Friday, February 10, 2006

The elaborate science of the confectioner.

Today, February 10th …

Victoria and Albert were married on this day in 1840, and the newspapers loved it. The 136 kg, 2.84 m. circumference wedding cake certainly inspired some effusive prose:

… it is described as consisting of the most exquisite compounds of all rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed, mingled, and mixed together into delightful harmony by the most elaborate science of the confectioner.

The cake had icing “of the purest white”, and was decorated with figures of Britannia, the royal couple (dressed “somewhat incongruously” in the costume of ancient Rome), a dog (to denote fidelity) a pair of turtle doves (denoting the felicities of the married state), and several Cupids – one recording the marriage date in a book, and others “sporting and enjoying themselves as such interesting little individuals generally do.”

Another newspaperman, tongue firmly in cheek commented:

We are assured that none of the cupids on the royal wedding-cake was intended to represent Lord Palmerston. The resemblance, therefore, pointed out by a correspondent must be purely accidental.

The first cookbook to give instructions for the now traditional wedding cake’s almond icing plus white icing, was Mrs Raffalds “Experienced English Housekeeper” (1769).

“The elaborate science” was hard physical work in those days.

To make Almond Icing for the Bride Cake.
Beat the whites of three eggs to a strong froth; beat a pound of Jordan almonds very fine with rosewater. Mix your almonds with the eggs lightly together [with] a pound of common loaf sugar beat fine, and put it in by degrees. When your cake is enough, take it out and lay your icing on and put it to brown.

To make Sugar Icing for the Bride Cake.
Beat two pounds of double-refined sugar with two ounces of fine starch, sift through a gauze sieve. Then beat the whites of five eggs with a knife upon a pewter dish half an hour. Beat in your sugar a little at a time, or it will make the eggs fall and will not be so good a colour. When you have put in all your sugar beat it half an hour longer, then lay it on your almond icing and spread it even with a knife. If it be put on as soon as the cake comes out of the oven, it will be hard by that time the cake is cold.

On Monday: Flowery, fishy, and fried.

No comments: