Posts Tagged ‘cakes’

This past weekend I trekked up to Ft. Lee to attend another
Historic Foodways Symposium sponsored by Deb Peterson.
As usual, it was an absolutely fantastic two days of lectures
and hands-on cooking. The focus of the program was “Sugar,
Spice, Isinglass & Cakes, Great & Small.”

On Saturday, attendees heard information-packed lectures
from Deb, Mercy Ingraham, Clarissa Dillon, and Cate Crown.
Then Sunday was the day for cooking out at the site’s bake
oven and fire pit. Using receipts (recipes) from various historic
cookbooks, we worked on numerous dishes that were either
baked in the oven or boiled over the fire. Everyone was able
to try their hand at any dish and to move around to see what
was being done for each. And so, under Cate’s watchful eyes,
participants worked on small Pound Cakes, Dutch Cakes, and
apple and “Ananas, or Pine-Apple” tarts. Puddings were King
at Clarissa’s station, including Suet, Wine, and Chocolate. She
supervised the making of “A French flummery,” as well. Spices
were ground to make “Kitchen Pepper” at Mercy’s table. And
Deb instructed folks on making batches of two sugary treats,
“Spanish Nut” (cacao beans) and lemon ‘n orange “Bomboons.”

Of course, when all was said and done and baked and boiled,
the consuming began. And believe me, it took no time for each
and every dish to disappear! In fact, as you’ll see below, I have
far more photos of the preparations then the finished cakes and
puddings. Ahh, well, maybe next time!
(Which, by the way, we all hope there IS a next time, at some
point, in one form or another. Pleeeeeeeease, Dearest Deb!)

Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say, on behalf of all those who
participated, that an educational, awesome, and simply glorious
time was had by all. HUZZAH!


The oven is fired up:

Cate Crown, Baker Extraordinaire:

Simply awesome!

Three bakers, sharing baking tips…or perhaps a bit of gossip?!
(Paul Gasparo, Cate, and Neal sorry-I-didn’t-get-his-surname):

Deb Peterson, Official Symposium Wizard:

Mixing up the tart crust:

Patting it down in pie pans:

Apples for one of three tarts:

Done and ready for baking:

Slicing up ananas or pine-apples for the other two tarts:

Cooking ’em down (the apples were not cooked):

Filling the other tart shells:



Love this! HUZZAH!

John Muller, Director Extraordinaire of Historic Fort Lee:

The suet pudding, mixed and ready to go:

Clarissa Dillon shares the finer points of puddings, boiled:

Again, the Suet Pud:

Which was placed on the pudding cloth:

And wrapped:

Then tied:

Ready to go:

And into the pot:

Look! The oven is ready. HUZZAH! How do we know?

Because the interior bricks are now white, whereas they
started out covered in black soot:

Deb discusses the making of “Bomboons”:

TA-DA! It’s a sugar loaf!

And yes, the proper term is loaf, NOT cone:

Breaking up and pounding out the sugar:

Roasting the “Spanish Nuts” (aka cacao beans):

The beans, down to the nib stage, and then pounded:

Cooking a mixture of pounded nibs and sugar:

Rolling it out on a buttered plate. Better do so quickly,
though, before it all hardens!:

Chocolate Bomboons:

Mercy’s spices:

Nutmegs and mace:

Rolling out the dough for the little cakes (which are essentially
what we now call cookies):

The oven is at the desired temperature (about 450 degrees).
Time to clear out all the coals and ashes:

Once cleared, the floor is swabbed with a damp cloth, and
the door is put in place to hold in the heat until all dishes
can go in together:

The Pound Cake batter had to be beaten for 1 1/2 hours.
Thankfully, no one person wore out an arm as everyone
took a turn:

Currants were added to the batter, which was then scooped
into little tins:

Citron was minced for the Chocolate Pudding:

Into the mixture it goes:

And the entire batter is poured into the pudding cloth:

And another pud for the pot:

Finally, all the dishes to be baked in the brick oven were
prepared, and they started to go in:

Paul slides a tart deep into the oven:

TA-DA! The baked Apple Tart:

Baked Wine Pudding:

A yummy threesome consisting of a Pound Cake, the Wine Pud,
and a Pine-Apple Tart:

The boiled Chocolate Pudding:

And lastly, the marvelous boiled Suet Pudding:


NOTE: If anyone would like the receipts we used, just let me know.

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Speaking of cakes…

January 6 is Twelfth Night, also known as the Epiphany or
Three Kings Day. It marks the arrival of the three wise men
(or Magi) who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. It also signals
the end of the twelve days of Christmas, which traditionally
began on December 25 and ended on January 6. Hence the
ever popular Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
(yes, it should be sung after, not before).

In past centuries, it was a major day of celebratory feasting.
Special foods were prepared, particularly breads and/or cakes.
Here’s a receipt from John Mollard’s The Art of Cookery (1801):


Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity
in the center, set a sponge with a gill and
a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then
put round it one pound of fresh butter broke
into small lumps, one pound and a quarter
of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half
of currants washed and picked, half an
ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of
an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and
nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or
lemon peel and citron. When the sponge
is risen, mix all the ingredients together
with a little warm milk; let the hoops be
well papered and buttered, then fill them
with the mixture and bake them, and
when nearly cold ice them over with sugar
prepared for that purpose as per receipt;
or they may be plain.

In his book Cooking in Europe, 1650-1850, illustrious food historian
Ivan Day writes, “Although the tradition of making these cakes dates
back to the medieval period” the above “seems to be the earliest
printed recipe for an English twelfth cake.” Now, I’ve not found any
others, either (yet), in my various British cookbooks. I did, however,
find one in The Cook’s Own Book (1832), by “a Boston Housekeeper”
(Mrs. N. K. M. Lee). It’s a bit more elaborate, containing eggs, fruit,
nuts, and more.

Here’s an appropriate illustration for today:

A Twelfth Night Feast, by Jan Steen, 1626-1679; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What’s interesting about the above painting (to me, at least) is that there
is no cake on the table. At least, none that can be seen…unless the dish
of white on the right is the cake/bread. A couple of people, however, do
have waffles. I like the broken egg shells on the floor (and the Dutch
were supposedly so neat and tidy!). Note the folks (possibly, presumably
carolers?? or not!) at the door (left).

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