I’ve been doing a bit of research the past few days
on 18th and early 19th century receipts (recipes)
for New Year’s Cake. I’ve been doing this partly
because of the season, the New Year having just
begun and all, but also because I’ve been trudging
through a holiday-themed book entitled The Christmas
Cook, by noted food historian William Woys Weaver.
And when I say, “trudging,” I mean just that. Trudging.
Slogging and plodding. Hacking my way through the pages,
as if on some wild safari in a tropical jungle.
But, more on that later. Maybe. For now, I want to share
a few New Year’s Cake receipts.
Of course, I found several, and typically, some were similar,
others were vastly different. The first one is in Amelia Simmon’s
American Cookery (1796), which, as you probably know, was
the first cookbook published in America that also was written
by an American. And if perchance you’re going to try this, I’d
suggest cutting the proportions!
New Year’s Cake.
Take 14 pound flour, to which add
one pint milk, and one quart yeast,
put these together over night, and
let it lie in the sponge till morning,
5 pound sugar and 4 pound butter,
dissolve these together, 6 eggs
well beat, and carroway seed; put
the whole together, and when light
bake them in cakes, similar to breakfast
biscuit, 20 minutes.
Note that yeast is used, much like with bread. There’s the usual
flour, sugar, and eggs. Then “carroway” seeds, making this,
in essence, a spice cake. Notice, too, it says to “bake them
in cakes” that are “similar to…biscuit.” In other words, this
is a receipt for making little cakes, possibly even cookies.
Up until the late 18th century, and even way into the 19th,
the word “cake” could mean several things: what we would
refer to now as a cake, large or small; what we’d call a cookie;
and even a biscuit. All are usually grouped together in the same
chapter of historic cookbooks. And don’t forget, even today,
if you ever find yourself hankering for a cookie while in jolly
ol’ England, you’ll need to be sure to ask for a biscuit.
Next: more New Year’s Cake receipts.