This recipe for a Victorian fruit cake skips the poor-quality candied fruit that gives some pre-made modern fruitcakes a bad reputation (especially in the US). Instead, fresh coconut, citron and almonds fill this cake to bursting with natural flavors and textures.
This holiday season, Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman is helping us celebrate all things Victorian, especially recipes! Keep reading to find links to the Victorian holiday recipes we’ve shared recently. In this post: a fruit cake that lives up to its history as a rich, flavorful dessert that’s worthy of the season.
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
Sarah Chrisman shared this recipe for a white fruit cake with us, along with this picture of her cracking a coconut in preparation for making this dish:
“Stir to a cream one pound of butter and one pound of powdered sugar. Add the beaten yolks of twelve eggs, one pound of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Grate one coconut, blanch and chop one-half pound of almonds, and slice one-half pound of citron and stir into the stiffly beaten white of the eggs and add to the batter. Put in pan lined with buttered paper, and bake slowly two hours.” -By Mrs. W.S. Standish, Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. pp. 56-57.
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to blanch almonds:
What is citron? It’s a citrus fruit that is something like a lemon. According to this blog post on using citron in fruitcakes, it’s not always easy to find fresh citrons, but you can ask at your best local markets for a supplier near you or look for high-quality prepared citron that can be shipped to you.
Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman shares her adaptation of a classic “figgy” pudding recipe, a holiday staple in Victorian times. Don’t be fooled by its inelegant appearance: there’s a reason carolers sang, “We won’t go until we get some!”
This holiday season we are sharing Victorian recipes, in celebration of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. Sarah lives her life like it’s the late 1880s. She’ll join us on the Genealogy Gems podcast and Premium podcast in December to tell us all about it–click here to learn more. Meanwhile, enjoy her delicious recipe for a classic fig pudding and a tutorial video that demonstrates making it the old-fashioned way.
“Figgy Pudding” Recipe
“One pound of figs cut fine, imported ones are best but dried domestic ones will answer, one and a half pounds of bread crumbs, one-half pound chopped suet [vegetarian alternative: 8 oz coconut oil, melted and mixed into bread crumbs], twelve ounces moist sugar [brown sugar], a little nutmeg [1 tsp.], two eggs, one teacup of milk. Mix all together and steam four hours [in a pudding bag].” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p. 86.
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to prepare a “figgy pudding” recipe in the old-fashioned way:
Hard Sauce for Puddings
“Beat one egg and half a cup of sugar until very light, then add two tablespoons of softened butter; beat until it will stay piled on a plate; grate in a little nutmeg and put in a very cold place until served.” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p.98
Sarah Chrisman shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe just in time for baking season! These “coasting cookies” bring to mind the cold-cheeked fun of sledding in the chilly air of winter.
This holiday season, we’re celebrating all things Victorian with our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. She and her husband Gabriel live like it’s 1889–and have become first-hand experts on Victorian life. Here, Sarah shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe for “coasting cookies” and the story behind it. The original recipe appears below, edited to a modern recipe format, along with Sarah’s notes (in parentheses) on adapting the recipe for modern cooking.
Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
8 oz butter (1 cup, softened)
1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
1 Tbsp (baking) soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
1 Tbsp coriander seed, pounded in a mortar
(crushing whole seeds retains more flavor)
1 Tbsp (whole) carraway [sic], pounded in a mortar
(yields about 1 3/4 Tbsp when crushed)
ginger to taste (1 Tbsp powdered ginger)
1. Soften the butter.
2. Stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds, and flour.
3. Roll thin and cut.
4. Bake in a quick oven.
Sarah’s updated Coasting Cookies instructions:
1. Crush the caraway and coriander together,
add the ginger and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the molasses and baking soda 2-3 minutes; it will turn a very pretty pale caramel color as the alkaline soda reacts with the acid in the molasses.
3. Add the butter and flour and mix well.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.
The Original recipe appears in In the Kitchen by Elizabeth S. Miller. (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875), p. 365.
Ladies’ Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.
Sarah explains the story behind “coasting cookies:”
Gabriel was attracted to this recipe because the word ‘coasting’ in the name put him in mind of bicycles. However, it turned out to be a sledding reference, as seen in this excerpt from an 1877 short story:
“‘Coasting’ and snow-balling were the bloom and glow of those long, icy months; and the very thought of my youthful exploits in these cold Vermont days makes the blood tingle in my veins… [T]here were lots of ‘fellers,’ small boys, so utterly extinguished beneath their big caps and mufflers, that, to the uninitiated, it would seem necessary to dig them out, like potatoes out of a hill, before they could be recognizable. Well, these ‘fellers’… had glorious times together, and considered it the great business of life in winter to coast, and skate, and fire snow-balls, being somewhat apt to resent such interruptions as going to school, doing ‘chores,’ or eating regular meals.”—Church, Ella Rodman. “A Story of “Doughnuts,” Petersen’s Magazine, July, 1877, p. 65.
Although they were originally named for the sport of sledding, Gabriel and I found them to be equally delicious after cycling expeditions. Consequently, in my Tales of Chetzemoka cycling club series, these cookies are special favorites with the club members. Here’s a fun excerpt from Book Two, Love Will Find A Wheel:
…”You’re all coming here afterwards, aren’t you?” She asked the club in general. “My sewing circle ladies will be here again.”
Mr. Goldstein leaned on his fifty-inch wheel and laughed. “Since my wife will be here I won’t get much peace if I don’t come!”
Felix and Ken exchanged put-upon looks, then a thought seemed to occur to Felix and his face brightened. “Are you going to be making those coasting cookies again?” He asked Mrs. Brown.
She smiled indulgently. “I already made them. There’s five dozen of them on plates in the pie safe, just waiting.”
“Only five dozen?” Ken whined in mock disappointment.
Felix punched him lightly in the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll save you half of one—if you’re nice to me.”…
Victorian lifestyle expert and author Sarah Chrisman shares favorite–and authentic–recipes for tangy homemade cranberry sauce (served hot or cold) and a hearty vegetable hash.
Sarah Chrisman, who lives every day like it’s Victorian times and writes about it in several books, is the current featured author for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. She’ll join both the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December to talk about Victorian-style holidays and her books, including This Victorian Life.
In the coming weeks, Sarah will share her favorite mouth-watering, made-from-scratch Victorian recipes here on the Genealogy Gems blog. Some of her recipes come straight from cookbooks of the time period, and others she has adapted for modern kitchens and tastes. Below, she shares a simple recipe for tangy cranberry sauce, simmered from whole, fresh cranberries, and a hot, hearty vegetable hash side dish, which Sarah calls “a good way to use up leftovers after the holiday!”
“Pick over and wash two cupfuls of fine cranberries. Put them in an earthen dish, pour over a cup of sugar, add a cupful of boiling water, cover, and cook gently nearly an hour. Serve hot or cold.”-From Catering for Two, by Alice L. James. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York and London. (n.d.) p. 178.
Note: the above edition of Catering for Two isn’t dated, but a first edition found online is dated 1898.
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.
“Chop rather coarsely the remains of vegetables left from a boiled dinner, such as cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, etc., sprinkle over them a little pepper; place in a saucepan or frying-pan over the fire; put in a piece of butter the size of a hickory nut; when it begins to melt, tip the dish so as to oil the bottom, and around the sides; then uput in the chopped vegetables; pour in a spoonful or two of hot water from the tea-kettle; cover quickly so as to keep in the steam. When heated thoroughly take off the cover and stir occasionally until well cooked. Serve hot. Persons fond of vegetables will relish this dish very much.” –The Capitol Cook Book, 1896, p. 188
More Recipes for a Very Victorian Holiday Season
Click here to see last week’s Victorian-era recipe for a rich roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy. (We even included a quick how-to video tutorial for trussing the turkey!)
This Victorian pumpkin pie recipe calls for milk instead of cream, an economical choice that results in a lighter, more delicate pie than we often taste today.
This holiday season, Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman is sharing her favorite holiday recipes with us. This week: a Victorian take on the classic pumpkin pie. Reformatted in modern recipe style, here is the original recipe for 3 pies, followed by Sarah’s version, adapted for modern cooks making a single pie.
Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman
1 qt rich milk (a little cream is a great improvement)
3 cups boiled and strained pumpkin
2 cups sugar
little piece of butter
1 Tbsp ginger and cinnamon (scant)
1. Mix milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks thoroughly and stir into above mixture.
3. Beat the whites to a froth and add to mixture just before putting the pie in the oven.
4. Have a rich crust and bake in a quick oven.
Should you desire to use squash instead, you can make equally as good a pie as with the pumpkin. Makes 3 pies.
– From The Women’s Exchange Cookbook. 1890s, p. 250.
Sarah’s version of Victorian Pumpkin Pie: Ingredients
Pie crust for 10″ pie
1 cup pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. butter
1 cup milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1. Bake the pie crust unfilled, with pie weights holding down the middle, for about 7 minutes. (If the filling is added to a raw pie crust then baked, it makes the crust a bit soggy.)
2. Cook and mash the pumpkin.
3. Stir in the butter while the pumpkin is still warm. Let this mixture cool thoroughly (preferably overnight).
4. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon, milk, cream, and egg yolk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the pie shell.
6. Bake 40 minutes (or until edges are set) at 375 degrees. Cool overnight before cutting.
Here’s what Sarah has to say about this recipe: “This pumpkin pie is made primarily with milk instead of cream for economy’s sake—milk being much cheaper than cream, then as now. The result is a much lighter and more delicate pumpkin pie than most. With very little cream it doesn’t have the heavy, custard texture of most pumpkin pie, but instead gets its body from the egg whites.”
“This recipe comes from an 1890s Woman’s Exchange cookbook. (My copy is in pretty bad shape and is unfortunately missing an exact date to document its publication.) Women’s Exchanges were organized by middle- and upper-class Victorian women as a way to help poorer women earn money and improve their situations. The organizers would suggest which products were able to be made at home and most marketable in their particular community; then they provided a venue for the sale of those products. Foods of all sorts were particularly popular products for sale at Women’s Exchanges. Recipes in Women’s Exchange cookbooks were designed especially with economy in mind, so that the financially challenged women making them could a.) afford the ingredients and b.) realize the biggest possible profit when they sold the finished product.”
Check out these other Victorian recipes we’ve published as part of our Victorian holiday celebration with Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman. Sarah will join Lisa Louise Cooke on the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about what it’s like to “live in the past” in her chosen Victorian lifestyle.