For all that we (and by we, I definitely mean me) think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday contrived by a conspiracy between greeting card and candy companies, it does date all the way back to Ancient Rome. I’ve posted about the History of Valentine’s Day before, so this time I thought to look more about the history of the eating surrounding the holiday. The slang term I found even hinted at the possibility of specific cakes made to commemorate the day.
But Google failed me.
With no idea exactly what a “sweet cake in the shape of a heart” could be, we can assume many cakes could be shaped in such a way. So what better time than to share some shapable recipes from the era, I ask you? Below are some I discovered which I think could have filled the mold.
A term applicable to either the masculine or feminine gender, signifying a girl’s lover, or a man’s mistress: derived from a sweet cake in the shape of a heart.
Mrs Berkers Receipt
To Make a seed Cake
Take a pound of Butter, wash it in Rose Water,
then work it with your hand till ’tis as thin as
Cream, then take a pound of flower well Dry’d,
and a pound of double refind sugar finely beaten
Two Ounces of Carraway Seeds, three thimbles
full of pounded mace, Mix all the dry things
together and put them by degrees into the
Butter then mix them well togather then beat
9 Eggs, half the Whites, and 3 or four spoonfuls
of Sack Put these into the other Ingredients, beat
it all well with your hands, having your Oven
ready put your Cake into the hoop and have
a double paper Butter’d to put over it if there
One hour will bake it.
1 cup flour
7 teaspoons caraway seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon mace
1 stick butter, room temperature (8T)
1 teaspoon rosewater
1⁄2 cup sugar
3 eggs (1 whole, 2 whites separated from yolks)
1 tablespoon sherry
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment. Stir together flour, caraway seeds, salt, and mace. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, rosewater, and sugar, either by hand or with a mixer. Stir in the whole egg and sherry, then add the flour and spice mixture. Set aside. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they hold their form. Fold the whites into the cake batter very gently, maintaining the fluffiness of the whites even if it means the batter looks clumpy. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Place it on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and set in the middle. A cake tester will come out clean when it is completely cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan.
Serve warm or room temperature with tea, coffee, fresh fruit, or preserves. This recipe is easy to double. You can also prepare smaller cakes by baking in a greased muffin pan and adjusting your baking time to 15 minutes.
Take a pound of fresh butter a pound of double
refind sugar sifted fine a little beaten
mace & 4 eggs beat them all together with.
your hands till tis very leight & looks
curdling you put thereto a pound & 1/2 of
flower roul them out into little cakes
Our recipe (halved from the original)
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 lb. sugar
1/4 tsp. mace
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 lb. flour
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and mix at medium speed until the mixture looks curdled. Sift together dry ingredients and add at low speed until just combined. Scoop and roll the dough by hand into 1-tbsp. balls, then pat flat. [You could also refrigerate the dough until it’s firm enough to roll out on a flat surface and cut out into rounds.]
Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes (ours were about 1/3″ thick, so you could roll them thinner and have a slightly shorter cooking time) They’re done once they turn the slightest bit brown around the edges. This halved recipe yielded about two dozen cookies.
If you like snickerdoodles (and who doesn’t?), you’d like these. We added the cinnamon because we like it and couldn’t resist, and we thought it rounded out the mace nicely. These are mild, fairly soft cookies that are great with tea. We rolled and patted the dough into individual cookies because it was too soft and stick to roll out, but a little bit more flour and a stint in the fridge might make the dough easier to work with a rolling pin.
1 lb sugar (2 cups)
1 lb butter, room temp.
1 lb flour, sifted with salt ((4 cups before sifting)
1 dozen egg (12-10 depends how hen is laying today!)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon rind, grated
Preheat oven 325 degrees.
In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar.
Add 1 egg at a time, beating after each.
Gradually add sifted flour, 1/2 cup at a time, til all blended.
Add lemon juice and lemon rind, blend inches.
Pour into a buttered and floured tube pan.
Bake 1hr 15mins to 1hr 30mins; Til toothpick in center comes out clean.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- Banbury Cakes recipe from The Jane Austen Centre.
- Georgian Almond Cheesecake recipe from The Jane Austen Centre.
- Seedcake recipe from Cooking From the Archives.
- Shrewbury Cake recipe from Cooking From the Archives.
- Rich Pound Cake recipe from The Jane Austen Centre.