Monday, May 05, 2014

A Cruise and a Cake.

I have not given you a steamship menu for some time, so today we are aboard the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. vessel S.S. Mongolia. It is May 5, 1908, and we are en route from San Francisco to the Far East. The ship carried 350 first-class passengers, 68 second class passengers, and 1,300 more travelled in steerage. Today’s menu does not specify the class for which the meal was intended – but it was certainly not for the poorer sort of person accommodated in the crowded depths of the steerage level of the ship.

Tuesday, May 5th, 1908
Caviare Toast               Ripe Olives
Rice Tomato                Consomme
Baked Fish, Brown Butter Sauce
Larded Filet of Beef
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Squab Chicken on Toast
Brandy Punch
Roast Ribs of Beef and Horseradish
Roast Lamb, Mint Sauce
Boiled Fowl with Ox Tongues
Roast Potatoes             Mashed Potatoes
Fried Egg Plant             Wax Beans
Macaroni au Gratin
Puddings & Pastry
Sponge Pudding, Raspberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie                Floating Island
Banbury Cakea
Crackers          Cheese
Fruits               Coffee

I had not difficulty deciding on which of the menu items to focus on today. The presence of Banbury Cake on a formal dinner menu is a little unusual – or it would certainly seem so to any English passengers on this American vessel, as it would more usually appear at afternoon tea in England. The cake is essentially a simple pastry stuffed with currants . It is a specialty of the town of Banbury in Oxfordshire, England, and has been made there since at least the sixteenth century.

The earliest known recipe for a Banbury Cake is from Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615.)

To make a very good Banbury Cake, take 4 pounds of Currants, and wash and picke them very cleane, and drie them in a cloth: then take three egges and put away one yelke and beate them, and straine them with good barme, [yeast] putting thereto Cloves, Mace, Cinamon and Nutmegges; then take a pinte of creame, and as much mornings milke and set it on the fire till the cold bee taken away: then take flower and put in good store of cold butter and suger, then put in your egges, barme and meale and work them all together an houre or more: then save a part of the past, and the rest break in peeces and work in your Currants: which done, mould your Cake of what quantity you please; And then with that Past which hath not any Currants cover it very thinne both underneath and aloft. And so bake it according to the bignesse.

P.S. The very similar Eccles Cake appeared on another shipboard menu in a previous post HERE.

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