Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sansa's Favorite Lemon Cakes

Later came sweetbreads and pigeon pie and baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and lemon cakes frosted in sugar, but by then Sansa was so stuffed that she could not manage more than two little lemon cakes, as much as she loved them. She was wondering whether she might attempt a third when the king began to shout.
- Sansa III, A Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones lemon cakes for Sansa
Lemon cakes pop up regularly in A Song of Ice and Fire - particularly in Sansa's chapters! Despite their prevalence, there aren't any precise details about their usual appearance or ingredients.
In result, the internet abounds with dozens of interpretations of Sansa's favorite sweet. Most are around the size and shape of a scone or a cupcake, and some involve elaborate constructions involving candied rinds or cream layers.
When I read the books, I envisioned the lemon cakes to be quite small - characters often describe eating many in a sitting! Being so strongly associated with Sansa, I also see them as delicate and lady-like. And yet, I don't think they should be overly fussy or require an unusual amount of skill or several days of work to prepare. Lemon cakes are made in kitchens all across Westeros - from Highgarden, to Winterfell, to Kingslanding - and are even consumed by Queen Cersei on the road!
I love madeleines, and I think they really fit the required characteristics: small and delicate, fancy enough to be eaten by queens and princesses, but simple enough to be found all across Westeros. And, above all, they are lemon-y cakes!
I boosted the lemony flavor by glazing them with a sort of lemon curd. This glaze makes use of the juice from the lemons zested for the cake portion - which strikes me as a suitably Winterfellian sort of culinary pragmatism. The result is a light and fluffy cake with a wonderful lemony tanginess. Certainly the sort of lemon cake of which you'll want to eat two or three in a sitting, or even more:
"Will they be lemon cakes?" Lord Robert loved lemon cakes, perhaps because Alayne did."Lemony lemony lemon cakes," she assured him, "and you can have as many as you like.""A hundred?" he wanted to know. "Could I have a hundred?"
- Alayne II, A Feast For Crows


Makes ~40 madeleines, adapted from my Aghanim's Scepter recipe.
For the cakes:
  • 60 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 65 g butter + 1-2 tbsp for coating madeleine molds
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (see Note)
  • zest of two lemons.
  • 65 g granulated sugar
  • 60 g eggs (about 1 extra large egg), room temperature
For the glaze:
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (optional: strain to remove pulp)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp butter


  • 1 large ziploc bag or piping bag
  • Piping nozzle with a large outlet
  • 1 mini madeleine tray (or full-sized madeleine tray, but you will need to adjust the cooking times!)
  • Silicon brush for coating the madeleine tray in butter and for glazing the cakes.


My usual recipe for madeleines includes vanilla extract, but I've substituted it here with almond extract. Vanilla flavors wouldn't be found in the Winterfell kitchens. Westeros draws heavily from medieval Europe, and vanilla beans were brought over to Europe from the New World well after the time period that inspired these books. (You can also leave it out altogether.)


  1. For the cake: Microwave the butter until melted. Skim off about 5g of the foam to partially clarify the butter.
  2. In one bowl, seive the flour and the baking powder together.
  3. In a second bowl, mix together the eggs, lemon zest, almond extract, salt, honey and sugar. The goal isn't to fluff anything up, just to combine it.
  4. In three batches, fold in the flour mixture, then pour in the butter and stir to combine.
  5. Fit the piping nozzle into one corner of your ziploc bag. Pour in the madeleine batter.
  6. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to make it easier to pipe. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
  7. When you are ready to bake, melt the remaining 1-2 tbsp of butter. Brush the butter generously into the madeleine tray.
  8. Cut the tip off the ziploc bag, and pipe batter into each well until it is about half full. (It will seem like a surprisingly small amount of batter.)
  9. Pop the tray into the oven for 5.5 minutes. (For a larger mold, you will need to increase the baking time, try 6.5-7.5 minutes.)
  10. When the tops of the cookies feel sponge-y and not sticky/dough-y, pull them out of the oven. Hold the mold on its side and tap it against a clean kitchen towel-lined surface. The madeleines should drop out of their own accord. You may need to give one or two of the stragglers a gentle nudge.
  11. For the glaze: In a small saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, and egg. Add in the butter and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. The glaze should start to thicken as the eggs cook. Once the glaze has thickened to the point where your spoon begins to leave trails in the mixture as you stir, remove from heat.
  12. Brush the glaze onto the shell side of the madeleines. Serve with tea, in the custom of Queen Cersei.
Madeleine lemon cakes glazed with a lemon curd.
Check out some of my other madeleine creations here:
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