Cuneiform tablet coffee cake


I’ve been thinking for a while now that a cuneiform tablet cake would be fairly easy to make (typing that sentence makes me wonder if I shouldn’t find better things to think about). Now, when I was making the cakes I realised at the last moment that my stylus (chopstick…) was the wrong shape to make the cuneiform wedges. The cakes are therefore modelled on earlier, Uruk IV period tablets. Specifically, the two below.

P000813                                    P000749

The cakes are far from perfect. I clearly went too far with the modelling, so the larger tablet is a bit misshapen. I’ll certainly be coming back to this to try and make one that has a better shape, and actual cuneiform on it.

If you have nothing better to do, here follows the recipe:

First, make the coffee cake:


  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 small eggs
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons espresso


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C, and line a square brownie tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar, whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and gently fold into the mixture.
  4. Add the espresso, and pour into the brownie tin.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, and allow to cool.

While the cake is baking and cooling, make a coffee buttercream by creaming together 50g of butter with 100g of icing sugar, a splash of milk and a splash of espresso. Make a template in the shape of the tablet you want to create, and once the cake is cooled, use the template to cut out two identical pieces of cake. Sandwich them together and crumb coat with the buttercream (it’s generally a good idea to put it on the cake board before the crumb coat). Put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour.

Remove from the fridge and use a serrated knife to model the cake into the 3D shape of the tablet. Give it a second crumb coat for good measure, and put it back in the fridge.

Next, make the fondant. The recipe I always use for my fondant is this one:

You’ll only need half quantities, and, to make it a coffee fondant (in order to give it the appetising brown colour of clay), substitute the water with cold espresso. Roll out the fondant on a surface that you’ve heavily dusted with icing sugar, and cover the cake. Once it’s covered, use a stylus to write the signs in the fondant (I found the end of a paintbrush worked well enough, but all you really need is for it to be rounded).

Then, realise you have wasted a good few hours on this utterly pointless task, and retreat from the kitchen with a bowl of cake offcuts mixed with leftover icing, wondering if anyone will accept ‘making a cuneiform tablet cake’ as an excuse for not doing any actual work.


Up next – Max Marsh-mallowan’s eye idols (I wish I was joking).

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