Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Eating the Past: Household Management and Cookery in Early Modern Europe

This guide supports the occasional series Eating the Past, a collaboration between USU Libraries Special Collections & Archives and Arts & Humanities faculty members using the historic cookbook collections to examine foodways of the past.

January 28, 2021 Event

A Very Good Cake (modernized and reduced by Phebe Jensen) from The Young Lady’s Companion (1734)


2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. currants
1 t cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t caraway seeds, ground
1/2 t ground coriander
5 T sugar
3 T chopped dates
3 T chopped raisins
2 T brandy
1 T white wine (or sack, if you have it)
1 T rosewater (or use 1 t vanilla)
10 T butter
3 oz. milk (3/8 c.)
1.5 t yeast, dissolved in 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. diced candied oranges and lemons
2 eggs


2 egg whites
1/2 to 1 pound powdered sugar

Directions for the Cake:

  1. Melt the butter in the milk, cool to "blood-warm."
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup water.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, currants, spices (cloves, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, carraway, and cardamon), sugar, dates, raisins, brandy, sack, and rose water, stirring well after each ingredient.
  4. Add the butter, milk, and yeast to the dough.
  5. Set the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours so that it puffs slightly.
  6. Add the candied citrus and eggs.
  7. Set the dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Line a 9" cake pan (springform works) with parchment; butter well.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, testing with a toothpick.

To Ice the Cake:

  1. As you take the cake out of the oven, start the frosting. Whip the egg whites stiff, then add the sugar slowly until the frosting is thick and gooey.
  2. When the cake is cool enough to handle but still warm, flip it over onto an oven proof plate.
  3. Pour the icing on the cake, spreading to the edges and letting it ooze over the sides. Return the cake to the warm oven with the heat off.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the icing hardens. 

Decorating Ideas

  1. It is recommended to "perfume" the cake with musk or ambergris steeped in rosewater.
  2. You can also "stick some sugar images round with almonds and sweet-meats," that is decorate with candied fruit or other sweets and nuts.


Orange Pudding (modernized by Tammy Proctor) from The Lady’s Complete Guide (1789)


1/3 c. Marmalade (use fine cut English marmalade)
2 ladyfingers, grated
2 sticks butter, unsalted
1/2 c. superfine sugar
6 egg yolks
One sheet defrosted puff pastry


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and put the shelf in the bottom third of the oven.
  2. Butter a square baking pan and line it with puff pastry.
  3. Mix marmalade with grated ladyfingers in a small bowl with a spoon; set aside.
  4. Using a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar, then add egg yolks one at a time. Mix until creamy. Fold in marmalade mixture until mixed through. Pour into pastry.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until brown on top. Cool for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Cooks note:

A good use for the leftover egg whites is to make individual cheese souffles. You need four ramekins for this. Beat egg whites to soft peak stage. Fold gently into the egg mixture 1/3 c. shredded cheese, salt, and pepper. Spoon into ramekins and top with an additional tablespoon of shredded cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven until brown on top.

The Young Lady's Companion (1734)

Phebe Jensen, Department Head of the USU English Department, prepared "A Very Good Cake" using the USU Special Collections & Archives copy of The Young Lady's Companion (COLL V Gr. 6 no. 49). This item is also available via the Eighteenth Century Collections Online database, via login with your A# and strong password. See page 125 [M3] of the text for the original recipe.

The Lady's Complete Guide (1789)

Tammy Proctor, Department Head of the USU History Department, prepared Orange Pudding using the USU Special Collections & Archives copy of The Lady's Complete Guide (COLL V Gr. 6 no. 68). This item is also available via the Eighteenth Century Collections Online database, via login with your A# and strong password. See page 346 of the text for the original recipe.