Archive for the ‘fakelore’ Category

A year ago (June 22nd, to be exact) I gave a presentation at the 2015
National ALHFAM* Conference. Held at the College of William and Mary,
down in Williamsburg, Virginia, it featured five days of sessions, tours,
professional-development workshops, time spent traipsing all ’round
Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and more.


During my session, I offered the paper below. It deals with my research
and findings surrounding various supposedly-historic cookbooks, starting
with the two published by the Montclair Historical Society, which oversees
the operation of The Israel Crane House. As you’ll see, it was what I like
to call “a straight talk,” in that there was no power-point slideshow or
shoot-from-the-hip ramblings. It was just me, speaking for about 35
to 40 minutes, followed by a brief Q & A. Oh, and I also took down


a boat-load of books for “show ‘n tell” and two batches of small cakes
(aka cookies), for an audience taste-test. My session was held in what
was probably the smallest room in the building, but a good-sized crowd
filled the space. Overall, I think it went well, and I had great fun
conducting it. HUZZAH!

Now, the material given here is as I presented it. And yes, it’s quite
long, as there’s alot of information. So I’ll be sharing it in several
separate sections. In addition, this is the ONLY place where you’ll
be able to read the entire paper, word for word, as I wrote it. Most
papers, you see, (but not all, as not every presenter participates)
are compiled each year in a bound volume entitled “Conference
Proceedings.” However, when I submitted mine, I was promptly
told that it wouldn’t be published. And then I was given a laundry
list of reasons why. It was too long, it was too critical, I’d pointed
fingers, I’d named names. I’d even dared to suggest that too many
book authors, as well as museum staff, are not as historically-accurate
as they could, or should, be. They even found fault with the length
of both the job title I use and that of my bio (apparently, the former
was limited to just two words and the latter to two sentences). Oh,
and BTW, the photos I sent were useless. And so on and so forth.
I was simply dumbfounded! The Proceedings’ editors told me, if I
wanted my presentation published, I must re-write it, removing all
that they deemed “offensive.” Then we went back and forth, ’round
and ’round, and back again. I’d ask, “What objections, specifically,
do you have?” and receive no definitive answers in return. Well,
other than being told that a single paragraph at the bottom of page
such ‘n such was fine.


The whole thing was downright bizarre.

Finally, I gave up trying to understand their issues. Besides, I had
absolutely no interest in re-writing what I’d spent years researching
and compiling. I had no intention, either, of re-doing it just to appease
the odd sensibilities of a couple people. I mean, come on. If you’re
afraid of being sued, print a disclaimer that states something along
the lines of, “Opinions expressed herein are solely those of individual
authors and not of the organization as a whole.” Golly, doesn’t that
already exist? If not, it should! In any event, eventually I made peace
with the fact that my small contribution to the 2015 National ALHFAM
Conference was vanishing into thin air. It was to be as if it’d never
been presented. Ahh, well…such is life.

But, wait. Someone had second thoughts. Or something. This past
winter I was contacted and told to review the edited version of my
paper “as it will appear in the Proceedings.” Huh?!? I didn’t know
what was going on or what to think. What games were these? First,
you won’t, then you will? What’s up with that?! And more importantly,
WHY?!? What happened to the whole “it’s not being published?” stance?
In any event, I couldn’t bare to read it, to see what white-washing had
been done to my years of hard work. And I don’t know what the final
decision was. I gave up trying to figure it out. And, at this point,
I don’t really care.

You know, this nonsense reminded me of when, at Conner Prairie,
I was given the task of fleshing out more fully the bio (fictional,
of course) of a particular Prairietown family. I remember putting
alot of time and effort into it, but, dagnabit, it seems that it wasn’t
what those in charge expected or wanted! So a committee (!)
was formed, and its members completely re-did it. Too bad
for me! And then there’s the more recent “Savoring Gotham”
debacle…but that’s a tale for another day.

Nevertheless, I’m posting my paper here, in its entirety, warts and
all. Like it or don’t like it. Your choice. But it’s MY choice to publish
it. I’m proud of what I wrote. And I’m pleased to be able to offer
up here, in this forum, what I had to say a year ago. As opposed
to what someone else thinks I should’ve said.

So, let’s get to it…

[NOTE: Details on all books and other materials mentioned herein
can be found under “Sources” at the end of each section.]



This session is dedicated to long-time librarian Lynne M. Olver, who
passed away this spring
[April 2015]. Her passion for food history
led to her creation of the well-known and highly-valued site,
http://www.foodtimeline.org. Lynne was always supportive
of my on-going research for this project.


Several precepts have stuck with me since my initial foray
into hearth cooking nearly 25 years ago. It was then that
I worked at Conner Prairie in my home state of Indiana.
And it seemed, at least to me, that certain directives were
drummed into interpreters’ heads on a daily basis. Naturally,
I often wondered if perhaps they were just messing with us.
You know, setting up impossible standards for us to follow,
just for sport, and then laughing, as they watched everyone
fail miserably? Of course, since leaving the Prairie, I’ve
discovered that it indeed often tended to be a case of “do
as I say, not as I do,” so…but more on that later.

Nevertheless, I took them at their word, took it seriously
and took it all to heart. I did my darnedest at the time
to adhere to the rules that were given me. In fact, the
overall philosophy that governed my time there was, and
has become, the very foundation of everything I did while
there, and that I still do, even today.

So, what were those mandates? They were:

1.) always be as historically-accurate as possible; and
2.) the three most important things are research,
research, and research.

Now, six years ago, when I began cooking over the open
hearth at The Israel Crane House in Montclair, New Jersey,
which is a property owned and operated by the Montclair
Historical Society (MHS), the powers-that-be requested
that I use receipts from the two cookbooks that’d been
published by the Society, especially the first one:

1.) Fanny Pierson Crane, Her Receipts, 1796; and
2.) The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook.

I promptly, but politely, replied, “No, thanks!” And I said
this because of what was instilled in me at Conner Prairie
all those years ago. I then explained that when doing any
hearth cooking, I use only receipts from original historic
cookbooks. This means works by Hannah Glasse, Amelia
Simmons, Mary Randolph or any other author appropriate
for the time period at hand (the 1830s at the Crane’s).

Of course, I’d previously read both of the Montclair Society’s
cookbooks from cover to cover, so I knew that neither
contained original historic receipts. In fact, for me, those
two volumes have more in common with Joy of Cooking
than with Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Mrs. Bryan’s The
Kentucky Housewife
or any other historic cookbook. Nearly
every recipe in the MHS books is a modern adaptation. They’ve
been re-worked and/or re-written and thus bear little or no


resemblance to any originals. It’s not difficult to determine,
as there’s everything from the use of baking powder and
cornstarch to cans of “frozen lemonade concentrate.” Even
the format is modern, with lists of ingredients given first,
followed by instructions on what to do with them. In addition,
my years of experience working with historical receipts,
together with my knowledge of culinary history, enables
me to ascertain that some ingredients and cooking methods
scream “MODERN!” as they either didn’t exist or they couldn’t
be done during this or that time period. It ranges from the
afore-mentioned baking powder (not until 1859) to the use
of chocolate as a candy coating (not until the late 1840s).
The bottom line is, as anyone who knows me well can
attest, I prefer to use ONLY those receipts that’ve been
taken from original historic cookbooks. I don’t care one
iota for any that’re adapted or modernized. Just blame it
on those principles I learned, and the training I received,
while at Conner Prairie!

However, I told the Montclair Society officials that if they
could provide me with the actual original manuscript book,
the one written in Fanny Pierson Crane’s (Israel’s wife) own
hand, I’d be more than happy to cook from it. In fact, it’d be
a tremendous thrill to do so! I’d simply love the opportunity.
Problem was, no one knew anything about the book or where
it was or might be. Was it somewhere in the Crane House?
Or in the MHS offices? Was it hidden on a shelf? Or maybe
buried under a pile of books in a rarely-used room? Had
anyone ever seen it? Or heard of it? Alas, no one knew
anything, but everyone vowed to hunt for it.

And thus, the Great Search for Fanny’s personal collection
of household receipts began. As months went by, I’d inquire
every now and then, “Has anyone found Fanny’s book, yet?”
Sadly, no one had. At least, not yet. And before long, as no
manuscript materialized, I began to have my doubts. I even
jokingly said once or twice, “Maybe this book doesn’t exist?!”
Of course, I hoped that wasn’t true, but…you never know!

Eventually, toward the end of that first year’s season, one
of the two books’ five authors visited the Crane House. The
Museum Director brought her into the kitchen where I was
cooking, they both sat down and a conversation about Fanny’s
receipt book began. The woman rambled on about this and
that, these things here and over there, all nothing of any
real consequence, until finally the Director asked her, point
blank, “Is there an original manuscript upon which the Fanny
cookbook is based?” The author’s reply was, “Oh no, dear!”
in a tone that sounded as if she meant, “Oh no, dear. Where’d
you get a crazy idea like that? What a silly thing to think!”

Wow. So my earlier suspicions were correct. There is NO
manuscript! Unbelievable. So, it really IS a fake. A phony.
Wow. Guess the title should be “Fanny Pierson Crane, Her
FAKE Receipts.” And this, from an historical society, no less.

Naturally, this raised all sorts of questions, including:
Where’d all the recipes in this little booklet come from?
Are they adapted from original historic ones? Are they
at least based, even in the slightest, on any? Or are
they, indeed, made up, crafted out of thin air? Are they
what I hate to see, modern recipes masquerading
as historic ones?

So I set out to answer as many of the above questions
as I could. I began my investigation by spending much
of that summer looking through historic cookbooks in my
own personal collection (all facsimiles) for any and all
receipts that might possibly match, at least in part,
those in the Fanny book. I compared multiple “reals”
to the “fakes,” line by line. It proved to be a difficult
and tedious task. It was pretty fruitless, as well!

Then one day, I sat down and opened what I’d by then
dubbed “Fake Fanny” at random, and I happened onto
the page with the recipe for “Maids of Honor.” Suddenly,
it hit me: I’ve seen that before! I think it’s in The Williams-
burg Art of Cookery
, by Helen Bullock. So I got out my copy,


checked and sure enough, there it was. The same name,
the same ingredients, the same amount of those, even
a few of the exact same words. The only difference was
that Williamsburg’s is in paragraph form (as are most
original historic receipts, up until roughly the late 19th
century), and Fake Fanny’s is not. Then I remembered,
too, what the previously-mentioned author had said
during her ramblings that day in the Crane kitchen,
that she and the other authors had “studied” the work
of Helen Bullock. AH-HA! It was now becoming clearer!

So then I began to carefully compare, in any and every
detail, the Williamsburg book to the Fake Fanny. In
short, there are at least ten recipes in Fanny that’ve
been lifted from it. All are much like the “Maids of Honor,”
above, in that they have the same title, the same
ingredients, the same amounts, etc., with the only
difference being, again, that Fake Fanny’s are not
in paragraph form. Many are similar, yet slightly
different, such as Williamsburg’s “Orange Cake” and
Fanny’s “Glazed Orange Cake,” while others are nearly
direct lifts, such as Fanny’s “Greengage Plum Ice Cream,”
which is a poorly-disguised “King’s Arms Green-gage
Plum Ice Cream.”

Of course, this stealing, er, I mean, “borrowing” of receipts
is nothing new. It’s been done for centuries. Glasse stole,
er, borrowed from E. Smith and Raffald, Farley borrowed
from both of them. Emerson stole from Glasse and Simmons
(in fact, according to the late food historian, Karen Hess,
Emerson copied everything in Simmons, including the
mistakes!). Nowadays, though, there are more and
supposedly stricter laws against plagiarism, although
they can be complicated. I asked prolific book writer
and fellow food historian Andy F. Smith about all this,
and he told me,

This is all a murky area. Recipes are
considered formula and therefore
cannot be copyrighted. However,
the form of the recipe is considered
intellectual property and therefore
is copyrighted. So you can take
the ingredients and the instructions,
put them in your own form/words,
change the name, and it is now yours.
What professionals do is take a recipe
and change several ingredients/steps
and place ‘Adapted from’ and give
the original source.

Of course, the problem here is, nowhere in Fake Fanny
is the Williamsburg book mentioned, let alone an “adapted
from” credit given. There’s no bibliography of any kind,

Smith went on to say,

However, you can quote sections
directly from published works
without making changes. The
courts have limited this in
a number of ways (can’t take
poetry or songs, for instance)
and to be on the safe side it
must be less than 1-2 percent
of the total work. So if a cookbook
has 200 recipes you could take
2-4 recipes without a problem.

Well, there are 60 recipes in Fake Fanny, so “1-2 percent”
of that is 0.6 to 1.2. And there are, as I stated earlier, at
least ten.

There’s another problem here. The fact that the Fanny book
is indeed a fake also affects Thirteen Colonies, because its
New Jersey section is comprised of some (but not all) of
the same recipes. Oddly enough, a few are ever-so-slightly
different here and there, which may be the result of some
minor editing. Or perhaps the authors were aiming for that
“change at least one thing, and the recipe is yours” criteria?
At the same time, this all means that they’re guilty of pla-
giarizing themselves. Which, as I understand it, opens up
a whole ‘nother can of worms and causes a new set of
problems (a topic for another time, perhaps).

However, what I was most shocked to discover during my
perusal of all these books is that recipes in Fake Fanny
can be found in different sections of Thirteen Colonies!
For example, Fake Fanny’s “Abigail’s Soft Molasses Cakes”


are also given as Lydia Watrous Buckingham’s “Soft Molasses
Cakes” in the chapter for Connecticut. And Fake Fanny’s recipe
for “Miss Mary’s Meringues, Kisses for Dessert Pyramid” is
also Elizabeth Matthews Heyward of South Carolina’s “Kisses
for a Slack Oven” (not to mention, who the heck are Abigail
and Miss Mary?!). The “Hospitality Thins” in Fake Fanny
also belong to Sarah Gibbons Telfair of Georgia. Fanny’s
“Crock-Preserved Fruits” are also offered by New York City’s
Samuel Fraunces. And “Rose Geranium Jelly” was supposedly
also part of Catherine Moffatt Whipple of New Hampshire’s
repertoire of dishes. The list goes on and on and on, and
all told, there are 26. Yep, 26 recipes allegedly collected
by Fanny Pierson Crane were apparently also compiled by
some other person in some other colony. From Massachusetts
to Delaware to Georgia, Fanny’s recipes are spread throughout
the East coast. I tell you, I’ve heard of recipe sharing, but
this is ridiculous! And too widely-rampant to be plausible.

At the same time, I had to laugh while reading in Fake Fanny
such statements as “simple enough for the Crane children
to make,” when the same recipe is Magdelena Hoch Keim’s,
in the Pennsylvania section. Gee, don’t they mean the Keim
children?! Or when in Fake Fanny, the copy for “Chocolate
Truffles” mentions Thomas Jefferson’s supposed influence
on the use of chocolate in the early years of this country
(um, yeah, no!), and how it was felt even “in the Crane
household,” despite its presence in the Virginia chapter,
since it purportedly belonged to Betty Washington Lewis.
So, don’t they mean the Lewis household?!

Unfortunately, this stealing, er, I mean “borrowing” doesn’t
end there. A few years ago, I bought a used copy of The First
Ladies Cook Book, Favorite Recipes of All the Presidents of
the United States
cheaply at a neighborhood flea market.
I discovered that recipes were taken from it, as well. There


aren’t as many, though, only five. At least that I’ve found
thus-far. There may be more. Of course, as before, this may
also mean there are a few in Thirteen Colonies, seeing as
the two books share quite a bit of material.

Incidentally, when I initially skimmed through First Ladies,
I found a clipping from The New York Times of Helen Bullock’s
obituary tucked inside (she was the book’s Consulting Editor,

Image (102)

and the author of Williamsburg’s pseudo-historic cookbook).
NYT didn’t mince words. It bluntly stated,

Her [Bullock’s] Williamsburg cookbook
became the bible for the preparation
of food in Williamsburg exhibitions,
at least until the 1980’s, when it
was discovered that Mrs. Bullock,
an eminently practical woman, had
taken certain liberties with the
original recipes. Having discovered
that 17-century [sic] cooks, lacking
ingredients like baking powder and
vanilla, has often prepared dishes
no discriminating 20th-century diner
would eat, she sensibly adapted them
to modern tastes and ingredients.

She did WHAT?!? Oh, my! I guess that explains the insertion
of baking powder and confectioner’s sugar (cornstarch), the
use of modern measurements, and more throughout the book.

So, is that it? Sadly, no.


To be continued…stay tuned to see what other travesties are
lurking out there!


*ALHFAM = The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural
Museums. See my postings about the 2015 National Conference starting
with THIS ONE.

SOURCES mentioned in Part I (only):

Bullock, Helen, Consulting Editor. The First Ladies Cook Book,
Favorite Recipes of All the Presidents of the United States
Parent’s Magazine Press, NY, NY, 1966.

Bullock, Helen. The Williamsburg Art of Cookery. The Colonial
Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA, 1938 and 1966.

Bryan, Mrs. Lettice. The Kentucky Housewife. Cincinnati, OH, 1839.

Donovan, Mary, Amy Hatrak, Frances Mills, and Elizabeth Shull,
written and illustrated by. The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook.
Montclair Historical Society, Montclair, NJ, 1975.

Emerson, Lucy. New-England Cookery. Montpelier, VT, 1808.

Farley, John. The London Art of Cookery. London, England, 1783.

Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
London, England, 1747.

Hatrak, Amy, Frances Mills, Elizabeth Shull, Sally Williams,
compiled and illustrated by. Fanny Pierson Crane, Her
Receipts, 1796
. Montclair Historical Society, Montclair,
NJ, 1974.

The New York Times. November 11, 1995. The New York
Times Company, NY, NY.

Raffald, Elizabeth. The Experienced English Housekeeper.
London, England, 1769.

Randolph, Mary. The Virginia Housewife. Washington, D.C., 1824.

Rombauer, Irma S. Joy of Cooking. Scribner (imprint
of Simon & Schuster), eighth edition, 2006 (continuously in print
commercially since 1936; first published by the author in 1931).

Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery. Albany, NY, second
edition, 1796.

Smith, Andrew Franklin. Author and food historian. Personal
correspondence via e-mail, 2011.

Smith, E. The Compleat Housewife. London, England, 1727.


Read Full Post »

I haven’t written anything here in a while. Life just got in the way.
Too much other stuff going on. Plus, once I stop, whether for a short
or long period of time, it’s often tough to get up ‘n running again.
Nevertheless, here I am! And to make it easy on myself, I’ll start
with something simple (HA! famous last words!).

Awhile back there were some posts on Facebook about popcorn,
and whether or not it has been on America’s tables since colonial
days. I’d never really thought much about it. My only encounters
with it in an historical context was when it was popped nightly
at one house during the Candlelight Program when I worked
Image (59)at Conner Prairie decades ago. Eventually,
a fellow hearth cook (one Kathleen Wall
of Plimoth Plantation) mentioned a book
that might provide some answers: Popped
Culture, A Social History of Popcorn in America

(1999), by food historian and prolific book
writer Andrew F. Smith. So, not being too
familiar with the subject, I ordered it, and
my copy arrived soon after.* Of course,
being an ever-busy (or trying to be) person, I’ve not had
alotta time to read it. However, I’ve recently done a quick
look-through, and of particular interest was the following
passage found in the “Preface” that pertains to those
ubiquitous and highly annoying popcorn myths.

While it is impossible to disprove myths,
I can report that no archaeological or
historical evidence was uncovered
[presumably during his research]
to support the following frequently
repeated statements:
— Columbus found popcorn in the Caribbean;
— Pilgrims ate popcorn on the proverbial first
Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621;
— Amerindians attached religious significance
to popcorn;
— Native Americans living in what is today the
eastern United States or southern Canada ate
popcorn in pre-Columbian times;
— Popcorn or maize was cultivated outside
of the Americas before Columbus’s arrival;
— Colonial Americans ate popcorn as a snack.

My favorite is that last one. As if colonial Americans ate snacks!
What a hoot! I can’t wait to read the rest of this book.


*it came from amazon.com; the shipping was more than the book!

Read Full Post »

Back in April of this year, I attended an annual “foodie” conference
here in NYC at the Roger Smith Hotel. In the past it was dubbed
“The Cookbook Conference,” but it was re-named the Food-Tech
for its fourth go-round in 2014. Every year, there are
sessions on multifarious topics, the speakers and panelists (well,
most of them!) present informative talks, and the opportunities
to network with “fellow foodies” are abundant.

Now, one of the sessions I attended was entitled “Mechanizing
Cacao.” It featured a panel of three speakers, plus a moderator.
Each panelist spoke on some aspect of cacao, whether its history
or the modern chocolate-making process. However, one of these
supposed “experts” was sadly mis-informed! And oddly enough,
he just happened to be a representative of Mars, Inc., who’re
the makers of American Heritage Historic Chocolate,** and was
also one of the sponsors of this year’s Conference. Oh, dear…!

Anyway, according to Mr. Mars/American Heritage, chocolate
was consumed ONLY as a beverage during the 18th century
and NOT as a food. HA! That statement is NOT true! I know
this, definitively, because I’ve made “eat-able” dishes that
contained chocolate (remember my “Nut Bomboons”?). But
coincidentally, I’d also just participated in an historic hearth
cooking workshop the previous weekend, wherein we made
several 18th century chocolate dishes that were meant to be
eaten. Thus, I am sorry Sir, but you are incorrect! And yes,
I had intended to raise my little hand during the session-ending
Q & A, in order to share the above information about replicating
18th century chocolate as something to be eaten, but, alas, it
wasn’t meant to be. You see, after all the panelists had done
their spiels, the session rather abruptly ended, as time had run
out! Everyone then quickly disappeared, both the speakers and
the audience! I must say, it was rather bizarre. I found myself
wondering, “What just happened? Where’d everyone go? It’s
over?!?” And so, there was no Q & A, no sharing of anything.
It was officially The End.

Ahh, well…so it goes.

In any case, below are the dishes we prepared during the hearth
cooking workshop. The receipts utilized for each one were taken
from assorted 18th century cookbooks. As you’ll see, chocolate
was consumed not only as a beverage, but also as a food. Indeed,
it was enjoyed in various forms, whether in a cup or on a plate.


First up was a Chocolate Tart. We began by working on the paste
(or crust), which was beaten:




The paste was cooked first. Beans were placed on it to keep it flat:


Time to work on the cream filling:


The chocolate was grated:


Then it was added to the cream mixture and cooked:


Ready to go:


Into the bake oven it went, where any and all baking was done:


Soon the Tart was done and it was then time to caramelize the top
with a heated salamander:



TA-DA! Our mighty fine tart was completed:


Next, we worked on Chocolate Drops:


Then we made Chocolate Almonds, which, incidentally, do not
contain almonds, but are shaped like them:


All the chocolate mixtures were cooked on a brazier:


And finally, we made Chocolate Biscuits:



Our intrepid workshop leader, Deb:


It was a fantastic workshop. Lots of wonderful chocolate dishes
were made AND eaten. I’m looking forward to making them
in my own hearth cooking classes. HUZZAH!



* Names withheld to protect the innocent…and the guilty! LOL
** American Heritage Chocolate is (allegedly) a reproduction of 18th century chocolate, which has been manufactured using an “Authentic 18th Century Product Recipe and Ingredients” (to quote the copy on the box). However, well…maybe not! *sigh* More on that later.
*** The chocolate hearth cooking workshop was conducted by the talented Deborah Peterson (formerly of Deborah’s Pantry) as part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museum’s (ALHFAM) annual conference. The workshop took place in the historic kitchen
of the Peter Wentz Farmstead, of Montgomery County, PA.

Read Full Post »

Recently, I presented my “Cook Like a Soldier” program
at The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) over
in Madison, NJ. Now, usually when I do this, I’m outside,
with a pot of soldier’s rations cooking over a fire, and it’s


all rather informal. I’m able to chat with folks in a leisurely,
give-and-take fashion, while sharing food and bits ‘n pieces
of information as I go. This time, however, seeing as it was
to be given inside the Museum, the situation called for more
of a straight-forward, linear talk, as in one with a beginning,
a middle, and an end.

Now, back when I was preparing the “straight talk” version,
I struggled a bit with melding everything into a cohesive
whole. After taking a few stabs at it, trying this, and then
that, it suddenly hit me! I’d utilize one of my favorite
activities, namely that of debunking historic food myths.
So I decided to demonstrate throughout the course of my
talk (both directly and not), why a certain story regarding
a dish purportedly served to soldiers at a particular point
during the Revolutionary War is nothing but pure fakelore.
And what is that dish? Why, Pepper Pot, of course! (more
details on the story’s content later; either that, or you’ll
just have to attend my program sometime!).

Everything was ready, and I eagerly awaited my “Big Day”
at METC. In the meantime, I found a few spare hours in
the days beforehand and did a little additional research.
As a result, I made a startling discovery about an original
historic receipt for Pepper Pot (yes, the dish, itself, DID
and DOES exist).

You see, there’s a facsimile of the Carolina Rice Cook Book,
compiled by Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney (1901), that’s included
in The Carolina Rice Kitchen, The African Connection (1992),


which was written by the noted food historian Karen Hess.
And in her work, Hess discusses in detail the contents and
possible origins of a receipt for Pepper Pot found in the first
book (Carolina Rice), where it’s attributed to The Carolina
(1847), by Sarah Rutledge. (Did you get all that?
I know, it’s a little confusing!) In any case, long story short,
here’s the problem: IT’S NOT THERE! It doesn’t exist! Yep,
there’s NO receipt for Pepper Pot in Rutledge’s book!

I made this shocking discovery when I searched the Index
of my copy of Housewife and didn’t find Pepper Pot. Well,
I thought, I know sometimes receipts, for whatever reason,
aren’t in the section where you’d think they’d be (in this case,
soups), and instead, they’re in another. So I combed through
ALL the possible alternatives. Again, nothing. Then I looked
through the ENTIRE Index, line by line. Still no Pepper Pot.
Finally, I thought, maybe the receipt IS in the book, and,
although it was (inadvertently?!?) left out of the Index, it’s
nevertheless located somewhere, and I just have to hunt


carefully for it. So, I searched the ENTIRE BOOK, looking
up and down every single page. And I did so TWICE. Alas,
a receipt for Pepper Pot was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t believe it! Good golly, how can this be? Didn’t
Mrs. Stoney verify where the receipts she was given came
from? Didn’t she check and re-check her sources? Did she
simply not catch this? Or, if the receipt was submitted by
another person (to Stoney), what of her? Did she goof up?
Or (heaven forbid!), was it done on purpose? You know,
perhaps the receipt was created out of whole cloth, but
then attributed to The Carolina Housewife in a desperate
attempt to legitimize it?

And, holy moly, how is it that the famous Karen Hess didn’t
notice any of this?!? Had she never looked all that closely
at Rutledge’s book? Wasn’t she even curious to look at
the receipt she was going to write so much about? In its
original location? Just to see what else was in the same
section or on the same page? Or, heck, just to verify that
it was copied correctly by whoever submitted it to Stoney?
And yet, Hess dissects it as if it was written by Rutledge
(or at least included it in her book). She offers details
about the Southern author’s background and speculates
where she may’ve gotten the Pepper Pot receipt.

Golly. What a mess! So many questions, but no answers.
This whole affair is incredible!

Of course, now the treasure hunt is on to find the true and
original source for the Carolina Rice Cook Book’s Pepper Pot
receipt. There’s one that’s somewhat, but not entirely, similar
in The Cook’s Own Book, which was compiled by “a Boston
Housekeeper” (aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee). The thing is, it was
published in 1832, 15 years before Rutledge’s book. And
in Boston, of all places! Also, as those who’re familiar with
Cook’s Own know, it’s an encyclopedia of receipts that’ve
been gleaned from other works, but not one is attributed
to any specific work.

There ARE a few other 19th century, even some earlier (18th
century), Pepper Pot receipts. However, none of them match
the one in Carolina Rice. I’m still looking, though. If I ever
find it, I’ll let you know. And of course, if anyone out there
hears of, or finds, the illusive matching Pepper Pot receipt,
please DO let me know. Until then, the mysterious case
of the phantom receipt remains unsolved.



Oh, and here’s the receipt for Pepper Pot that’s NOT found
in Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife (1847), but IS
found in The Carolina Rice Cook Book (1901), compiled
by Louisa Cheves Smythe (Mrs. Samuel G.) Stoney:

Take one-half peck of spinach, pick and
boil it as for dinner; drain off the water,
and chop it up fine. Put into a soup-kettle
6 quarts of water, 3 pounds of beef or
veal, about 1 pound of pork, which must
be scalded to draw out the salt, a piece
of ham with the ham bone is preferable,
and boil about an hour. Then add the
spinach, a dozen potatoes, or 4 pounds
of yam, 3 plantains peeled and cut up
into pieces about 3 inches long, and small
dumplings. Let all these ingredients boil
together slowly for four or five hours. Just
before serving add some pickled peppers
(cut up) and 1 or 2 long red peppers. If you
have crabs or lobsters previously boiled, add
a small quantity, pickled fine, about half hour
before serving. Serve with rice.


And, hopefully, everyone is aware that good ol’ Mrs. Stoney
was the wife of the chairman of the Carolina Rice Kitchen
Association, of Charleston, SC. In fact, her cookbook was
published by that very entity. Also, that the current name
Carolina Rice has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rice
that was grown in the American South during the 17th,
18th, and early 19th centuries. It was selected merely
because it was available and, according to a spokesperson
for the maker, Rivianna Foods, Inc., ” ‘they had simply
liked the name.’ ”


And finally, the receipt for Pepper Pot from The Cook’s Own
(1832). Note the similarities and differences between
this and the one above:

Pepper Pot.
Take as much spinach as will fill a good
sized dish, put it in a saucepan without
any water, set it on the fire, and let it
boil; then drain off all the liquor, chop
the spinach very fine, and return it
to the saucepan, with the water just
drained from it, more water, onions,
three or four potatoes, a lettuce or
head of endive cut small, the bones
of any cold roast meat, if you have
them, and half a pound of bacon; put
the whole on the fire, and when it has
boiled for about an hour, put in a few
suet dumplings; leave it twenty or
thirty minutes longer; season it well
with cayenne, and serve.

Interestingly, there are two Pepper Pot receipts in Cook’s
. The second, however, is a nigh exact copy of one
in Maria Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery
(London, 1816). And it, according to Hess, demonstrates
perfectly that she (Rundell) “understood it very well.”

Read Full Post »

I began writing the following entry more than three weeks
ago. I was prompted to do so largely because of various
articles, blog postings, and the like, as well as an array
of comments and “discussions” on Facebook, particularly
those on the page of the Informal Association of Cookbook
Collectors and Foodists
(IACCF). Of course, I’m not normally
concerned with Lincoln and his early adult years or those of
his presidency, as none are really within “my” time period.
However, the times that came before certainly are. Besides,
I feel it’s my duty to dispel food-related myths no matter
when they allegedly originated.

Once I started, however, it seemed to take forever to finish.
The research, alone, was never-ending, for it led me in all
different directions. I’d read one website after another after
yet another. Then there were the numerous books I found,
both online and at my local library here in Brooklyn. And
just when I thought I’d finished my journey, I’d find even
more bits ‘n pieces of new information. I tell you, in some
ways, I suppose I’ll never REALLY finish this!

Okay. Enough of that! Now, due to its length, I’ve divided
this article into two sections. So, without further ado,
here’s Part One of
“Lincoln food myths.”

This year, it seemed to me that the month of February
belonged to one person: Lincoln.


I suppose it’s because of that recent, widely well-known,
blockbuster film of the same name and its accompanying
Oscar buzz, claims of historical inaccuracies, and so on.
Then there was his “real” birthday on the 11th, and the
“fake” but-conveniently-rescheduled-to-create-a-three-
day-holiday-weekend one he shares with Washington
that’s known as Presidents’ Day.*

And so, with all this attention paid to Lincoln, it was only
natural that people wrote about him. ALOT. And about his
wife. And their lives together. And the food that one or the
other ate. And then the…wait. What?!? Yep, there was an
abundance of stories about the dishes that were prepared,
cooked, served, and eaten in the Lincoln household. However,
nearly all of them are just that…stories. Tall tales that suffer
from an appalling lack of documented evidence or are based
on multiple broad assumptions or that rely heavily on mere
speculation. And so, even though these Lincoln food tales
have been swirling around for decades, and have recently
gained new-found momentum, they aren’t necessarily true.
In historic-speak, they’re commonly referred to as fakelore.

One of the most ubiquitous Lincoln-related food myths is
that of Mary Todd Lincoln’s “Courtin’ Cake,” which at times
was also referred to as her “White Cake” and at others,
as an “Almond Cake” and then by some combination of
all those. The jist of the story is that Mary made this cake
for Mr. Lincoln during the time they were courting. Some
versions even imply that it was this confectionery delight
that sealed the deal. Others also claim she made it after
they were married and beyond.

So, is it fact or fiction? Let’s look at information given on
various websites that deal with Lincoln history, such as
those of the Mary Todd Lincoln House and the Lexington
History Museum
, both in Lexington, Kentucky, that of The
National First Ladies
‘ Library, of Canton, Ohio, and others.
Books were consulted, as well, including a fascinating little
tome found online about the newly-married Lincolns’ first
Springfield residence.

Before I go further, however, let me say that I’m always
leery of these food tales, and so I question their validity.
Hearing it from someone or seeing it on TV or reading it
in a book usually doesn’t suffice. As a culinary historian,
I want, indeed demand, to see primary documentation,
be it diary entries, letters, newspaper accounts and ads,
or some other written proof that the incidents contained
in a particular story actually took place. If there is none,
then the story is just that…a story.

Now, just for the sake of argument, let’s say written
documentation proves nothing. Besides, no one really
knows what anyone ate 50 years ago, let alone 250.
Heck, few can remember what they ate last week. So
give it up, already! Okay, I will. So now what? How do
we prove, or disprove, that something is true? Well, for
starters, let’s look at other documented evidence that
may or may not support these Lincoln food tales.

First, Mary Todd was born into a Southern “prominent
and influential,” slave-holding, “wealthy and aristocratic
family” of Lexington, Kentucky, a city which was then
thumb_youngmaryknown as “the Athens of the West”
and was on a par with Eastern cities
like Boston and Philadelphia. Now,
this statement, which contains
known facts, should alone put a
halt to the “Courtin’ Cake” story.
Why? Because it proves that Mary,
as a child of a well-established and
prosperous Southern family, lived
a life of tremendous privilege, and thus she would not
have done any type of household work. Nor would it’ve
been expected that she do so. Yes, she likely learned
how to manage a busy home and to supervise the
daily activities that took place therein, but she would
not’ve actually DONE the work required. It would’ve
been beneath her station in life to do so. Besides,
to be blunt, her family had slaves to do such work!

Let’s add a few more facts from Mary’s life, just in case
the above isn’t enough evidence for the conviction of this
“Cake” myth. In 1839, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois,
where she resided with her oldest sister, Elizabeth, and
her husband, Ninian Edwards, the son of a former Illinois
Governor. Certainly, seeing as the two girls had the same
upbringing, not to mention her own status in the community
at the time, Mrs. Edwards would’ve had hired help to do
any household tasks, whether it was cleaning, cooking,
washing and ironing clothes, or any other chore. It’s not
likely she would’ve done the work herself, nor would she
have expected Mary (as her sister AND as a house guest)
to do it. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that Mary, who’d
never had to cook before, would’ve suddenly taken it
up while living with her sister’s family.

Then, at some point in 1840, Mary met the struggling
young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln when both attended
a party given at the Edwards’ home. The couple soon
began courting, much to the dismay of Mary’s family.
Seems they thought he was beneath her, and that it
was a poor match. After all, Mary was well-educated,
and he was not. Mary came frommarylincoln
a wealthy family, he did not. While
growing up, Mary was given every
advantage in the world, he was
not. And he was nearly 10 years
older, to boot! No matter, for their
relationship was apparently a rocky
one, and the two split on the first
of January, 1841. All was not lost,
however, for they renewed their courtship 18 months
later. But when they did, it was done secretly! No one
knew about it. In fact, Mary didn’t tell Elizabeth until
November 4, 1842. Mary and Abe were then married
that same day.**

The point here is that, under the above circumstances,
Mary would not have been baking any cakes, even if
she had been cooking up a storm since before she left
Lexington. And golly, how the heck could she’ve baked
anything if she and Abe were courting secretly?!?

It does make for an intriguing scenario, though. I can
just see it now:

What are you doing, Mary?

(trying not to act suspiciously)
Baking a cake.

Why? If you want something to eat,
ask Cook to prepare you something.

Um, yes, well, uh, I’m not THAT hungry.
I’m, er, just doing this for fun?!

And then the following day, after Mary had secretly
spent time with Mr. Lincoln:

What happened to that cake you made,
Mary? It seems to have disappeared.

(again, trying not to act suspiciously)
Um, er, uh, I don’t know.
Maybe someone…stole it?!?

Yeah, sure! You bet!

Want more? Well, how about this: After Mary and Abe were
married, they lived for nearly two years at Springfield’s Globe
Tavern, where they had just one room. Their first son, Robert,


was born in that room. Many other newlyweds boarded
at the Globe, not only at that same time, but in the past
as well, including other members of Mary’s family. All meals
were taken in a common dining room, and so Mary wouldn’t
have been doing ANY cooking or baking. The couple then
purchased a small house in Springfield during 1844 and
moved there. And, according to several sources, Mary did
indeed have hired help by that time.

Now, I found another version of this “Courtin’ Cake” story
that claims it all started with a French pastry chef who ran
a bakery in Lexington. Supposedly, he’d made a cake for
the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to the City in May of 1825.
And according to this tale, the women of the Todd family
tried a few pieces of that cake, fell in love with it, asked
for the recipe, and thus, forever after, it became a part
of the Todd Family’s “culinary repertoire.”

The problems with this are too numerous to mention. One,
however, is, if such a cake was indeed made, when, where,
and why were Todd family members eating it? Again, they
had their own slave chefs and pastry cooks to do any and
all baking. Same for the recipe becoming part of their family
collection. Why? Was it THAT good? And were the ones made
at home THAT bad?! Then there’s the fact that Mary was born
on December 13, 1818; she would’ve only been six years old
when General Lafayette came through Lexington in the spring
of 1825. It seems highly unlikely that both she and the Great
Frenchman partook of the same cake, at the same time, and
at the same place.

While researching this supposed Lexington/Lafayette connection,
I found a delightful little book that’d been published in Philadelphia
in 1829: Lafayette in America, 1824 and 1825; Or, Journal of a Voyage
to the United States
. An account book Lafayette's voyage to US 1824-5of the noted and
beloved-by-Americans Frenchman’s return journey
to the country he’d bravely assisted during its War
for Independence, it was recorded by his secretary,
Auguste Levasseur, and then later translated by
John D. Godman, M.D.*** In the few pages dealing
with the General’s limited time in Lexington, there
is NO mention of any foods or cakes or bakeries
or of meeting or spending time with any members
of the Todd family. In fact, General Lafayette spent a mere 48 hours
in the City. His schedule during that time included touring a boy’s
school, an academy for girls, and the University of Transylvania,
all of which were located within Lexington. He then traveled
several miles outside the City to the homes of General Charles
Scott’s widow and of the then US Secretary of State, Henry Clay.

There’s also another, similar, account that claims Mary acquired
the cake recipe herself, allegedly from her favorite Lexington
bakery. No date was given in this particular version. But again,
if her family had slave-chefs and bakers, why would she (or
anyone else, for that matter) even need a bakery, let alone
have a favorite one? Also, I’ve frequently heard someone say,
“Oh, I love to bake cakes using the recipe that belonged to my
[insert relative here] Great-Grandmother/Grandmother/Mother.”
But I’ve NEVER, ever, heard, “You’re gonna love this cake recipe
from the bakery down the street”?!? So…I mean…really?!

Another element of this “Cake Debate,” and in fact, of any
claims about what foods the Lincolns supposedly ate, is the
question of what cookbook (or books) Mary Todd Lincoln did
(or didn’t) own and did (or didn’t) use. Luckily for us modern
food historians, there IS documented proof that she bought
at least one. But which one? And when did she acquire it?
And why? And, well…stay tuned….

to be continued…

The FOURTH image, the marker located where the original Globe Tavern
stood in Springfield, Illinois, the text reads:

On this site stood
The Globe Tavern
the home of
Abraham Lincoln
and his wife
from the time of
their marriage on
November 4, 1842
May 2, 1844.
Here their first child
was born.

*“Officially,” Presidents’ Day was created (June 28, 1968) to commemorate
Washington’s birthday
ONLY. Congress later attempted to “officially” include
Lincoln, but failed. Of course, nowadays people think it’s a day to celebrate
ALL US Presidents, whether or not they have done anything of note.


**By all accounts, Mary and Abe courted in secret, and then “suddenly”
were married the VERY SAME DAY of the Big Reveal. And so, even I have
to wonder: Was it merely the fact that there was a secret? Or was it
because they’d violated the current rules of propriety? Or was her sister
afraid of potential stains on her own reputation? OR…was it a shotgun
wedding? After all, their first child was born a scant nine months later
(August 1, 1843). He was certainly a “honeymoon baby,” but was he
more than that? Is that birth date the REAL one? Or did someone
perhaps fudge with it at some point? I’d sure like to see the original
birth certificate. Heck, I even read in one source that some historians
have described Mary as being “pregnant at the altar”! Huh. Abe Lincoln,
country bumpkin AND major hunk! Who knew?!


***In the course of my research, I discovered another book about
Lafayette’s travels in this country:
Lafayette in America in 1824
and 1825, by Alan Hoffman (2007).
What’s interesting is the story the author shares about his fascination
with the General, and how it lead him to sit down with a French/English
dictionary and his recently-purchased $450-original-copy of Levasseur’s
account in order to translate it. Aww, how nice.
But what I’d like to know is…WHY?!? It’d already been translated! Way
back in 1829, just a mere four years after the Big Voyage! Why the heck
would anyone re-do it? What’s the point? Did Hoffman not know about
Godman’s translation? If so, well, how can that be? Just how bad ARE
his research skills?
So, I sought out Hoffman’s book at the Brooklyn library, because I want
to compare the two translations (without having to spend $30 or more).
However, apparently it hasn’t been at the top of the Library’s acquisition
list, and so I must await its arrival from another lending institution. I’m
eager to get it because, according to the listing on amazon.com, Hoffman’s
book “is the only unabridged English translation” of Levasseur’s account.
Hmmm…guess we’ll see. I’ll let you know what happens.

Read Full Post »

Ack! I’ve been working on this blog entry since early January, and
I’d hoped to get it posted long before tonight. Alas, life kept getting
in the way, and now, January has come to an end and February
is here. dagnabit. Ahh, well…timely or not, here it is.
Finally. Oh!
And thanks to fellow hearth cook Tiffany Fisk-Watts for getting
me started. HUZZAH!


Awhile back, I conducted an in-depth receipt (recipe) search
for Twelfth Cake aka Twelfth-Night Cake. I looked in all my
facsimiles of 18th century cookbooks, as well as in the few
I have from the 17th, 16th, and earlier centuries. Books I’d
downloaded and a few others that are available online were
also consulted.

And so, what was the result of this investigation? What did
I find? Well, the answer, as you may recall from when I wrote
about my
search some two years ago: Absolutely nothing.
Yep, I found zilch, nada, zip. There’s not a single receipt
for Twelfth Night Cake of in any of those cookbooks.

Now, if you received one of James Townsend & Son’s 2013
calendars (as I did), you may be thinking, “Hey, now wait
just a minute! According to Townsend, there’s a receipt for


‘Twelfth-Night Cake’ in The London Art of Cookery (1800*),
by John Farley. Good golly, it’s right there, on the opening
page, as the receipt for January!” Yeah, well, sorry, but it’s
incorrect. There are NO receipts for twelfth-night cakes
in any 18th century cookbook, let alone in Farley’s.

So, if that’s the case (and indeed it is), what’s with that
first recipe on Townsend’s calendar? Where did it come
from? Heavens! Did he make it up?! Thankfully, no. The
answer, though, is easily found. It’s in fine print over
in the lower right-hand corner of the very same page.
Read it, and you’ll discover Townsend believes that
a Twelfth-Night cake is the same as a Bride’s Cake.
Apparently, at least according to Townsend, they’re
interchangeable! And thus, THAT is exactly what is
given here. Yep, January’s recipe is NOT, specifically,
for a Twelfth-Night cake; it’s for a Bride’s Cake.

Now, this claim that the two cakes, Twelfth-Night and
Bride’s, are one and the same is one that I’ve never,
ever heard before. And so, I have to wonder, where’d
Townsend get this idea?! What is its source? Why does
he believe it’s correct? Whatever the answers may be
to those questions, the bottom line is, it isn’t true.
These cakes are NOT the same!

How do I know? Because there are receipts specifically
for twelfth cakes in at least two early 19th century
cookbooks which ALSO contain instructions for making,
specifically, a Bride’s Cake. And yes, the two cakes ARE
different, even if only slightly. The first of the above books
is John Mollard’s The Art of Cookery (1801), and The Cook’s
(1817), by William Kitchiner, M.D., is the second.

There’s a pesky, um, problem, if you will, with Farley’s
Bride Cake receipt. It’s not his. It’s Elizabeth Raffald’s.
Yep, he stole, er, borrowed, it from her. In fact, Farley
scan0029is well known for plagiarizing other
author’s works. Heck, a few years
ago, a member of the historic food-
ways staff at Colonial Williamsburg
told me that they refer to his book
as “The London Art of Plagiarism.”
Pretty accurate, I’d say! So I rarely,
if ever, use it. In any event, seems
to me, if you’re going to engage in
a substitution scheme of some sort, that you’d choose
the original and not a copy! Not only that, but there
ARE actual historic receipts for twelfth cakes. Why not
use one of those? The one Townsend offers is from an
1800 publication anyway, so it’s not like he’s sticking
necessarily to one single time period. Why not move
ahead just one year (1801), or even a few more (1817),
and present a TRUE twelfth cake receipt?

Another problem I have with January’s receipt, besides
it being one cake masquerading as another and it not
being attributed to its original source, is the fact that
it’s an adaptation. And you all know how I absolutely,
positively, detest adaptations! And what you see here
is NOT the actual receipt taken from an historic cookbook.
In addition, it’s not even faithful to the original, as both
the ingredients and the instructions have been altered.
It’s been adapted and re-written! And although I’ve not
inspected each and every one (it’d be too maddening!),
I suspect all the recipes in Townsend’s 2013 calendar
are merely adaptations of historic ones. Most likely,
there’s not one authentic, not-been-messed-with
recipe in the lot (sadly). That’s why I think it needs
to be re-titled. Instead of “Recipes & Sundry Items,”
it should be “Adapted Historic Recipes & Sundry Items.”
Truth in advertising, don’t you know!

Hmmm. On second thought, I guess he DID make it up!
Which is just the sort of thing that I don’t understand.
There are plenty of actual, original historic receipts out
there. They’re not difficult to find. So use them! Then
tell us how to make THAT receipt, as it’s written! It CAN
be done. Heck, I do it all the time in my hearth cooking.
But to muck about with an historic receipt, and then pass
it off as being historic, even down to “it’s from so-n-so’s”
18th or 19th century book. Add in the nature of your
business (seller of supposed historic reproductions),
and, well, it just seems deceitful to me.

Nevertheless…let’s continue…

In order to compare Townsend’s recipe to the original,
here is Elizabeth Raffald’s Bride Cake, as given in her
book, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769):

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
lengthway 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
a 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 sheets
of paper round the bottom of your hoop
to keep it from running out, rub it well
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.

Did you notice the following line?

and lay your sweetmeats in three
lays with cake betwixt every lay.

So, that means it’s not just another every-day cake,
scan0028with all those various ingredients
thrown in higgledy-piggledy. No, it’s
more deliberate. There’s to be three
separate layers of citron and candied
orange and lemon peels that alternate
in between three of cake batter. Almost
sounds as if it’s perhaps a type of 18th
century layer cake.


Lastly, let’s take a look at the two known, bona-fide receipts
for Twelfth Cakes that’re from the early 1800s. First up, is
John Mollard’s, from his The Art of Cookery (1801). Then
we’ll move on to William Kitchiner’s, as presented in his
work, The Cook’s Oracle (1817). I trust you’ll ferret out
the similarities and the differences between these two
cakes (for instance, the use of yeast in Mollard’s) below:


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.

Again, as you may recall from from my blog post two years
, noted food historian Ivan Day wrote in Cooking in Europe,
, that Mollard’s receipt “seems to be the earliest
printed recipe for an English twelfth cake.”

Next, Kitchiner’s receipt from his The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

Twelfth Cake. (No. 55.)
2 lb of sifted flour, 2 lb of sifted loaf
sugar, 2 lb of butter, 18 eggs, 4 lb
of currants, 1/2 pound almonds,
blanched and chopped, 1/2 pound
of citron or lemon, 1 lb of candied
orange and lemon peel cut into thin
slices, a large nutmeg grated, 1/2 oz
ground allspice; ground cinnamon,
mace, ginger, and corianders, 1/4 oz
of each and a gill of brandy.
Put the butter into a stewpan in a warm
place and work it into a smooth cream
with the hand. Mix it with the sugar
and spice in a pan (or on your paste
board), for some time; then break
in the eggs by degrees, and beat it
at least 20 minutes; stir in the brandy,
and then the flour, and work it a little.
Add the fruit, sweetmeats and almonds
and mix all lightly together. Have ready
a hoop cased with paper on a baking
plate. Put in the mixture, smooth it on
the top with your hand. Put the plate
on another one with sawdust between,
to prevent the bottom from colouring
too much, and bake it in a slow oven
four hours or more. When nearly cold,
ice it with twelfth cake icing.
Obs. A good twelfth cake, not baked
too much, and kept in a cool dry place,
will retain its moisture and eat well if
twelve months old.

Oh, and look what follows the above receipt:

Bride or Wedding Cake. (No. 56)
The only difference usually made
in these Cakes is, the addition of
one pound of Raisins, stoned and
mixed with the other fruit.

Perhaps this is where Townsend got his idea that a Bride
Cake is the same as a Twelfth Cake? According to Kitchiner,
they ARE similar, in all but one ingredient. And yet, still they
are NOT exactly the same. They are two distinct receipts!

But I digress…. Now, the receipt in Kitchiner for making
icing for these cakes is found under the heading:

Icing for Twelfth or Bride Cake. (No. 84.)

Let’s take a closer look. It specifies icing for Twelfth OR
Bride Cake. In other words, it refers to two SEPARATE
cakes, Twelfth AND Bride. It does NOT say, or even imply,
that the two are one and the same. That would be “Icing
for Twelfth, or Bride, Cake.” Or, “Icing for Twelfth, also known
as Bride, Cake.” You get the idea, yes?! It’s merely an Icing
for Twelfth Cake OR for Bride Cake! It’s for the one AND/OR
the other. In short, it’s icing for both.

This fact is also reiterated in the content of the icing
receipt itself. To wit, the highlighted words below:

Icing for Twelfth or Bride Cake. (No. 84.)
Take 1 lb of double refined sugar,
pounded and sifted through a sieve;
put into a pan quite free from grease,
break in the whites of six eggs, and
as much powder blue as will lie on
a sixpence; beat it well with a spattle
for ten minutes, then squeeze in the
juice of a lemon, and beat till it becomes
thick and transparent. Set the cake you
intend to ice, in an oven or warm place
for five minutes, then spread over the
top and sides with the mixture as smooth
as possible. If for a wedding cake only,
plain ice it; if for a twelfth cake,
ornament it with gum paste, or
fancy articles of any description.

(emphasis mine)

One final observation: below is the title page of Kitchiner’s
Oracle. About a third of the way down, the author mentions
that his work provides a “system of cookery for Catholic
Families.” So, were twelfth/twelfth-night cakes mainly
eaten by followers of that religion? Maybe that’s why
receipts are so hard to find?! Adds more fodder to that
burning question: Christmas. Did they or didn’t they?!
Ahh, well, that’s a whole other topic for another day.



*John Farley’s book, The London Art of Cookery, was initially published
in 1783. There were numerous subsequent editions, and the one I have
is the 11th of 1807. I don’t know whether or not there was an 1800
edition, as noted on Townsend’s calendar (there very well may be).

Read Full Post »