I’ve been trying out gingerbread and spice cake recipes as warming treats so here are some genuine 19th century recipes for you to try (Warning! I haven’t tried these as they are, so it is at your own risk!).
I made mine using the smaller of the the three antique biscuit moulds that I own – the only one that will produce a biscuit small enough for a modern oven. This is the result – not quite firm enough, I think, it has lost definition so more experimentation needed. It tastes great though.
First here are Gingerbread Cakes, a simple recipe from The Housekeeper’s Instructor; or Universal Family Cook (1807). Given the amount of nutmeg these might be quite hallucinogenic!
Take three pounds of flour, a pound of sugar, the same quantity of butter rolled in very fine, two ounces of beaten ginger, and a large nutmeg grated. Then take a pound of treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, and make them warm together. Work up the bread stiff, roll it out and make it into thin cakes. Cut them out with a tea-cup or small glass, or roll them round like nuts, and bake them in a slack oven on tin plates.
There’s a very similar recipe in The Complete Confectioner (1815) by Fredrick Nutt with the note: N.B. These are very good for the stomach in cold weather.
Mr Nutt has a more elaborate recipe for Spice Biscuits. It uses Lisbon sugar – cane sugar imported from the West Indies and double-refined in Portugal leaving it an off-white colour. A third refining was necessary to make it pure white, which would be more expensive.
Take three pounds of flour, and three pounds of sweet almonds cut in half, and put them with the flower [sic] and three ounces of spice, such as cinnamon and mace pounded, and one pound of powdered sugar, and mix them together on your dresser; then take three pounds of Lisbon sugar, and put it in a saucepan with some water, and just boil it, then mix it with the other ingredients on the dresser; when it is all mixed to a paste, heat your oven very hot, and put three papers next your plate; then roll your paste to the size of a large rolling-pin; then put it on your paper and flat it down with your hand about three inches wide, but higher in the middle than at the ends, then put them in the oven; when they are baked take them out, while hot, cut them with a sharp knife about the eighth part of an inch thick, in the form of a rusk, and you will see the almonds very well in them.
The third of my moulds is so long that it wouldn’t fit in any modern domestic oven – and it is a pig to photograph, but here goes!