Tag Archives: Rose Book

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.




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.

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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!

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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!



In reading my webpage, a visitor noticed that I had written “receipts” instead of  “recipes”, so perhaps I need to explain that the word for “recipes” was written and spoken as “receipts”. In the course of researching and writing this blog it is probable that a few other 18th century terms may come to light that today’s reader may not know. I will try to explain as I go along.

What is “seered sugar”? I came across it in a number of 18th century desserts requiring seered sugar, and was stumped. Thanks to two members of the Savory Fare Yahoo Group the term “seered” was explained as “to sift”.  Now I can continue testing the receipts for macaroons.

Other terms requiring research were “a cool oven” (approximately 200 degrees F or 90 degrees C). A “slow oven” is 300- 325 degrees F. or 150-160 degrees C. A “moderate oven” is from 350-375 degrees F. or 180-190 degrees C. A “hot oven” being 400-450 degrees F. or 200-230 degrees C. A “quick oven” is from 375-400 degrees F. A “very slow” oven is below 300 degrees F. All this leads to a guessing game when trying to recreate recipes. Experience has helped in making the best estimate of how to set a modern oven to approximate either a beehive or hearth oven of the 18th century.


Even when a measurement is given, it is a bit vague for today. A spoonful??? Is that a modern Tablespoon or measured from your sturdy wooden mixing spoon? A cup measure was based on an 18th Century teacup- six ounces, not eight like a modern measuring cup. How about “some” or “to taste” as a measure for spices or floral waters like rose and orange flower waters? Again, I am learning. And the experiments and testing continue.

What a difference an egg makes

DSC00426Having been disappointed by an earlier experiment in making a Caraway cake, it was time to try again.  On the first test, the flavor was given high marks, but the texture (on the gooey side) put off a few of my testers. This time I finally acquired medium size eggs. It made a world of difference in the cake’s texture. Most markets do not carry smaller eggs, but 18th century chickens laid smaller eggs, so the receipts were based on the size of an egg that was not large, extra large, or jumbo. The majority of the recipes I’ve tested have not been as fussy about egg size. The Caraway cake really must be made with an egg no larger than medium. Now taste and texture really do work. The taste of caraway and rose water is a subtle one and surprisingly was highly praised.