19th century cake and icing recipes highlight weird and wonderful approaches to historical baking

Posted by ap507 at Aug 16, 2016 12:55 PM |
University of Leicester Special Collections feature historical recipes for Bake-Off delights Shrowsbury Cake and icing

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 16 August 2016 

Images of the 19th century cake recipes and Adrian Mole’s recipe for Baked Sheep’s Heads are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/upk2g4kr8kdyy29/AAAg3EsFg3B9tJpm0rxO2-5Xa?dl=0

An historical recipe for a 19th century version of Great British Bake-Off classic Shrowsbury Cake has been made available by the University of Leicester Special Collections.

A contemporary guide for icing a cake has also been uncovered, providing a list of ingredients and the gruelling advice to beat the mixture for two hours – all without the assistance of modern machinery. 

The recipes are part of Rebecca Dixon’s recipe book from the early 19th century and offer a glimpse into historical methods for baking cakes, some of which have not changed much over the centuries.

Caroline Sampson, Archivist at the University of Leicester Special Collections, said: “I personally love browsing old recipes. I find it fascinating to stumble across weird and wonderful ingredients that I’ve never heard of and to imagine the challenges of adapting recipes from the past to the high-tech kitchen gadgetry of today.

“Take, for example, Rebecca Dixon’s recipe book from the early 19th century (MS 27). Her recipe for ‘Shrowsbury Cake’ feels horribly reminiscent of one of Paul Hollywood’s technical challenges with its minimalist approach and seeming lack of crucial detail like oven temperature, thickness of the paste, or how long to bake for.”

Rebecca Dixon’s 19th century recipes for Shrowsbury Cake and icing a cake are available below:

Shrowsbury Cake

Take ¼ of Butter washd in Rose Water 3oz of Sugar 1 Yolk of an Egg beat with one spoonful of cream, put it in a bowl & work to a stiff paste with flour, rowl it out then cut them with Glass bake them on Tin Sheets.

To Ice a Cake

Take Three Pounds of Tribble Loaf Sugar, and the Whites of Ten Eggs, with Two or Three Spoonfuls of Orange Flour Water, Beat it Two Hours, when your Cake is Bak’d Take it out of the Oven and Scrape it Smooth on the Top, then Spread the Iceing all over the Top with a Knif and sett your Cake into the Oven Aga[in] and let it Stand a little While

As part of the University of Leicester’s Sue Townsend Archive, the Special Collections has also highlighted a recipe for Baked Sheep’s Heads mentioned within Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, told with Townsend’s characteristic humour:

Buy a couple of sheep’s heads, get the butcher to split them for you, place them in an earthen baking-dish, with two ounces of dripping, some chopped shalots, thyme, bay-leaf, winter savory, pepper and salt, and a good pinch of allspice; moisten with a quart of cider, or water, strew a coating of bread-raspings all over the surface of the heads, and bake them for two hours.

The Sue Townsend Archive contains the literary, personal and business papers of the bestselling author and playwright, Sue Townsend (1946-2014), the creator of Adrian Mole.

While Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry may not be too eager to sample Adrian Mole’s Baked Sheep’s Heads, Rebecca Dixon’s 19th century cake and icing recipes sound much more appetising and show that while methods may have changed, the pursuit of the perfect cake has stayed the same.



Notes to editors:


For more information contact Caroline Sampson on archives@le.ac.uk

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