Monday, 19 May 2014

Emeles (almond cakes)

I have mentioned 'Emeles' in the comments of the recipe for Torta in Balconata. Emeles, or almond cakes are a great way to use the left-over ground almonds from making almond milk. My first try making Emeles, however, was a failure, but this was probably because I did not pay enough attention to the recipe. The second try was a success, so I can recommend anyone making these almond cakes or cookies.


Take sugar, salt, almonds, and white bread, and grind them together; then add eggs; then grease oil or butter, and take a spoon and brush them [i.e. frying them] and then remove them and sprinkle them with dry sugar.

British Library, manuscript Additional 32085, folio 117v-119v, and manuscript Royal 12 C.xii folio 11-13, dated around 1320-1340.

A labyrinth capital from folio 11r of ms Add. 32085.
British Library, London, UK.


1 cup of breadcrumbs (or more). I used commercial breadcrumbs.
120 gram ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar + 2 table spoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
oil and/or fat for frying

Left: the non-sticky batter made into small balls. Right: the sticky batter for the emeles.

Blend the breadcrumbs, sugar (without the 2 extra spoons) and the ground almonds (they are still a bit wet) with the eggs. This will give you a sticky batter. I thought the batter was too wet so I added more breadcrumbs. Then I changed my mind, and made a new sticky batter according to the recipe. Now I had two types of batter, a sticky and a non-sticky, which I both tested. From the non-sticky batter it was possible to turn them into nice ball shapes.

 The emeles from the sticky batter. They look a bit like small 'oliebollen', a traditional Dutch new years treat.

Heat the oil or fat in a frying pan and drop in the batter in small spoonfuls, or alternatively drop in the balls. Remove from the fat, when lightly browned and drain on paper. Sprinkle with the reserved sugar. Constance Hieatt recommends serving them warm, but I found that they were tastier cold, the next day. I also think that the amount of sugar in the recipe can be increased a bit, perhaps to 1/3 cup,. I dipped my half-eaten almond cake again in the sugar to get some more sweetness. The difference in taste between the emeles 'balls' and the emeles from the sticky batter is negligible (according to the 8 people who tested both types of emeles). Therefore, it  will solely be an aesthetic matter which type of emeles you prefer.

The emeles balls from the non-sticky batter with a sugar layer. They taste just as good.


  • Hieatt, C.B. and Jones, R.F., 1986. Two Anglo-Norman culinary collections edited from British library manuscripts Additional 32085 and Royal 12.C.xii. Speculum volume 61, issue 4, page 859-882. (can be read through JSTOR).
  • Hieatt, C.B., Hosington, B. and Butler, S., 1996. Pleyn Delit. medieval cooking for modern cooks. second edition. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. ISBN 9780802076328.

1 comment:

  1. Great! Very good recipe and cakes look appetizing. Thank you. Is you cook? You can write a book "Verified medieval recipes"