Friday, April 27, 2018

A Rich Cake by Amelia Simmons, C. 1796

A Delicious and Historic Cake!

About the Recipe

This is a sweet and flavorful yeast-risen cake. It was first published in 1796 in the first American cookbook ever to be  published that was written by an American, as opposed to American reprints of  British cookbooks. American Cookery by Amelia Simmons contains a very good example of a typical 18th c. type of cake that was yeast-risen and contains the essential flavorings of the time period: raisins, cinnamon, white wine, brandy, and rosewater. 

The Recipe: A Rich Cake
American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1796

Rub 2 pound of butter into 5 pound of flour, add 15 eggs (not much beaten) 1 pint of emptins [a form of yeast], 1 pint of wine, kneed up stiff like biscuit, cover well and put by and let rise over night.

To 2 and a half pound raisins, add 1 gill brandy, to soak over night, or if new half an hour in the morning, add them with 1 gill rose-water and 2 and half pound of loaf sugar, 1 ounce cinnamon, work well and bake as loaf cake.

Modern Recipe Adaptation: A Rich Cake


  • ½ pound raisins
  • ½ cup brandy
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110°F)
  • ½ pound of butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sweet white wine
  • 2 Tbsp rosewater (you can order this online or it can be found at Lebanese or Indian markets or restaurants)
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Heat the brandy in a saucepan and then add the raisins when it starts to simmer.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the warm water.  Let it rest for at least 5 minutes until it gets foamy.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.  Add the white wine and the rosewater.  Then add the eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and the cinnamon.
  5. Add the flour and yeast mixture, alternately.
  6. Drain the raisins and then add to the dough. 
  7.  Place dough in a greased bowl and cover.  Let the dough rest (about 1-2 hours; the longer the better).  It will not rise a lot (that’s normal).  
  8. Heat oven to 375° F and grease a large tube pan. 
  9. Turn dough into the greased tube pan. 
  10. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a stick inserted in the center comes out clean.  
  11. You can cover the baked cake in a lemon or almond flavored royal icing, or just dust with powdered sugar.

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