Sunday, July 31, 2016

Iced Brandy Pound Cake

Iced Brandy Pound Cake

The following recipes come 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.

Pound Cake
1 lb. of flour, 1 lb. of sugar, 1 ¼ lb. of Butter beat to a cream, 1 lb. of eggs beaten very light, nutmeg or mace and a wine glass of French Brandy. & the flour to be stirred in, the last & sifted.

About Pound Cake
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest record of Pound-Cake is from Hannah Glasse’s, 1747 The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (London). Here is that recipe which gives the option of including either caraway seeds or currants (very typical for the time period):

There are many different examples of historic pound cakes and some are called other things, such as Cup Cake or 1-2-3-4 Cake (named for the 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs in the recipe). Because the name Pound Cake infers that the baker will have a scale to weigh out all of the ingredients, those who could not afford a scale needed to use a cup system in its place. The size of the cup was less important than making sure that the same cup was used for measuring all of the ingredients required in the recipe for the sake of uniformity. While Fannie Farmer is often given credit for inventing the modern American system of measuring ingredients with cups, many bakers throughout the 19th century were doing this, particularly cookbook author Eliza Leslie and Lydia Child. Here is a recipe for a cup cake from Lydia Child's 1830 The Frugal Housewife (Boston):

Brandy Pound Cake: Modern Recipe Adaptation

  • 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Grated Nutmeg or Mace (or a bit of each)
  • 1 1/4 Pounds Butter (5 sticks), Softened
  • 2 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 8 Large Eggs, Separated
  • 1/4 Cup French Brandy

1.  Heat the Oven to 375ยบ F.
2.  Grease a 12 cup capacity tube/Bundt cake pan.  The tube in the center facilitates even cooking, but you can use a regular cake pan.
3.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Set aside. 
4.  In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks and brandy and beat until well-blended. 
5.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until very fluffy to the point where soft peaks form.
6.  Add the egg whites and flour alternately to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until everything is well-incorporated.
7. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake about 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. 
8.  Let cool for just a few minutes and then remove from the pan immediately. 
9.  Top with the recipe for icing, also from the Morris manuscript, at the bottom of this page.

Icing for Cakes
For a large one, beat & sift eight oz.’s of best loaf sugar, put in a mortar with four spoonfuls of Rose Water & the whites of two eggs beaten & strained whisk it well, & when the cake is almost cold, dip a feather in the icing & cover the cake well; set it in the oven to harden, but do not let it stay to discolour.

Rose Water:
The flavoring for this icing is rosewater. Rosewater has been made by steeping the petals in water, oil or alcohol since the days of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The process of distilling rosewater evolved in the 3rd-4th centuries AD in Mesopatamia. Persia became a rosewater distillation center by the 9th century, and the fragrant essence made its way to Europe in the 11th century with the crusaders, and subsequently became very popular in Medieval English cookery.

Icing: Modern Recipe Adaptation

  • 2 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Rose Water
  • 2 Egg Whites


1.  Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
2. Pour or drizzle over cake. Allow the icing to dry and set.

Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food, 2002

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