The "receipt" was one that I obtained when visiting Mount Vernon several years ago. This Martha Washington recipe is supposedly the kind of cake that was traditionally served for Twelfth Night.
Being a bit overly ambitious I had thought I would work from the original and avoid the modern adaptation, but when I look at the receipt more closely I realized that wasn't going to happen...
Take 40 eggs divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of the eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered [sic] to it in the same manners then put it in the Youlks [sic] of eggs & 5 pounds of flower [sic] & 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace & nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh [sic] brandy.
I don't have a bowl large enough for that kind of quantity. Nor do I have the baking experience to pull it off. So I opted for the modern adaptation (which is in italics):
|Some of the ingredients.|
1.25 pounds (20 ounces) assorted fruit & nuts
2.5 tsp. ground nutmeg
2oz. French brandy
1 lb. butter
1.25 pounds (20 ounces) flour
2.5 tsp. ground mace
2 oz. wine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Separate egg whites from yolks and set yolks aside.
|Yolks separated from the egg whites. I learned that the Williams-Sonoma egg separator is not as effective as the Gordon Ramsey method (which is probably the same as the 18th century method) of using your hands.|
|Mixing the batter. I don't think my poor little mixer has ever worked so hard.|
Add fruit (suggested items based on what would have been available, either fresh or dried, nuts would have been considered fruit)...
|The batter mixed with the assorted fruit.|
I couldn't find almonds at the store, so I substituted
with a little extra apple and pear.
5 ounces of pear (peeled, cored and diced)
3.5 ounces of raisins
9.5 ounces of apple (peeled, cored and diced)
2 ounces of sliced almonds
Add ground mace and nutmeg, wine...
|A little Alsatian wine.|
|A little standard brandy.|
|I had to buy a spring form baking pan and couldn't find the ten inch size,|
but I think the 9.5 inch size worked just as well.
|All set in the oven!|
|This made the house smell fabulous!|
|The cooling cake.|
I then attempted to make the modern adaptation of 18th century icing...
Beat 3 egg whites and 2 tbsp. powdered sugar. Repeat additions of sugar until you have used 1.5 cups of powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp. lemon peel grated and 2 tbsp. orange-flower water. Beat until the icing is stiff enough to stay parted when a knife cuts through it. Smooth it onto the cake.
|The iced cake ready for another round in the oven. After checking four stores I couldn't find orange-flower water |
so I omitted it. (I used my pizza pan for this step, it seemed to be the best shaped pan in my collection).
|The iced cake ready to be baked.|
|The icing after an hour in the oven.|
|The completed cake on a semi appropriate platter, ready for the event!|
I brought the leftovers to work, where my fellow history fanatics (who have much more 18th century baking experience than I do) suggested using 6 eggs (instead of 10) along with less nutmeg and mace.
Have you made a Great Cake?