"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Congreve knew it. Euripedes knew it. Dickens knew it, too. And while Congreve and Euripedes set their themes to blood, Dickens worked his words around a cake. A wedding cake, specifically, "a bride-cake," as Miss Havisham called it. Her cake. While the Great Expectations of Dickens' novel belong to Phillip Pirip (Pip), Miss Havisham, one of the greatest and most grotesque eccentric characters in all English literature, once had her own high hopes, too.
Betrothed later in life, and jilted by a man only hours before they were to be married, Miss Havisham is frozen in time to the exact minute she receives word that her heart has been betrayed and her fortune swindled. She becomes a haunted and embittered figure, an intractable, long-suffering and self-pitying martyr ensconced in a dark and dank estate, shrouded in the faded, yellowed lace of her wedding gown, a permanent fixture hanging from her withered form. Her soul is as rotted as the ruins of her wedding cake, a fortress of foul decrepitude, inhabited by creatures more familiar feeding on carrion than sweetmeats.
It is within the claustrophobic confines of this vile and bankrupt world that young Pip falls in love with Estella, Miss Havisham's beautiful and imperious young ward. The girl has been tutored well in the art of cruelty, learned at her benefactress' knee, ensnaring poor Pip to inevitable heartbreak. Miss Havisham, exploiting Estella as an instrument for her revenge, exacts a savage toll. Though she can vicariously gloat over the poisons she injects in others, she has emotionally sterilized Estella beyond any hope for her to live happily in love with anyone. There is eventual horror and guilt for the havoc she wrecks in others' lives, but it is too late for tears.
Miss Havisham would never have countenanced the cake I've baked; a chocolate wedding cake would have been a reckless violation of Victorian custom. But chocolate might have been a small comfort to her, and certainly a lot sweeter than the dark vengeance she sought.
Trüffeltorte (Austrian Chocolate Truffle Cake) - From the Demel recipe via Saveur. With the exception of replacing the rum with brandy for the syrup, I have made no other changes to the recipe and did not rewrite it. You can find the recipe through the Saveur link.
Simona of Briciole, and Lisa of Champaigne Taste, co-hosts of Novel Food - Spring 2009, the quarterly celebration of what is eaten and drunk in the pages that we read.
Thanks to all who voted on which cake I would bake for this event. It was great fun. The choices were nut, fruit or chocolate. The results: Nut 6; Fruit 12; and Chocolate 16. Of course, chocolate won. Silly me.