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, 11 February 2017

Insects or E Numbers?

My granddaughter desperately wanted to make pink, as in 'VERY PINK' cakes today.   We made some last weekend but they were not quite pink enough.    I tried really hard to get some food colouring which is stable in baking but does not contain any of the dreaded 'E' numbers.    I would have settled for good old fashioned cochineal,  but I couldn't find any.

Which is a shame because I just happen to have stumbled across a recipe for home-made food colouring based upon

those little cochineal beetles.

To make Colouring
One ounce of cochineal, boil it in half a pint of water, five or ten minutes the add half an ounce of Cream of Tartar and half an ounce of Alum* add two ounces of loaf sugar, give it a boil, let it settle then pour it off and bottle it for use.

*Alum is also used in Baking Powder, so I suppose we have all ingested it at some point and it is considered to be safe.

Cochineal is a scarlet dye made from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect.   Sounds yummy, but on balance I think I'd rather use cochineal than some of the awful artificial colourants and E numbers which are put into modern food dyes, but that is my personal preference.

We made pink cakes, following a handwritten recipe in another one of my old books.

Rose Almond Cakes

4oz butter
4oz sugar
4oz flour
4oz ground almonds
2 eggs
Essence of Almonds

No method or baking instructions were given.  I simply followed the usual method of creaming the butter and sugar, gradually beating in the eggs, then add the flour, almonds, 'cochineal' and Almond Essence.

We baked them in a mix of cupcake wrappers and silicone heart-shaped moulds, at about 160 degrees.   However,  you know your own oven.

She was very happy with the results, the cakes are definitely pink on the inside.   The big heart-shaped ones are for daddy and Grandpa, of course.


  1. Happy girl and gorgeous too. Daddy and grandad must be very happy too. Where's yours?

  2. There is a definite bias towards the men in her life! Her older brother wants to make a Victoria Sponge Cake next. If I get them trained up I can hang up my pinny and leave it all to them in future.