This is what he promised to do for them. He would provide ponies for each of them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey to the forest, and he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry-nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits, and red earthenware pots of honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty….-The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
When recreating recipes from the most beloved books in the world such as The Hobbit, you tend to spend more time researching than usual, trying to find the right recipe to base your creation on. Fortunately The Hobbit has been closely looked at by many, trying to further understand the incredible world that JRR Tolkien created. To find out more about cram, honey cake and lembas, I based my understanding of this ‘cake’ on this Middle Earth/Tolkien blog.
The logic goes something like this- Tolkien was writing about a travel food, twice baked honey cake is compared in Fellowship of the Ring to lembas and cram in that it’s a travel food. Cram, it is assumed, is like hardtack, a sea biscuit that was used on long voyages as it kept for several months.
In terms of taste, it seems that cram is the bottom of the heap, probably exactly like hardtack (which is flour, water and salt). The best is lembas, and the honey cakes sit above average in taste as can be seen in this quote by Gimli.
” `Indeed it is,’ said Gimli. ‘Why it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of…”
The blog goes on to predict that Tolkien had in mind something like biscotti, which is what I’ve based this recipe on.
“However, Tolkien may have had something like Italian Biscotti or hard bisquits in mind when he wrote about these twice-baked cakes. The English word bisquit is in fact derived from Latin (panis) bis coctus, which means “(bread) twice-baked”. Ancient hardtack recipes have been refined and differentiated across centuries and countries. Many of these hard breads soften over time.” – Middle Earth/Tolkien blog