A Hedgehog

Last year, I made an 18th-century recipe for a hedgehog, a popular dessert in which an almond paste was formed into the shape of a hedgehog and stuck with almond slices to resemble spines. The idea of the hedgehog-shaped dessert survived into the 19th century, but later recipes started using a cake as the base of the hedgehog instead. This recipe, from Addison Ashburn’s 1807 cookbook The Family Director, calls for either a sponge cake or a French roll as the hedgehog base. The base is then soaked in wine and brandy and surrounded by custard, making this version just as decadent as its 18th-century predecessors.

Read More »

Great-Great-Grandmother Raver’s Cake – Orange and Lemon Version

Over a year ago, I discovered a recipe for my great-great-grandmother Grace Raver’s cake, thanks to an article from my grandfather’s cousin, Anne.

In her article, Anne recalled that her grandmother Grace would vary the cake according to the seasons; she would flavor it with black walnuts when they were harvested in fall, but would make the cake with orange and lemon the rest of the year. I’ve made the black walnut version of this cake a few times already, so I decided to try the orange and lemon version this time.

Read More »

A Seed Cake

‘”Come along in, and have some tea!” he managed to say after taking a deep breath.

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake — seed cake, if you have any.”

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and to the pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.’ – from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937.

Read More »

Dolly Varden Cake

“As to Dolly, there she was again, the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry-coloured mantle, with a hood of the same drawn over her head, and upon the top of that hood, a little straw hat trimmed with cherry-coloured ribbons, and worn the merest trifle on one sideā€”just enough in short to make it the wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious milliner devised.” -Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, 1841.

Read More »

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Although canned foods were commercially available in America as early as the 1820s, for many years canned foods were considered tasteless at best, and potentially hazardous at worst. Cooks who did use canned foods were often criticized as being lazy. By the 1930s, however, that reputation had completely reversed, as canning technology improved and efficiency and economy were prized. Cheaper canned goods brought expensive foods such as pineapple within the reach of ordinary Americans. The Good Housekeeping Institute promoted canned foods in quick dishes to make for company, such as in this 1933 recipe for pineapple upside down cake.

Read More »

Heart Cakes

These 18th century heart cakes are a variation on queen cakes, which were also often baked in heart-shaped tins. This recipe, from Charlotte Mason’s 1777 book The Lady’s Assistant, spruces up a basic queen cake recipe with the addition of candied orange peel and citron. You could certainly bake them in regular muffin tins, too – but as hearts, they are perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Read More »

Queen Cakes

Queen cakes, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, were little cakes usually baked in fancy molds. I was drawn to this particular recipe, from Eliza Leslie’s 1828 book Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, because it seemed especially fancy. Although queen cakes could be made any time of year, Leslie suggests decorating these with red and green nonpareils, which made me think they would be perfect for Christmas.

Read More »