Monday, August 15, 2016

Jumbals: A Favorite Tea Cake

Jumbals and Tea

The following recipe comes 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.

Jumbals– Mrs. Hollin
3 lbs. flour, 2 lbs. of butter, 2 lbs. of Sugar, 6 eggs well beat, 6 spoonfuls of rose, or peach water; then rolled in sifted sugar. Spread them on a buttered paper and bake them in rings in a gentle oven.

About Jumbals (Jumbles)

Jumbals, or jumbles as they are more commonly spelled, are a type of sweet biscuit/cookie that goes back to 17th century England. The recipe for them is similar to that of an American style sugar cookie. What makes these unique is that they were historically shaped in knots or rounds. The name itself is a corruption of the term gemmel, referring to a double intertwined finger ring. This term is most likely derived from the Latin word gemellus for twin and the old French word gemel for twin.

Here is a Gemmel Ring:

Source: Wikipedia

Jumbles Recipes in History
Here are some 17th and 18th century British recipes for jumbles: 

R. Smith, Court Cookery, or the Compleat English Cook (London, 1725)

E. Moxon, English Housewifery (Leedes, 1764)

Early American Recipes for Jumbles
19th century American recipes are just as varied as the British ones and can be made with caraway seeds, fruit (zante currants), almonds, lemon, rose-water, orange flower water, and cocoanut. Here are some examples:

E. Leslie, Directions for Cookery (Philadelphia, 1840)
M. Henderson. Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving (New York, 1877)
F. Gillette. White House Cook Book (Chicago, 1887)


Jumbals - Modern Recipe Adaptation
Yield: About 28 1-Ounce Cookies


  • 1/2 Pound or 2 Sticks Butter, Softened
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • Yolks of 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoons Rose Water, Orange Flower Water or Vanilla (or, to taste)
  • 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • Confectioner's Sugar for Tops
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and flavoring and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. 
  2. Add the flour and mix. 
  3. Wrap the dough in 4 separate parcels in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. While the dough is resting, heat the oven to 350ยบ F.
  4. On a floured surface, shape the dough into 6-8 inch long logs and then shape into circles or twists.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes
  6. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve warm or cold.


  • Davidson, Alan. The Penguin Companion to Food, New York, 2002.
  • Oxford English Dictionary

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