Baking · History of Cake · Vegan

The Great Ancient World’s Bake Off – Rome vs Greece

The two contestants stood behind their benches, their stone ovens and fires at the ready. This challenge was going to determine their future, and the question of which country would win the baking crown. The competitors stood in silence – the time for trash talk was over. As the judges stepped forward, the bakers apprehension rose; what would they be asked to make in this challenge?

Terra cotta oven from Pompeii on display in th...
Terracotta Oven from Pompeii

The baking battle between the Ancient Romans and Greeks was at full throttle at present and tension was rife in the kitchen. The Roman competitors consistently mentioned their baking guild, how it was considered so important in their country that a member of the baking guild was asked to sit in on the Senate! They viewed the Greek baking cuisine as far less advanced – they didn’t even grow their own wheat flour, but had to import much of it from Sicily and Egypt. Not to mention most of their cakes were created for sacrifices – what a waste! However, the final was approaching, and it was between a Greek and a Roman – he had a chance to win this!

It had been a tough day. The signature bake has gone well on the whole, both of them managing to complete a cheesecake of their choice. Chrysippus felt that his recipe for placenta, a cheesecake layered with honey and filo pastry had been received a little better than his competitors effort of honey-soaked goats cheese balls (no soggy bottom!), however the technical challenge of a honey cake has possibly gone slightly more towards his Roman competitor. However, it now all rested on the showstopper challenge.

The judges announced the challenge; to cook a cake of their choice, representing themselves and their culture. The time limit was set and the competition started. Both bakers ran to the oven and started preparing their ingredients. Mad thoughts ran through Chrysippus’s mind – would they think that his cake was too simple, especially considering that it didn’t require any baking? Had he played it too safe? Should he have used beer to leaven his cake, or was that too Egyptian in style? Was creating a traditional round cake too boring – fit for the temple but not for the competition? He quickly shrugged this thought off – if it was good enough for Artemis the Moon Goddess, it was good enough for the judges!

Ancient Greek Cake

The time had come – the time was up. The cakes were presented and tasted. Positive comments were given for both his cake and his competitor’s egg and honey enriched cake. Now all they could do was wait.

Chrysippus’s Recipe for Gastris



  • ½ cup golden raisins, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup dark raisins, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup almonds, soaked and blanched
  • 1 cup dried apricots, soaked
  • 8 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • ½ cup walnuts, soaked overnight
  • 2 cups poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • A splash of water


  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups sesame seeds
In a medium pan, dry toast the poppy seeds on medium heat for 1 minute. Transfer the poppy seeds into a bowl before toasting the hazelnuts
Add all the ingredients for the filling in a blender, starting with the soaked dried fruits, then adding the almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, then the honey and olive oil. At last, add the poppy seeds and the pepper. If the mixture gets too dry, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time. The mixture should not have a liquid consistency.
To make the crust, blend together the sesame seeds and the honey until the mixture is completely combined before dividing the mixture into two parts. Spread the first half on a parchment paper lined pan, add the filling on top, and press down to ensure an even covering.  Top with the remaining sesame mixture and refrigerate until completely set (at least a couple of hours).
Notes: To make this recipe completely vegan, substitute the honey for an appropriate sweetener.

3 thoughts on “The Great Ancient World’s Bake Off – Rome vs Greece

  1. This is such a fantastic idea! 🙂 It looks so tasty! The Roman competitor reminds me of M. Vergilius Eurysaces – his tomb is decorated with bread-making equipment and scenes from the bakery.

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