April 17, 2010

Colonial Receipts : Desserts

Revolutionary War Reenacting
I've been writing a lot about the Civil War Era and I felt a need to write a bit about my first love: the Colonial Era. The Colonial Era was over two hundred years ago, I have found that a lot of people just assume what was eaten back then instead of doing research. I try to shy away from the "old timey" recipes of which  no one knows their origin. I applaud the people I know who want to serve period correct meals instead of what is thought to just be "old fashioned." 

colonial cooking Recipes A lot of "receipts" from the era have been attributed to a famous people but few are traceable to a direct source. In a rarer instant family receipt books have been preserved. This is the case in George Washington's family where two of Martha's Receipts can be read here and the rest of the book, Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery can be bought from Mount Vernon.

colonial cooking Recipes
Another famous family who kept a receipt book was William Penn Jr's. His wife, Gulielma kept the book which has been published as "Penn Family Recipes," but is no longer in print, an excerpt from the receipt book and other period recipes can be read online at: Thirty-five receipts.
colonial cooking Recipes
The receipts that I have included are from the second half of the 18th century. All of them look delicious. I am particularly anxious to try Lemon Honeycomb and Ice Cream in a mold. I am curious how different the ice cream will taste compared to modern ice cream. Apricot Ice Cream sounds delicious today, regardless. I might try it as it doesn't require any kind of cranking machine and is just made in buckets.

colonial cooking Recipescolonial cooking RecipesI am very interested in the whipped cream recipes, too. Today we would add some sugar and vanilla to make whipped cream. These recipes call for egg whites, sugar and sack (a strong dry wine.)The first receipt even suggests adding ambergris, an expensive commodity that would have been imported from the Nantucket area. Ambergris is created in the intestines of sperm whales, and can weigh up to 100 pounds. It is thought that the ambergris helps the whales digest sharp objects without getting cut up from the inside.  It was used in colonial times in expensive perfumes and food flavorings. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac. It is said to have a musky smell and is even  mentioned in Melville's Moby Dick. (What a desert topping! Sweets, dairy, alcohol and whale!) 
colonial cooking Recipes
colonial cooking RecipesFairy Butter is another (less frightening) topping for various cakes and puddings. It was popular in Virgina and was said to be brought to the White House by Dolly Madison. It seems like it would taste yummy with the White Cake receipt.

I hope to make some of these as period as possible just to see what the differences are between period and modern flavors. I am not anxious to try anything with ambergris but I love the flavors and smells of rose water and orange water which can be purchased very cheaply from Middle Eastern Markets or made at home from online recipes. I hope you enjoy!


  1. Yay Steph! You've inspired me for summer camp. I forgot all about fairy butter. And - I'm wondering if ice cream is in the realm of possibility.

  2. Steph, I left two comments on your Lady Margaret post. One of them had the apron link. It looks like the comments disappeared. Did you get them?

  3. Jodi, I noticed that. I don't know where the comments went but I looked on the internet and found the link. I was wondering if you knew if the measurements for the apron would fit you? I think I might have to make it a little bigger for me. It won't be too big of an alteration.

  4. I'm not sure Steph, the model looked tiny. I'll probably need it bigger too.

  5. This is a good resource for my mid- term peoject

    1. If you need any more help, feel free to send me an email.


Tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.