New Blog Series! Victorian Food

So lately I have been watching the early seasons of The Great British Bake-Off.  Of the five seasons aired so far, only the last three made it to network TV in the US, but the first two are available on YouTube, and they are so worth the watch. Each episode contains historical snippets about particular foods. Several of the classic items featured on the show have Victorian roots, and it gave me an idea.

I am a reasonably competent cook, but my baking efforts have been hit or miss at best. Baking is far less forgiving of the “oh, just throw in some extra [insert food item here–usually garlic]” method I typically employ in my cooking. Nevertheless, the show has inspired me to learn to be a better baker, and since Victorian food plays a part in every one of my books, I thought I might share that journey with you. So once a month (give or take), I’ll feature a Victorian era recipe and my efforts to recreate it. My husband thinks I’m a lunatic for even trying this (probably because he’s been forced to sample a hockey puck biscuit or two), but what the hell.

So I am off to gather recipes from various sources–primarily websites and Victorian era cookbooks–and to wait for the summer heat to die down so I can fire up the oven.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this picture of the glorious Victoria Sandwich I made for the launch party for my first book.  IMG_2374The recipe appeared in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1861, and was reportedly named after Queen Victoria because it was one of her favorite cakes.

Queen Victoria, 1856

VICTORIA SANDWICHES.
INGREDIENTS.– 4 eggs; their weight in pounded sugar, butter, and flour; ¼ saltspoonful of salt, a layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.
Mode.– Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked. When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in crossbars on a glass dish, and serve.
Time.– 20 minutes.
Average cost, 1s. 3d.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

You can find a more modern recipe, which is the one I used, here.

I’ll delve more into other recipes, as well as terms that make an American baker scratch her head (what is a moderate oven anyway?) in later posts. If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a guest post, or you have a burning curiosity about a particular topic, email me at marin@marinmcginnis.com.

Sources:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8753182/The-great-Victoria-sandwich.html
http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2011/08/queen-victoria-womans-institute-famous.html
http://teainengland.com/2012/12/the-victoria-sponge-its-history-and-a-recipe/
http://www.picturebritain.com/2012/05/cake-fit-for-queen-victoria-sponge.html

10 Comments:

  1. I once read an article on Victorian food that mentioned sheep’s trotters as popular street food for the lower classes. They’re sheep’s legs with the hoof attached served hot or cold. They would eat the meat and fat and, hopefully, avoid the funky bits on the bottom of the hoof. It reminds of the folks at amusement parks who wander around with the giant turkey legs. At least they cut the feet off.

    • There were some very strange delicacies in those days. The subject of a future blog post, I think! Thanks for stopping by, L.A.!

  2. Fascinating post, Marin! I’m much more comfortable with baking than cooking but not so happy these days with the ensuing clean-up. However, I’m sure your upcoming recipes will tempt me and I’ll be sure to check back!

  3. What a fun idea to post Victorian recipes! I love that you were inspired by the British Bake off show. I’ve also had a blast watching it.

  4. Working as a costumed intrepreter at Old World Wisconsin, I made many Victorian desserts using period tools and a wood-burning oven. I really got the feel of what they had to go through. Funny, I could understand the old way perfectly!

    • How cool! You should do a guest post, Ilona. 🙂 I’m going to England in October, so I’m hoping to look through a few old shops to see if I can find a few antique baking items, but my newfangled oven will have to suffice.

  5. What a wonderful idea! I’ll be sure to follow your blogs. I too am a reasonably good cook but awful baker–I think the world is divided among those who bake and those who don’t (but eat). M. S.

    • I agree! I know a couple people who are marvelous bakers AND cooks, but they are few and far between. Thanks for visiting!

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