Size matters!


When measuring out amounts for 18th century receipts, to our horror – the modern standardized measuring spoons we take for granted are absent! Often, you will see “a spoon’s worth”, or a “spoonful”. Since there was little standardization of measuring tools, what size is a spoon? Tablespoon, teaspoon, coffee spoon, dessert spoon, a homemade horn or wooden spoon??? So you may need to guess, and experience helps a bit. Below is a receipt from Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife; or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion (1739) p.310.


Take one pint of cream, set it to boil with a stick of cinnamon, a few coriander seeds, a bit of the rind of a lemon, and two laurel leaves; let it boil ten minutes, take it out, and let it cool; add the yolks of six eggs well beaten, and sweeten it to your taste; then strain it into a stew pan, set it on a fire, let it simmer, but not boil, stirring it all the time with a whisk; – when it grows thick, take it off, put it in a bowl, and stir it till it grows cold; add to it a spoonful of brandy, a spoonful of rose-water, and a few almonds blanched and sliced; put them in custard cups, and serve them up for a second course.

My experience with period baking suggested to me that the spoonful of brandy had to be at least a tablespoon. But, for the spoonful of rosewater – you had better be gentle! Homemade rosewaters can stand a larger measure. However, if you are using a commercial rosewater, it can be quite strong and confuse your palate. Too much and your receipt will taste like soap! So be warned, when you see a spoonful as a measure, be liberal with alcoholic beverages (like brandy, rum, madeira, sack) but go lightly  with rosewater or orange-flower water and some of the stronger spices until you get a feel for an 18th century palate.


My first book signing.

My first author signing happened at the end of June!


The Barnes & Noble community relations manager Diane was extraordinarily helpful. Originally advertised as a demonstration and tasting, the challenge was to do this presentation after the Barnes & Noble regional manager nixed any food being offered. So I placed some cotton balls soaked in different rose waters in squeeze bottles so people could smell the difference between commercial and home made rosewaters. It surprised all how lovely the homemade rosewaters were compared to the commercial ones. It stemmed their hesitation about using rosewater as an ingredient. The reason for the almost too strong scent of commercial rosewater is the result of using multiple roses in their creation. Too many scents causes an overload and the scent is soap-like. That’s the reason I recommend a very sparing use of commercial rosewater as an ingredient.


Those in attendance were quite surprised at the difference between commercial and homemade rosewater. After smelling the different containers, one woman had to buy the book since she said that “Now I can enjoy my roses long after they would have wilted.” A gentleman saw the photo of the rose ice cream and asked if it was in the book. I told him it was. Nudging his wife, he insisted on buying the book to try his hand at rose ice cream making. Of course the fact that it was a truly scorching hot day may have had some influence! The gathering was not a large one, but all who came bought at least one book and a woman wandered in at the end, asked about the rosewater and she too bought a copy!


I would like to thank Diane and the Valencia Barnes & Noble for their hospitality and preparation. They really made this first time author feel welcome!

It was a wonderful first book signing!


Author signed first edition!


My book has arrived!

What a surprise to come home on Wednesday to find a box of MY books on our doorstep.


After months of testing, and many taster’s opinions, the book is a reality! Though titled “Delicious Rose-Favored Desserts“, not all the recipes taste of rosewater. Many taste of orange, lemon, even apple, but all have rosewater or rose petals in the receipt (recipe). The addition of rosewater or petals adds another dimension to a receipt; a mysterious quality that enhances flavors.

Going back to the beginning, this book came about due to two occurrences; the first where being  a volunteer at The Huntington Library and Gardens (encouraged by Clair Martin, at the time the curator of roses) allowed me the opportunity to experiment in making rosewater with over 2,000 available roses, and the second being a fifth grader asking me what the rich people ate in the 18th century. My dear friend, Myriam Hu, whose knowledge of roses was invaluable, helped me gather and test roses for rosewater. Later she aided me in my baking experiments. Jim Folsom, Director of the Botanical Gardens, encouraged me to do research in the Botanic library, which, along with quite a number of 18th century original cookbooks and reprints I’ve collected, gave me the impetus to try my hand at baking with rosewater.

Testing was fun! Interpreting terms and instructions….”some spices (which?),  penny loaf, to searce, or a slow oven”.  Jennie Dobyns, of  Dobyns and Martin, Grocers provided some of the ingredients which were not readily available such as blades of mace, and gum arabic. DSC01175Jennie rushed them to me to make sure I would have them when needed. Then there was my right hand and assistant, Stephanie Deal Nacionales. She was there working with me, even when she was pregnant and couldn’t stand the smell of eggs. She and her husband Jonathan were my first line of taste testers.

Thanks to my dear  friend Honey Berman, who believed in my book, talked about it, and introduced me to someone who introduced me to my agent, who sold the book. This all happened in one year. And now, a heartfelt thank you to all who were there for me. I hope all who buy my book will be rewarded in finding new and unique recipes to tempt the palate and tickle your fancy.



To the printer it goes!

My book, now titled Delicious Rose Flavored Desserts has been sent to the printer.


For months we baked and photographed over 60 recipes which all had roses or rosewater as an ingredient, sourced from period authors such as Hannah Glasse, Elizabeth Raffald, Elizabeth Moxon, John Farley, Eliza Smith, Amelia Simmons, Sarah Harrison, and private manuscripts. Below are some of the recipe photos that did not make it into the book…….


Shrewsbury Cakes

The small cakes are plated on a Hartley & Green pierced creamware dish. Accompanying this is an original 18th century cut and etched crystal decanter and two Georgian period small etched lead crystal glasses.


Raspberry Cream

The cream is in an original 18th century cut crystal sweetmeat dish, with four 18th century jelly glasses. The five silver dessert spoons are from silversmith Hester Bateman; all set on a reproduction mahogany tray.


German Puffs

These petite and tasty 18th Century version of doughnut holes are in an original 18th century pierced creamware dish, with an original hallmarked 18th century sterling silver tong for serving. The smaller 18th century English china saucer or dish holds a Georgian sterling silver nutmeg grater and small sterling silver spoon. On the saucer are two nutmegs and a grated portion of one of the nutmegs.

Just an aside… these were sooo good that none of the puffs made it to my taste testers!!


A Festive Orange Custard

DSC02068With the holidays so close at hand, time is precious. We want to entertain, but with so much to do, everyone can use a few easy, beautiful desserts to serve. This orange custard is lovely to look at,  and just as good to eat.

This receipt is from The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse (1753) p. 368

An Orange Custard

Take the juice of two Seville Oranges, with a little of the Peel grated fine, and put as much Sugar to it as will make it sweet, give it a Boil up, and strain it, you have ready a Pint of Cream boil’ with a Nutmeg, Mace, and Cinnamon, and the Whites of three Eggs, beat them all together, and serve it in what you please.


2 Seville or any fragrant orange
1/2 an orange peel, grated
1-2 cups sugar (to taste)
1/2 pint cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 egg whites

  1. Grate the peel of half an orange. Juice the oranges.
  2. Place the juice of the oranges, sugar, and grated peel into a heavy saucepan or double boiler. Allow it to gently boil.
  3. Strain this mixture into a bowl.
  4. Beat together the cream, egg whites, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon. Then place in a saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil.
  5. Combine the orange juice mixture with the cream mixture and beat  together.
  6. Allow to cool a bit, and place in a serving dish or small glasses.

The first draft of my book is in. Now a word about Ice Cream!

The first draft of my  book on 18th century rose desserts has gone to my editor. It has been interesting testing each of the 60 recipes that will be included in the book. The most rewarding comments from my taste testers was how disappointed they were that the testing is over for now. My amazing taste testers want more! The book is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2016.

So, though Summer has ended, a bit about one of my favorite topics. Ice cream! What follows is a brief history of ice cream in the 18th century…..

The first English confectionary book to include an entire chapter of recipes for ice cream and ices was  The Court and Country Confectioner (1770). Flavors varied by season. In Summer, flavors included berries, fruits, and flowers when they were fresh and ripe. Winter flavors included coffee, chocolate, cinnamon and other spices. These ice creams were often moulded, in a profusion of shapes: grapes, apples, peaches, pears, asparagus spears, flowers, boar’s head, hams, etc. After freezing and unmolding, these shapes were often painted and decorated with colors to imitate Nature.

IMG_2277A Rose Petal Ice Cream which was pressed into a rose mold.

Ice cream was made by confectioners. It was a difficult and laborious task, physically taxing, and time consuming; as it was hand turned in a sorbetière (a copper cylinder with a lid and handle on top) nestled in a bucket of ice and salt. Obtaining and storing ice was expensive, and salt was costly since it had to be purified. Without refrigeration the milk and cream often curdled.

In the photos below we see a Lemon Curd Ice Cream being made at a public demonstration by Mrs. Sarah Nucci and Mrs. Samantha McCarty of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, Inc.

This first image shows the still warm mixture being strained through cheesecloth into the sorbatière.


The sorbatière is placed in a bucket, then is surrounded by ice and salt.


Turn, turn, turn! It can take up to an hour of constant motion for the mixture to cool down enough to set up.


The finished product was absolutely wonderful with some gingerbread cake crumbled into it!


In America, ice cream was rare until well after the American Revolution. Pastry chefs and confectioners were few. Pleasure or ice cream gardens appeared in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. These were usually adjunct to Taverns, for a light meal and/or drink. The earliest advertisement featuring ice cream appeared in the Rivington’s New York Gazatteer, (November 25, 1773)


Thomas Jefferson’s papers included 8 recipes for ice cream written in his own hand, including one for vanilla ice cream.

Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream recipe:

2. bottles of good cream
6. yolks of eggs
1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks and sugar.
put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.
when near boiling take it off and pour it gently into the mixture of eggs and sugar.
stir it well.
put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent its sticking to the casserole.
when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel.
put it in the Sabottiere
then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.
put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere and cover the whole with ice.
leave it still half a quarter of an hour
then turn the Sabottiere in the ice ten minutes.
open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.
shut it and replace it in the ice
open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides
when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.
put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.
then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.
leave it there to the moment of serving it.
to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out and turn it onto a plate.

The Monticello web site has more information about Jefferson and ice cream:

One recipe , three ways

Having just baked a Common Biscuit from The Housekeeper’s Instructor or, Universal Family Cook from W.A. Henderson, some interesting choices followed. The recipe reads….

Beat eight eggs well up together, and mix them with a pound of sifted sugar with the rind of a lemon grated. Whisk it about till it looks light, and then put in a pound of flour, with a little rose-water. Sugar them over, and bake them in tins, or on papers.

My first attempt had the batter being a bit loose so I placed the mix in 2″ muffin tins and baked them. Filling the tins about half-way, the batter rose another 1/4″ when done. The result was  a slightly harder biscuity top and soft sponge interior. When my friend Stephanie saw the results she suggested we try dropping the batter on parchment. The results were nice round cookies that were soft and sweet like a soft sugar cookie.

2015-08-11 15.01.35-2

The last attempt was to make a mock 18th century tin. I have a 4 1/2″ springform pan.  We removed the bottom and replaced it with parchment paper tied tightly around the pan. This produced a cake that was biscuit like on top, but had a soft and sponge-like interior and bottom. So this recipe is versatile in that you can make this biscuit any of three ways and be successful!


To make a Lemon Cake a second way

With the summer heat upon us, my baking is sporadic. It has been in the mid to high 90’s for a few days, and surprisingly humid. We are southern California (reclaimed desert), not tidewater Virginia!

From Elizabeth Raffold’s book, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1776) I found a recipe that sounded light and just right for hot weather… “To make a Lemon Cake a second way”.

BEAT the whites of ten eggs with a whisk for one hour with three spoonfuls of rose or orange-flower water, then put in one pound of loaf sugar beat and sifted, with the yellow rind of a lemon grated into it; when it is well mixed put in the juice of half a lemon and the yolks of ten eggs beat smooth, and just before you put it into the oven stir in three quarters of a pound of flour; butter your pan, and one hour will bake it in a moderate oven.


The result was quite tasty and pretty.

To Taste or not to Taste, that is the Question

I have asked a varied group of people to be my taste tasters for these experiments, from tellers and officers where we do our banking, clerks and staff at our local market and library, to some of my husband’s co-workers, as well as friends and family. The results have been surprising! Georgian cakes tend to be much denser than what the average person may be accustomed to eating. One reason is that few rising agents were used. All mixing and beating was done by hand. In a receipt that I just tested (a Biscuit Cake from Elizabeth Moxon), a pound of sifted castor sugar is to be beaten with nine eggs and two spoonfuls of rose water for two hours!! That’s a lot of beating!

2015-06-01 14.30.33

Elizabeth Moxon’s Biscuit Cake rests on a cooling rack.

The resulting cake was spongy, with a very stiff upper crust, though not as light as modern cakes. I explained to my testing group that cakes would be denser, with many more unusual spice combinations than they might expect. For the most part, this group has been able to give me useful feedback once they got used to 18th century textures and Georgian expectations of what cakes and small cakes (cookies) should look like.

In quite a number of receipts, there is a note that the cake is done just as the edge barely begins to turn light brown. Cakes were preferably white in color, though fully baked. For some testers, this was a bit off-putting. Their thoughts were that the cakes were not done. Great or small, most of the cakes I have tested are off white, with little color. At this time elaborate frosted decoration was rarely used. Instead they formed the cake in molds, or gilded them, or put marchpane (marzipan) or sugar figures on them.  It also helped if they were attractively plated to be more interesting.


On the three tiered creamware epérgne; the top has small Queen’s Cakes, the second tier has Portugal Cakes, and the bottom tier has Rice Cream in period original jelly glasses set among fresh cut roses and small marchpane fruit. On the left is a Rose and Almond Cake, done in a Turk’s Head mold and set on an 18th Century glass tazza. At the bottom is a small Caraway Cake on an English china plate, and on the right are Sugar Cakes on a period original small blue and white porcelain Chinese export platter.

A cold tart

I was intrigued by a receipt entitled “to make a Cream Tart in the Italian fashion to eat cold” from Robert May’s Accomplis’d Cook. I decided to try it. The ingredients were an interesting mix, 20 egg yolks, a pound of fine sugar, 2 quarts cream, saffron, juice of an orange, white wine, rosewater, and cinnamon.  we decided to halve the receipt. The pie shell was laid in and slightly pre-baked. I assumed the cream would make it too soggy otherwise. With no hint what size pan or oven temperature, Stephanie, my sidekick, and I forged ahead. The  pie pan was filled, the pan set in the oven, only to remember weATT_1432055822808_IMG_20150512_111807 hadn’t sprinkled the cinnamon on top. The pan was too full to move. There was no room to get the cinnamon jar into the oven, so I filled a tablespoon full and tried to sprinkle. This resulted in some lightly distributed cinnamon and a few large blobs. Oh well, most  people like cinnamon.

After an hour the tart was still loose. One hour and twenty minutes later, I thought the experiment was a failure and took the tart out. While it rested on the cooling rack, it began to solidify into a proper custard texture. Now on to my taste testers. The results were amazing. All reports were so positive and my testing crew requested more. It worked!