Foods and Feasts recipe #3: Sugar Cakes

This one’s an easy documentation, because it’s featured in Fooles and Fricassees: Food in Shakespeare’s England, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1999. Appendix I is a transcription of Mrs. Sarah Longe: Her Receipt Booke, c. 1610. The biggest thing I changed (other than reducing the amounts a bit) was that rather than wash the butter in rosewater, I ground dried rose-petals I had collected from my own (pesticide-free) roses over the summer into the sugar before using it in the recipe.

(I totally cheated on that, btw; I processed it in a blender.)

I am very sorry; I forgot to take pictures of them directly, but they really do just look like round cookies.  All the way in the back, they’re in the silver bowl on the right-hand side.


Despite the name, this is actually much more of a shortbread cookie than a cake. The dough is rolled thin, and cut out “with a glasse”.

Original recipe: “Take a pound of butter, and wash it in rose-water, and halfe a pound of sugar, and half a douzen sponefulls of thicke Creame, and the yelkes of 4 Eggs, and a little mace finely beaten, and as much fine flower as it will wett, and work it well together [;] then roll them out very thin, and cut them with a glasse, and prick them very thicke with a great pin, and lay them on plates, and soe bake them gently.”

Redacted recipe:
1/4lb salted butter (one stick), softened
3/4 cup sugar (I used the ground rose-petal sugar)
1 egg yolk
1tsp mace
1-1/2 cups sifted white flour, plus some extra

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat the cream and egg yolk until blended, then add to the sugar and butter. Add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, sifting into the bowl, until the mixture forms a ball that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Make sure you pick up any dough crumbs in the bottom of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325F. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4″ thick. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter or wine glass. Put the rounds on a parchment lined, ungreased cookie sheet. Prick them all over with a fork* (like shortbread), then bake until light golden, about 17-20min.

Like shortbread, you don’t want the cookie to brown too much. It should be barely golden on top, and a little browner underneath.

*I really did use a big brass pin to prick them all over. This is actually a good opportunity to do decorative circles or hearts, or whatever you like on the tops of the cookie, since shaped cookie cutters aren’t really period.

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