Placenta Cake

A Greek plăcintă-maker in Bucharest in 1880

A Greek plăcintă-maker in Bucharest in 1880

Placenta is a dish from ancient Rome consisting of many dough layers interspersed with a mixture of cheese and honey and flavoured with bay leaves, then baked and covered in honey. Cato included a recipe in his De Agri Cultura.

Cato writes:
Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of tracta.

It derives from the Greek term plakous (Greek: “πλακοῦς”, gen. “πλακοῦντος” – plakountos) for thin or layered flat breads, and several scholars suggest that its Byzantine descendants, koptoplakous (Medieval Greek: κοπτοπλακοῦς) and plakountas tetyromenous, are the ancestors of modern baklava and tiropita (börek) respectively. A variant of the Roman dish survived into the modern era as the Romanian plăcintă cake.

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