In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”
Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high.
This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan.
To Make a Bride Cake
Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound of flour put eight eggs, wash four pounds of currants, pick them well, and dry them before the fire. Blanch a pound of sweet almonds, and cut them lengthways very thin, a pound of citron, one pound of candied orange, the same of candied lemon, half a pint of brandy; first work the butter with your hand to cream, then beat in your sugar a quarter of an hour, beat the whites of your eggs to a very strong froth, mix them with your sugar and butter, beat your yolks half an hour at least, and mix them with your cake, then put in your flour, mace and nutmeg, keep beating it well till your oven is ready, put in your brandy, and beat your currants and almonds lightly in, tie three sheet s of paper round the bottom of your hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with butter, put in your cake, and lay your sweetmeats in three lays, with cake betwixt every lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with paper before your oven is stopped up; it will take three hours baking. – Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1794
454 g / 16 oz / 4 cups Flour
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Butter
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Mace
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
8 Eggs, divided
454 g / 1 lb / 3 cups Currants
142 g / 5 oz / 1 cup Slivered Almonds
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Citron
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Lemon peel
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Orange peel
120 ml / ½ Cup Brandy or 1 oz Brandy extract plus Apple Juice to equal a ½ cup.
Whip the whites of 8 eggs to stiff peaks and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolks. Once they are combined, fold in the egg whites, brandy or juice and spices. Add the flour a little at a time until it is incorporated. Stir in the almonds and currants.
Preheat the oven to 149° C / 300° F. Generously grease a tall 25cm / 10in springform pan. Spoon ¼ of the batter into the pan and top with 1/3 of the citron, orange peel and lemon peel. Repeat twice more and top with remaining batter.
Bake for 2 ½ hours, top with Almond and Sugar Icings (See Below)
Icings for the Bride-Cake
To make Almond-Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat the whites of three eggs to a strong froth, beat a pound of Jordan almonds very fine with rose water, mix your almonds with the eggs lightly together, a pound of common loaf sugar beat fine, and put in by degrees; When your cake is enough, take it out, and lay your icing on, then put it in to brown. ER
3 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent
283 g / 10 oz / 2 cups blanched almonds, ground to powder.
1 tbsp Rose Water
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups powdered sugar
In a food processor, combine the almonds, rose water and sugar and set this aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the almond mixture to the egg whites until incorporated. Spread this on the top of your cake as soon as you take it from the oven, and then return the cake to the oven until the top is lightly browned. Cool the cake slightly on a rack. Once the cake is cool enough to touch, slide a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the edge of the pan and ice the cake with Sugar Icing.
To Make Sugar Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat two pounds of double refined sugar, with two ounces of fine starch, sift it through a gauze sieve, then beat the whites of five eggs with a knife upon a pewter dish half an hour; beat in your sugar a little a t a time, or it will make the eggs fall, and will not be so good a colour, when you have put in all your sugar, beat it half an hour longer, then lay it on your almond iceing, and spread it even with a knife; if it be put on as soon as the cake comes out of the oven it will be hard by the time the cake is cold. ER
907 g /
32 oz/ 4 cups Powdered Sugar
4 tbsp Corn Starch
5 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent
Sift together the starch and powdered sugar and set aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add in the sugar mixture, while the mixer continues to whip the egg whites. If you add the sugar too fast the whites will fall and you will end up with a glaze instead of icing. Continue to whip the icing for a few more minutes until it is the consistency of marshmallow cream. Ice the cake using a large, flat spatula, creating whorls and swirls in the pattern. Allow to stand at room temperature for several hours so that the icing hardens. Decorate with fresh flowers, if desired.
*The consumption of raw egg whites can lead to food poisoning. Use meringue powder as a safe alternative.
Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Laura is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)
Many food items are named according to their birthplace, such as Bath Buns or Yorkshire Pudding. Banbury was a market town which also gave it’s name to the phrase, “A Banbury story of a cock and a bull”. Made famous in Regency circles by Georgette Heyer, it dates to at least the 1600’s and is mentioned in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Gros. Its most common meaning is “A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity“. It is also sometimes shortened to “a Banbury tale” or simply “a Banbury” and most often “a cock and bull story”.
A Banbury cake is a spiced, currant-filled, flat pastry cake similar to an Eccles cake, although it is more oval in shape. Once made and sold exclusively in Banbury, England, Banbury cakes have been made in the region to secret recipes since 1586 or earlier and are still made there today, although not in such quantity. The cakes were once sent as far afield as Australia, India and America.
Banbury cakes were first made by Edward Welchman, whose shop was on Parsons Street. Documented recipes were published by Gervase Markham and others during the 17th century. These recipes generally differ largely to the modern idea of a Banbury cake, in terms of their size, the nature of the pastry, and how the cake is made. In the late 19th century, the notorious refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station sold “Banbury cakes and pork pies (obviously stale)”.
Besides currants, the filling typically includes mixed peel, brown sugar, rose water, rum, and nutmeg. Banbury cakes were traditionally enjoyed with afternoon tea.
According to The History of Banbury by Alfred Beesley (1841),
“If the fame of Banbury Cheese has so nearly departed, that of Banbury Cakes, recorded from the days of Philemon Holland and Ben Jonson (in 1608 and 1614), has continued till the present time. Mr. Samuel Beesley, the proprietor of the cake shop which in the last century was conducted by the White family,8‘ sold, in 1840, no fewer than 139,500…
It is probable that the Banbury Cakes of the present day are made pretty nearly the same as those of the time of Holland and Ben J on son. The present Mr. Dumbleton (who was bom in 1765) remembers this sort of Cakes as being considered an antiquated production in the days of his youth; and he states that his father, who was born in the year 1700, spoke of them in the same way. The importation to this country of those small grapes which are the “currants” of commerce, and which are used in the manufacture of Banbury Cakes, was much earlier than this period. Ben Jonson (in his ” Bartholomew Fair **) writes of the Banbury Puritan, a baker and cake-maker, as having “undone a grocer here, in Newgate market, that broke with him, trusted him with currants, as arrant a zeal as he.”
The Cakes are of an oval, but rather diamond-shaped, figure: the outside is formed of rich paste, and the interior consists of fruit, &c, resembling the contents of a mince pie.
This 1615 recipe from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman is probably quite close to the original recipe. For a modern version, though, try Dan Lepard’s “Jacobean Banbury Cakes“. Elena Greene offers a more modern (1825) version on her blog, Risky Regencies.
Historical information from Wikipedia.com
A Recipe for Apricot Ice Cream
Ice Cream, as we know it, was a relatively new invention in Jane Austen’s day. Enjoyed in Italy and France in the 17th c, the first recorded English recipe was published in 1718.
Recipes featuring fruit which was not available until early summer were, no doubt, a treat reserved for the wealthy, who could afford to buy their ice and keep it cool in ice houses, until wanted. If you did not have access to ice in the summer, you could always visit the local Pastry Cook for a variety of sweets, including apricot ice cream. Molland’s, in Bath, was one such establishment.
In Jane Austen’s, The Beautiful Cassandra, her heroine “…then proceeded to a Pastry-cook’s, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.” Slapstick comedy does seem to have been the name of the game in Austen’s early work. Mr. Punch would be proud. The following recipe for Apricot Ice Cream is taken from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, and is based on one first printed by Hannah Glasse in her book, Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1755.
To Make Ice-Cream
Pare and stone twelve ripe apricots, and scald them, beat them fine in a mortar, add to them six ounces of double refined sugar, and a pint of scalding cream, and work it through a sieve; put it in a tin with a close cover, and set it in a tub of ice broke small, with four handfuls of salt mixed among the ice. When you see your cream grows thick round the edges of your tin, stir it well and put it in again till it is quite thick; when the cream is all froze up, take it out of the tin, and put it into the mould you intend to turn it out of; put on the lid and have another tub of salt and ice ready as before; put the mould in the middle, and lay the ice under and over it; let it stand for four hours, and never turn it out till the moment you want it, then dip the mould in cold spring water, and turn it into a plate. You may do any sort of fruit the same way. HG
- 12 ripe Apricots
- 170 g / 6 oz / ¾ cup Powdered Sugar
- 470 ml / 16 fl oz / 2 cups of Cream
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each apricot and place them in the pan. Let them boil furiously for 3 minutes. Drain the apricots in a colander and rinse them in cold water. The skins will now slip easily from them. Slice them in half and remove the pits.
Place the apricots, cream and sugar into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour this mixture into a dish with a tight fitting lid and place it in the freezer.
After 1 ½ hours, stir the ice cream so that it is smooth once more and return it to the freezer. Continue this process every few hours until it is semi-hard. Spoon the mixture into prepared moulds or allow it to harden in the dish and serve it in small scoops. You may also use an ice Cream maker to speed this process and produce a uniformly creamy apricot ice cream. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Blancmange , from French blanc-manger, is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss (a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colours. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, vanilla pudding (in US usage), panna cotta, the Turkish muhallebi, and haupia.
The historical blancmange originated some time in the Middle Ages and usually consisted of capon or chicken, milk or almond milk, rice and sugar and was considered to be an ideal food for the sick. Tavuk göğsü is a sweet contemporary Turkish pudding made with shredded chicken, similar to the medieval European dish.
The true origin of the blancmange is obscure, but it is believed by some that it was a result of the Arab introduction of rice and almonds in early medieval Europe. However, there is no evidence of the existence of any similar Arab dishes from that period; though the Arabic mahallabīyah is similar, its origins are uncertain. Several other names for related or similar dishes existed in Europe, such as the 13th-century Danish hwit moos (“white mush”), and the Anglo-Norman blanc desirree (“white Syrian dish”); Dutch calijs (from Latin colare, “to strain”) was known in English as cullis and in French as coulis, and was based on cooked and then strained poultry. The oldest recipe found so far is from a copy of the oldest extant Danish cookbook, written by Henrik Harpestræng, who died in 1244, which dates it to the early 13th century at the latest. The Danish work may simply be a translation of a German work which is in turn assumed to have been based on a Latin or Romance vernacular manuscript from the 12th century or even earlier.
The “whitedish” (from the original Old French term blanc mangier) was an upper-class dish common to most of Europe during the Middle Ages and early modern period. It occurs in countless variations from recipe collections from all over Europe and is mentioned in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in an early 15th-century cookbook written by the chefs of Richard II. The basic ingredients were milk or almond milk, sugar and shredded chicken (usually capon) or fish, and often combined with rosewater, rice flour, and mixed into a bland stew. Almond milk and fish were used as substitutes for the other animal products on fast days and Lent. It was also often flavored with spices like saffron or cinnamon and the chicken could be exchanged for various types of fowl, like quail or partridge. Spices were often used in recipes of the later Middle Ages since they were considered highly prestigious. The whitedish was one of the preparations that could be found in recipe collections all over Europe and one of the few truly international dishes of medieval and early modern Europe.
On festive occasions and among the upper classes, whitedishes were often rendered more festive by various colouring agents: the reddish-golden yellow of saffron; green with various herbs; or sandalwood for russet. In 14th-century France, parti-colouring, the use of two bright contrasting colours on the same plate, was especially popular and was described by Guillaume Tirel (also known as Taillevent), one of the primary authors of the later editions of Le Viandier. The brightly coloured whitedishes were one of the most common of the early entremets, edibles that were intended to entertain and delight through a gaudy appearance, as much as through flavour.
In the 17th century, the whitedish evolved into a meatless dessert pudding with cream and eggs and, later, gelatin. In the 19th century, arrowroot and cornflour were added and the dish evolved into the modern blancmange.
By the 18th century, noted chef Antonin Carême remarked:“These delicious sweets are greatly esteemed by gastronomes, but, to be enjoyed, they must be extremely smooth and very white. Given these two qualities (so rarely found together), they will always be preferred to other creams, even to transparent jellies. This is because almond is very nourishing and contains creamy, balsamic properties which are just right for sweetening the bitterness of humors.”
Blancmange was considered both a delicate dish for the table as well as a wonderful food for invalids. In her 1800 book, The Complete Confectioner, Hannah Glasse offers several varieties of Blanc Mange (“a fine side dish”, she later notes). Jenny Underwood of National Trust has adapted Hannah’s recipe, for Jerseylovesfood.com. Hannah’s recipes follow.
To make Blanc-mange with Isinglass.
Put an ounce of picked isinglass to a pint of water; put to it a bit of cinnamon, and boil it till the isinglass is melted; put to it three quarters of a pint of cream, two ounces of sweet almonds, and six bitter ones, blanched and beaten, and a bit of lemon peel; sweeten it, stir it over the fire, and let it boil; strain it, stir it till it is cool, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, and put it into what moulds you please; turn it out, garnish with currant jelly and jam, or marmalade, quinces, &C. If you choose to have your blancmange of a green colour, put in as much juice of spinach as will be necessary for that purpose, and a spoonful of brandy; but it should not then retain the name of blanc-mange, (white food,) but rerde-mange, (green food): if you would have it yellow, dissolve a little saffron in it; you should then call it jaune-mange: or you may make it red, by putting a bit of cochineal into little brandy, let it stand half an hour, and strain it through a bit of cloth; it is then entitled to the appellation of rouge-mange. Always wet the mould before you put in the blanc-mange. It may be ornamented, when turned out, by sticking about it blanched almonds sliced, or citron, according to fancy.
To make clear Blanc-mange.
Take a quart of strong calf’s foot jelly, skim off the fat, and strain it, beat the whites of four eggs,’put it into a jelly-bag, and run it through several times till it is clear; beat one ounce of sweet almonds, and one of bitter, to a paste, with a spoonful of rose water squeezed through a cloth; mix it with the jelly, and three spoonfuls of very good cream; set it over the fire again, and keep stirring it till it is almost boiling; pour it into a bowl, and stir very often till it is almost cold; then wet your moulds and fill them.
To make Blanc-mange with a preserved Orange.
Fill your orange with blancmange; and, when cold, stick in it long slips of citron, like leaves; pour blanc-mange in the dish; when cold, set the orange in the middle; garnish with preserved or dried fruits: or you may pour blanc-mange into a mould like a Turk’s cap, lay round it jelly a little broken; put a sprig of myrtle, or small preserved orange on the top.
Historical information from Wikipedia.com
The bake house at Chawton cottage shows the types of ovens used by the Austen family. The bake house was quite often a detached building as an added measure of safety against fire and to preserve the house from the heat of year round baking.
“There is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry…” Miss Bates rattles on to Emma about Jane Fairfax’s enjoyment the apples sent by Mr. Knightley. As the Bates’ had no bake house, they were obliged to rely on Mrs. Wallis to bake their apples, though in reality, they are a simple dish to prepare. You may wish to pair this dish with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and cookies.
To Bake Apples Whole
Put your apples into an earthen pan, with a few cloves, a little lemon-peel, some coarse sugar, a glass of red wine: put them into a quick oven, and they will take an hour baking.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747
- 4 Medium sized Apples
- 12 Cloves
- 1 ½ tsp Lemon Peel
- 57 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- 240 ml / 8 fl oz/ 1cup Red Wine or Apple Juice, divided
Preheat your oven to 177° C / 350° F.
Continue reading Mrs. Bates’ Baked Apples
Shrewsbury Cakes – The history
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell is famed for her New System of Domestic Cookery. As the forward to her work claims, her purported goal was to offer assistance to the middle class housekeeper and wife, as many of Jane Austen’s heroines would wind up being:
“As the following directions were intended for the conduct of the families of the authoress’s own daughters, and for the arrangement of their table, so as to unite a good figure with proper economy, she has avoided all excessive luxury, such as essence of ham, and that wasteful expenditure of large quantities of meat for gravy, which so greatly contributes to keep up the price, and is no less injurious to those who eat than to those whose penury obliges them to abstain. Many receipts are given for things, which being in daily toe, the mode of preparing them may be supposed too well known to require a place in a cookery-book; yet how rarefy .do we meet with fine melted butter, good toast and water, or well-made coffee! She makes no apology for minuteness in some articles, or for leaving others unnoticed, because she does not write for professed cooks. This little work would have been a treasure to herself when she first set out in life, and she therefore hopes it may prove useful to others. In that expectation it is given to the Public; and as she will receive from it no emolument, so she trusts it will escape without censure.”
A Shrewsbury cake or Shrewsbury biscuit is a classic English dessert, named for Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire. They are made from dough that contains sugar, flour, egg, butter, and lemon zest. Shrewsbury cakes can be small in size for serving several at a time, or large for serving as a dessert in themselves.
The playwright William Congreve mentioned Shrewsbury cakes in his play The Way of the World in 1700 as a simile (Witwoud – “Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you ’tis not modish to know relations in town”). The recipe is also included in several early cookbooks including The Compleat Cook of 1658. First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams brought this recipe to The White House, when her husband, John Quincy Adams, son of American President, John Adams, became President of the United States in 1825.
With Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, we all now associate “Sugar Plums” with Christmas. In this early American depiction of Christmas Eve, we find the trappings of modern Christmas, from stockings to Jolly old Saint Nick, himself, round, red and fur trimmed, slipping up the chimney after leaving piles of presents for the children, “asleep in their beds, while visions of Sugar Plums dance in their heads.”
So what did a Regency Sugar Plum look like? The 1914 OED describes it thus, “Sugar-plum – A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit”.
“Plum” in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name. At one time, “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit. Modern “Sugar plums” may be made from any combination of dried plums (aka prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries, but traditional sugar plums contain none of these.
The word came in general usage in 1600s, when adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell was done through a slow and labour intensive process called panning. Until the mechanization of the process, it often took several days, thus the sugar plum was largely a luxury product. In fact in the 18th century the word plum became a British slang for a big pile of money or a bribe.
Georgian Sugar Plums, then, looked much more like today’s Jordan Almonds, than anything else. Theodore Garrett, author of The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1890) notes that “These are described under CARAWAY COMFITS, a more elaborate variety of them being known as DRAGÉES OR FRENCH SUGAR PLUMS…small strips of cinnamon [can also be] made to start off French Sugar Plums.
William Alexis Jarrin, author of The Italian Confectioner; Or, Complete Economy of Desserts, According to the Most Modern and Approved Practice, 1829, details the process, thus: