Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Savoy Cake and Biscuits

Savoy Cake

By the early 18th century, a variety of cakes bearing the moniker of the place from which they came entered the British diet and nomenclature. Hence, citrus-flavored sponge cakes or biscuits with exotic names such as Naples, Spanish, Lisbon, and Savoy were part of the British culinary landscape. Savoy cakes or biscuits were named for a region in the Western Alps, between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south. Nowadays, this area is shared between the modern countries of France, Italy, and Switzerland. To be honest, regardless of where they claim to have originated, all of these  cakes are are essentially very light sponge cakes. Thomas Jefferson even write down a recipe for an orange-scented Savoy Cake--click here to see it!

Savoys can be made as either full-size cakes or as individual little biscuits in elongated shapes (basically lady fingers). Recipes for Savoy cakes require that the yolks are beaten with the sugar separately from the whites, the flour is folded in and then the stiffly beaten egg whites are also folded into the batter. Historically, lemon rind is a common flavoring for these types of cakes. According to Alan Davidson in The Penguin Companion to Food (2002), "the result is a light and delicate cake, eaten without further adornment."

However, this recipe from Complete System of Cookery by John Simpson (London, 1806) suggests that sometimes a little bit of adornment is just fine when he suggest adorning the cakes with gum paste if being served as at a supper or in the second course of a dinner:

Simpson, 1806

Savoy Cake: Modern Recipe Adaptation

Step 1: Prepare the Cake Pan and Oven
  • Grease 1 standard-size tube or bundt pan with butter and/or spray oil.
  • Note: The recipe states to coat the greased pans with the following mixture: 1.5 ounces/quarter cup of superfine sugar and Half ounce/1/8 cup all-purpose flour.  After pouring the mixture into the pans, turn the pans over to remove any excess.
    • I find this can cause sticking in my vintage pans, so you can decide to do this or not. Note: if you do not do this step, you can compensate by sprinkling granulated sugar over the fully baked cakes hot from the oven.
  • Heat oven to 350º F.
Image a classic sponge cake form from Mrs. Beeton (London,1861)

Step 2: Making the Cake Batter

Ingredients:
  • 5 Large Eggs, Divided and Placed in Separate Large Mixing Bowls
  • 1 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • Grated Zest of Half a Lemon
  • 1 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
Directions:
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar. If using an electric mixer, beat for about 2 minutes on the medium-high setting. 

2. Add the lemon zest to the egg yolk and sugar mixture and beat for just a few seconds to incorporate it evenly throughout the batter. 

3. Add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture by forcing it through a sieve or sifter to lighten it. Be sure to fold, not stir,  the flour into the egg yolk mixture to keep it as light as possible. Click here to learn how to fold. The flour doesn't need to be completely mixed before you move to the next step.

4. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites, which are in a separate large mixing bowl, until stiff peaks form. Then, fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter, being very careful to keep the batter as light and airy as possible. It should look like this:


Savoy Cake Batter: Light and Airy

5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan. It should fill the pan no higher than about two-thirds the way up the pan. This cake will rise a lot so be sure there is room for it to grow. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean and the color is a light golden brown.

Savoy Biscuits
Here is a recipe for a biscuit version of Savoy Cakes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!):

Savoy Biscuits
12 eggs, the weight of 12 in sugar, the wt. of 7 in flour, the rind of 2 lemons, as soon as it rises, grate a little sugar over them in the oven, the juice of one lemon.


Savoy Biscuits

Savoy Biscuits: Modern Recipe Adaptation
Yield: 4 Dozen (note that I quartered the recipe from the original)
  • 4 Large Eggs, Separated
  • Juice of 1/4 a Lemon
  • Grated Rind of Half a Lemon
  • 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar (plus extra for coating tops of biscuits)
  • 3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour (weight = 3.75 ounces of flour so don't over pack!)
Directions:
Heat Oven to 350º F.

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar. If using an electric mixer, beat for about 2 minutes on the medium-high setting. 

2. Add the lemon juice and zest to the egg yolk and sugar mixture and beat for just a few seconds to incorporate it evenly throughout the batter. 

3. Add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture by forcing it through a sieve or sifter to lighten it. Be sure to fold, not stir,  the flour into the egg yolk mixture to keep it as light as possible. Click here to learn how to fold. The flour doesn't need to be completely mixed before you move to the next step.

4. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites, which are in a separate large mixing bowl, until stiff peaks form. Then, fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter, being very careful to keep the batter as light and airy as possible.

5. Pipe the batter in 1-inch wide by 4-inches long rows onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet or into a sponge finger/Naples Biscuit pan such as this one:

6. Bake for 10 minutes and sprinkle them with granulated sugar immediately after you remove the biscuits from the oven.



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