This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Lemons and Spice and All Things Nice

Normally at this time of year I would be thinking of light and fresh tastes to go with the lighter days.   Just lately, however, it has been cold and wet, which has made me want to return to warmer foods and flavours.

A recipe which seemed to fit the bill was the one for this Lemon and Ginger Cake.    The recipe calls for lemons, brandy, lots of ground ginger and quite a heap of Cayenne pepper.   Just reading the recipe warmed me and also made my taste buds tingle in anticipation.

(I forgot to add 2 eggs to this photogaph)
The recipe reads thus:

Grate the rind of 2 or 3 lemons, add the juice to a glass of brandy.   Mix the lemon peel into a pound of flour, a teaspoon of carbonate of soda, 1/2 oz of ground ginger and 1/4 oz Cayenne Pepper (if approved).  Make a hole in the middle and pour in 3/4 lb black treacle and 1/2 lb melted butter, the lemon juice and brandy and mix.   The cake may be much improved with the addition of two eggs.  So I added them.

No baking instructions at all - which used to worry me, now I simply use my common sense.

I baked it in a moderate oven until it was done!  Just for fun I bake it in a Bundt tin as I thought I could have some fun decorating it.

This particular book has countless recipes for ginger cake, honey ginger cake, ginger nuts, gingerbread, hunting nuts, etc.  Ginger was definitely a favourite spice.   The addition of cayenne pepper was unusual enough to get my attention and soon had me thinking about spice routes and sailing ships.

Some people like spice shops, I always avoid them.   I like the smell of individual spices, but I find the combination of myriad spice smells really offends my nose.  Weird, but true.

No such problem with just the two spices.

The cake has a deliciously warm background note, provided by the Cayenne pepper, with a good strong ginger flavour which is enhanced by the brandy and ginger.   I was delighted with the result.   My only problem was that the cake was slightly dry - not a real problem because I had some ginger syrup left over from a previous bake.

I mixed it with a another splash of brandy and spooned it all over the cake.

Topped with tiny bits of lemon, candied zest and slivers of candied ginger, we were ready to tuck in.

It was really good, but yet again I find myself wanting to tweak and slightly change the recipe.  

An experiment for later in the year, perhaps.


  1. It sounds (and looks) delicious. Surely, tweaking the recipe is all part of the fun. I don't think I've ever followed one 'faithfully' in my life.

    1. Hi Cro, It really is a winning combination, one I'll be using again later in the year as the days begin to grow colder.
      I have no problem with tweaking savoury dishes, but I always worry about cakes and baking, and how alterations could affect the texture. These old recipes and the lack of instructions are 'freeing' my creativity.