Thursday, 7 April 2016

History Bakers: Queen’s Cakes [U DX180/1]

Mystery of the Recipe Book

Of unknown origin and written on paper, the recipe book clearly features a number of different writing hands. All bear the characteristic marks of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It is wrapped in a copy decree on parchment dated 20 May 1696, which would support the suggestion that this recipe book can be dated to the turn of the century.

The decree used to wrap the pages is that of Thomas Osborne, the 1st Duke of Leeds, in which he appoints one John Moysier, Esquire, as one of his Deputy Lieutenants in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It is therefore likely that this recipe book belonged to one of the East Riding’s landed families. Red wax has been dripped on one of the pages, possibly indicating that it was used in a household with someone responsible for signing and sealing missives and court documents, perhaps a magistrate or deputy lieutenant as the wrapper might indicate.

If it belonged to the Duke of Leeds and his family, this would be Thomas Osborne (b.20 Feb 1632-d.12 Jul 1712), whose father was Sire Edward Osborne, Baronet, of Kiveton Yorkshire, and to whose estates he succeeded in 1647. His wife was Bridget, daughter of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey, and they married in 1651 and had nine children. Titles: 1st Viscount Osborne (1673), 1st Viscount Latimer (created 1673), 1st Earl of Danby (created 1674), 1st Marquess of Carmarthen (created 1689), the first Duke of Leeds (created 1694). He served as Treasurer of the Navy and then Lord High Treasurer under King Charles II, and as Lord President of the Council under William III and Mary II. Buried at the Osborne family chapel at All Hallows Church, Harthill, South Yorkshire.

It could also have belonged to the family of John Moysier, who may have made a copy of the original sealed decree for his own records. If this was the case then we know very little of the Moysier Family here in Hull. Of course it could have belonged to neither, we may never know.

Mystery of the Recipe’s Origins

Known more commonly today as Queen Cakes, this recipe produces small, light current buns, perfect for afternoon tea. Traditionally, they are fluted around the edges, this being achieved by using a fluted bun tin. More commonly now, fluted cake cases are used to achieve the desired effect.

Most food historians place the origins of this recipe in the early 18th century. The estimated date of the recipe book from which this particular recipe is taken might seem to suggest an earlier date. If any historians working in our universities on this subject have further theories I would love to hear them.

If we can date this book to a point before 1707 when Queen Anne ascended to the English throne, then it is entirely likely that the queen to which the recipe refers was Queen Mary II, co-regent with William of Orange, whose reign on the English throne began with the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in 1689. After Anne’s reign ended in 1714, England would not have another Queen as monarch in her own right until Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837.

The Recipe for Queen’s Cakes

Original recipe taken from recipe book, c.1690s [U DX180/1]

Transcription:
Take 3 pound of currans well cleand 1 pound & ½ of flower
well dryed 1 pound of butter well wash’d in rose or orange
flower water & 1 pound of Sugar 8 Eggs use some of the their
Whites ye rest of ye whites Throw away beat them well wth
3 of 4 Spoonfull of Rose Water & 12 spoonfulls of Cream
mix all these well together let ye oven be hot Enough for
Manchet wet yr fingers in Rose Water when you put them down
bake them upon Tinns well buttered

I chose this recipe for our March History Bakers as current buns are quite commonly made at Easter time in Yorkshire (at least they were in my Nana’s house with the help (or hindrance) of her grandchildren). The recipe is simple and a good one to get children involved in baking.

I followed the recipe as set out above in the transcription and it seemed to be quite straight forward. However, I made a few alterations. Whilst the recipe advocates 3lbs of currents, I added 2lbs and became worried there would not be enough cake mixture to cope with another 1lb, and so left out the extra 1lb. I also used both yolk and white from all eight eggs.

‘Let ye oven be hot Enough for Manchet’ wasn't a temperature I was particularly familiar with, so I had to do a little research to know how hot I should set the oven to.... Originally, I had incorrectly transcribed ‘Manchet’ as ‘Manchot’. Not knowing what this was I had to look up the word and was disturbed to find it to be the French translation of ‘penguin’! Thinking that this couldn’t be right, I tried the spelling ‘manchet’ and was relieved to find this to be ‘a leavened bread that was common in medieval and Tudor England’. Armed with this new knowledge, I found a modern recipe that suggested 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

If you want to have a go at making this recipe I've simplified it below:

Ingredients for Queen's Cakes

Ingredients:
·         2lbs currants
·         1.5lbs flour
·         1lb butter
·         1lb sugar
·         8 eggs
·         3-4 spoons rose water
·         12 spoons cream
·         Rose water for washing butter and handling mixture
·         Buttered fluted bun tin/fluted cake cases

Method:
·         Mix currants and flour together
·         Cream the butter (washed in rose water) and sugar
·         Beat the eggs with 3-4 spoons of rose water and 12 spoons of cream
·         Mix all together
·         Butter tin (or use fluted cake cases as I did)
·         Bake in 180 degrees Celsius oven for 20 minutes

This is how they turned out and what people thought…

The finished bake

Comments from the History Centre staff:
Alex – Really yummy, fruit surrounded by cake!
Dave – Incredibly fruity and delicious
Caoimhe – Very fruity, divine
Laura – Delicious, lovely and fruity!
Martin – Really very good, packed with fruit!
Carol – Lovely, love all the fruit
Michele – Very fruity and filling, delicious!
Christine – Love the texture of this cake, and all the lovely fruit
Verity – Lots of currents, really good!
Elaine – Lovely very fruity!

Claire, History Bakers Team

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