake, has a similar fine crumb and firm sponge. Much like the Harken Cake, it is iced with a sugar glaze and was very popular as an afternoon treat, named for its tendency to pair well with sweet Madeira wine.
The importance of the Harken Cake isn’t so much explained as made obvious by the invocation of its name. We don’t know where the name originates; whether harken is a type of berry, the name of an historical figure, or even a type of wine like Madeira. Nevertheless, in the eyes of Imogen Spurnrose, it is the delicate lynchpin on which her tenuous social tea rests, and it appears that Afissa, a Faun servant of the Spurnrose family, is well-known for her particular recipe. The finished cake, sliced and displayed on a pedestal, sits as the centerpiece of a meticulously arranged tea party, surrounded by smaller pastries and dainty chinaware – A beautiful but perhaps vain hope of uniting different social classes through the power of food.
Afissa’s Harken Cake with Vanilla Glaze & Mixed Berries
Fluffy yellow sponge and vanilla glaze surround bites of mixed berries in this delightfully simple Harken Cake recipe inspired by Carnival Row.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup fresh raspberries
- 1/3 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons water
Make the Cake:
Heat oven to 325 degrees Grease an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with butter and line it with parchment paper so that some hangs over the sides for easy lifting later.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, salt, and baking powder).
In the bowl of a stand mixer, paddle together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
Add beat each egg one at a time into the butter mixture, along with a spoonful of the dry ingredients. Repeat for all eggs. Once incorporated, add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and remaining flour mixture and beat until the batter is stiff and can hold its shape. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer.
Spoon the batter into the loaf pan until its two-thirds full, pushing the batter into the corners. Leaving a slight indentation in the middle of the pan, sprinkle the berries on top, leaving an inch perimeter along the edge. Spoon the rest of the batter over the berries and gently spread it out smooth so that they are fully covered.
Transfer the cake to the oven and bake for about 1 hour, turning it half way through. When fully cooked, remove the cake to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently lift the cake out of pan and let it cool until room temperature.
Glaze the Cake:
When the cake has completely cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. Add the water one teaspoon at a time until the glaze is thin and pourable. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting is drip slightly over the sides, and let it set for 20-30 minutes. Serve sliced alongside tea or coffee.
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