58 view

What is a tansy cake?

Tansy was a traditional Easter food in medieval English cuisine.  It got its name from the Tanacetum vulgare plant. The simplest version of the recipe was made by baking a batter flavored with green tansy juice. Later recipes, such as this one from the 16th century, Good Housewife’s Handbook added more ingredients like parsley, feverfew and violets to an egg batter that was fried like pancakes, though with a slightly green coloring from the addition of tansy and other herbs.  By adding spinach juice to baked tansy, it may be made green. A recipe from the 18th century. The Compleat Housewife sack was added to the batter, and the fried tansies were sweetened with gooseberries and a crushed sugar garnish.

Easter rituals often included cakes and wine. Some 19th-century authors believed that the tradition of eating tansy cakes, which had a sweet and bitter flavor, was connected to Jewish traditions of eating cakes made with bitter herbs.  Sometimes the tansy was closer to a pudding than a pancake, like Hannah Glasse’s 18th-century recipe in the Art of Cookery , an elaborate dish with Naples biscuits, butter, cream, blanched almonds, eggs, grated bread, rose water, orange blossom water and other spices and sweeteners.