Vintage Cakes

Mrs Isabella Beeton - challenge one!

When I am depressed or stressed I love to bake – cakes, cookies, I have even tried my hand at bread. Lying in bed recovering from the flu I have found that my mood has become very black, and so I have decided to give myself a challenge. A challenge other that cleaning my filthy bedroom after two weeks of Mr FD and I living in our bed that is.

So falling back on my best loved cure for the blues I have decided to bake cakes, not just any cakes, but vintage cakes, from recipes provided by the likes of Mrs Isabella Beeton and other classic bakers such as Marguerite Patten, whom I had never heard of until I started Googling “world’s most famous cake bakers” and up she popped.

Margurite was a British Cook who launched  television show just after the war and wrote a number of cook books such as  ‘Soup Basics’, ‘The Spam Cookbook’ and ‘We’ll Eat Again’ under her belt. “We’ll Eat Again”! I feel like Margurite and I are old friends already.

I googled further for Mrs Beeton’s lemon cake and there I hit my first hurdle. Orange Blossom Water. Have you ever heard of it? I have never, in my life. I could only guess that it is akin to rosewater.

Further research tells me I need to boil orange blossoms. No problem, I’ll just go and pick some shall I? Better still, maybe I can buy some at the supermarket? Any suggestions? I guess I could choose another Mrs Beeton cake recipe, but it sort of defeats the challenge doesn’t it, if I give in on the first cake?

I am going to have to research this a little more, but I don’t intend quitting that easily. In the meantime, check out the original recipe:

Lemon Cake Recipe

This classic English lemon cake recipe is taken from “The Book of Household Management” by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, published by S. O. Beeton, London, in 1861. Victorian England was noted for having delicious lemon cakes which were often served at tea time.

Ingredients: 10 eggs,

3 tablespoonfuls of orange-flower water,

3/4 lb of pounded loaf sugar,

1 lemon,

3/4 lb of flour. Method: Separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs, whisk the former to a stiff froth; add the orange-flower water, the sugar, grated lemon rind, and mix these ingredients well together. Then beat the yolks of the eggs, and add them, with the lemon juice, to the whites, etc; dredge in the flour gradually; keep beating the mixture well; put it into a buttered mold, and bake the cake about an hour, or rather longer. The addition of a little butter, beaten to a cream, we think, would improve this cake. Seasonable at any time.

A little butter? Martha Stewart to whom cooking is a science would be imploding. The addition of a little butter, beaten to a cream, we think, would improve this cake.

And before you ask, back in the Victorian era, sugar were sold in loaves. The loaf would be cut into cubes for tea, or pounded it to a specific amount for a recipe. See, we both learnt a new thing today!
Seasonable at any time….we shall see, Mrs Beeton, we shall see.

6 thoughts on “Vintage Cakes

  1. I used to have a Mrs Beeton’s; I wonder what happened to it. I wonder what would happen if I went down to the Tidal Basin and picked a whole bunch of cherry blossoms to boil down to a syrup…. mmmmm – the cherry blossoms are a “national treasure” so I don’t think it would end well.


  2. Timely! I’ve never done a “good” lemon cake. They just don’t turn out like Gram’s, ya know?

    I need a great recipe. This one looks about as I remember hers that never turns out when I do it. I think they skip some “secret” ingredient or some-such.


  3. Googled orange flower water and learned it is available and used in many countries. I do not think I would have a steady enough need for it to actually buy some. One site suggested for 1/2 tsp orange flower water substitute 1 to 2 drops orange oil OR 2 to 3 tsp orange liqueur such as Triple Sec OR grated orange peel / zest OR zest soaked in white wine for 24 hours, strained
    – – –
    If you make your own, “Use flowers that have not been sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides” LOL
    – – –
    Add to gin and vermouth for a Victorian martini. A more complete list of drinks using orange flower water here


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