Queen's Cakes are little pound cakes with currants baked in small fluted pans.
So how did they get the name - was there a particular Queen? Petty or Patty Pans could be large or small, china or tin, and huge numbers. Recipes given for the cake and icing...
The earliest recipe was probably in the Court Cookery, 1725, by Robert Smith who wrote in his forward that he cooked in the kitchens of King William (1650 –1702) under the royal chef for four monarchs Patrick Lamb (Royal Cookery, or the Complete Court-Cook). So the Queens possibly were Mary (d1694), then her sister Queen Anne (reigned 1702-1714). King George was estranged from his wife Sofia who never was crowned Queen of England.
To make Queens Cakes. - 1725
"TAke a Pound of dry'd Flower, a Pound of refin'd Sugar sifted, and a Pound of Currans wash'd, pick'd, and rubb'd clean, and a Pound of Butter wash'd very well, and rub it into the Flower and Sugar, with a little beaten Mace, and a little Orange-Flower Water; beat ten Eggs, but half the Whites, work it all well together with your Hands, and put in the Currans; sift over it double-refin'd Sugar, and put them immediately into a gentle Oven to bake." [Court Cookery. Robert Smith. 1725]
"These are done the same way as the plum-cake, only all the fruits (except the currants) are kept out, and they are baked in small-ribbed petty-pans." [The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary. Mrs. Frazer. 1820]
Although basically flour, sugar, butter, eggs, (the beaten eggs are the leavening) mace and currants, with sugar sprinkled on the top, the small cakes could also contain orange flower water , rose water , nutmeg , or pounded almond flour or almond pieces [1827, 1764].
More details may be found in Moxon, 1764, which also had a recipe 'To make King Cakes' "... make them up in little round cakes, and butter the papers you lie them on."
"To make Queen Cakes. Take a pound of London flour dry'd well before the fire, nine eggs, a pound of loaf sugar beaten and sifted, put one half to your eggs and the other to your butter; take a pound of butter and melt it without water put it into a stone bowl, when it is almost cold put in your sugar and a spoonful or two of rose water, beat it very quick, for half an hour, till it be as white as cream; beat the eggs and sugar as long and very quick, whilst they be white; when they are well beat mix them all together; then take half a pound of currans cleaned well, and a little shred mace, so you may fill one part of your tins before you put in your currans; you may put a quarter of a pound of almonds shred (if you please) into them that is without the currans ; you may ice them if you please, but do not let the iceing be thicker than you may lie on with a little brush." [English Housewifry. Elizabeth Moxon 1764]
Queen cakes appear in confectioner's ads in the 18th and 19th century. "Seymour's Coffee and Jelly House... Hartshorn jellies in perfection at 2 s per dozen; royal queen cakes at 2 d, chocolate at 2 d a dish, and Arrack made into punch, as cheap as rum or brandy..." [Gazetteer and Londan Daily Advertiser. Oct. 16, 1756]
Many court chefs of the 17th and 18th century wrote cookbooks, some with the word Queen in the title: The Queen's Closet Opened , The Queen-like Closet , Queens Delight  and The Queen's Royal Cookery . Dedications and recipes were named for a specific royal, such as "To make a Cake the way of the Royal Princess, the Lady Elizabeth, daughter to King Charles the first." "Queen's Pancakes" and "Queen Cake" appeared in Court Cookery, 1725, by Robert Smith.
The French may have influenced the naming of Queen Cakes with recipes titled "Bisquite du Roy" [The Accomplisht Cook, by Robert May, 1685] and "Queen's Cake. Gateau a la Reine."
Queen's Cake. Gateau a la Reine.
"Beat a pound of sweet almonds; add a pound of sifted sugar, and four whites of eggs by degrees; when well prepared it may be made into different shapes, and decorated according to fancy; put it in a slow oven; glaze it as the genoises." [The Art of French cookery. Antoine B. Beauvilliers 1827]
King Cakes may have been a name source for the smaller Queen Cakes. Elizabeth Moxon, 1764 and Charlotte Mason, 1777 had recipes for both. Their King Cakes had currants, but were not the elaborate Twelth Night cakes.
Moxon, 1764 in two non Queen Cake recipes said to "...cut them out with queen cake tins." For Queen's Cakes Leslie suggested "...small tins of a round or oval shape are most convenient. Fill them but little more than half." [Seventy-five receipts for pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats. Eliza Leslie 1830] Other options were to "...bake in small saucers, or fluted tins made for the purpose." [The Cook and Housewife's Manual. Christian Isobel Johnstone. 1828] or "...baked in small-ribbed petty-pans." [The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary. Mrs. Frazer. 1820]. Rundell suggested "...beat the whole an hour; butter little tins, tea-cups, or saucers, and bake the batter in, filling only half. Sift a little fine sugar over just as you put into the oven. ...Another way. Butter small pattypans, half fill, and bake twenty minutes in a quick oven." [A New System of Domestic Cookery. Maria Rundell, 1808]
"Before you fill your tins again, scrape them well with a knife, and wash or wipe them clean. If the cakes are scorched by too hot a fire, do not scrape off the burnt parts till they have grown cold. [Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-five Receipts for pastry cakes, and sweetmeats... Philadelphia: 1832]
For Eliza Leslie's queen cakes, which also contain wine, brandy, rosewater or lemon: "Make an icing with the whites of three eggs, beaten till it stands alone, and twenty-four teaspoonfuls of the best loaf-sugar, powdered, and beaten gradually into the white of egg. Flavour it with a tea-spoonful of rose-water or eight drops of essence of lemon, stirred in at the last. Spread it evenly with a broad knife, over the top of each queen-cake, ornamenting them, (while the icing is quite wet) with red and green nonpareils, or fine sugar-sand, dropped on carefully, with the thumb and finger." [Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-five Receipts for pastry cakes, and sweetmeats... Philadelphia: 1832]
"Make an icing... and spread two coats of it on the queen cakes. Set them to dry in a warm place, but not near enough the fire to discolour the icing and cause it to crack. Queen cakes are best the day they are baked." [Leslie, Eliza. Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches. Phila: 1840]
"...you may ice them if you please, but do not let the iceing be thicker than you may lie on with a little brush." [English Housewifry. Elizabeth Moxon 1764]
©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber