Monday, June 3, 2013

Strawberry Cakes - Eliza Leslie

Probably the earliest Strawberry Shortcake recipe is by Eliza Leslie in 1847.  It is a crisp cookie/pie crust cake, made richer if you use the pint (4 sticks) rather than the half pound (2 sticks) of butter - Leslie mentions both.

Years ago we made these in a brick bake oven, in the summer heat, visiting the Jersey shore.  It's a perfect summer treat, and   strawberries are now out around here and they are delicious. so for the recipe... 

Sift a 'small quart' (4 cups) of flour and knead in the butter (1 to 2 cups) until crumbly.  Beat 3 eggs then add 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Combine all the ingredients to form a dough able to roll.  Leslie suggests a 'very little cold water' if too dry/stiff.  Then the lyrical instruction: 'Knead the dough till it quits your hands, and leaves them clean.'  Roll out the dough thickly on a floured board, cut with a tumbler or round cutter and place on buttered sheet to bake. 

Once they are a light brown, take out of the oven, cool and split.  Spoon cut strawberries in sugar unto the bottom, add the top and ice all over the cake.  Top with a whole berry. 

Leslie's recipe:
"Sift a small quart of flour into a pan, and cut up among it half a pound of the best fresh butter; or mix in a pint of butter if it is soft enough to measure in that manner. Rub with your hands the butter into the flour, till the whole is crumbled fine.

Beat three eggs very light; and then mix with them three table-spoonfuls of powdered loaf-sugar. Wet the flour and butter with the beaten egg and sugar, so as to form a dough. If you find it too stiff, add a very little cold water. Knead the dough till it quits your hands, and leaves them clean.

Spread some flour on your paste-board, and roll out the dough into a rather thick sheet. Cut it into round cakes with the edge of a tumbler, or something similar; dipping the cutter frequently into flour to prevent its sticking. Butter some large square iron pans or baking sheets. Lay the cakes in, not too close to each other. Set them in a brisk oven, and bake them light brown.

Have ready a sufficient quantity of ripe strawberries, mashed and made very sweet with powdered white sugar. Reserve some of your finest strawberries whole.

When the cakes are cool, split them, place them on flat dishes, and cover the bottom piece of each with mashed strawberry, put on thickly. Then lay on the top pieces, pressing them down. Have ready some icing, and spread it thickly over the top and down the sides of each cake, so as to enclose both the upper and lower pieces. Before the icing has quite dried, ornament the top of every cake with the whole strawberries, a large one in the centre, and the smaller ones placed round in a close circle.

These are delicious and beautiful cakes if properly made. The strawberries, not being cooked, will retain all their natural flavour.

Instead of strawberries you may use raspberries. The large white or buff-coloured raspberry is the finest, if to be eaten uncooked."

Leslie, Eliza. The Lady's Receipt-Book; a Useful Companion for Large or Small Families...
Philadelphia: 1847.

Painting: Raphaelle Peale. Still Life: Strawberries, Nuts &c. 1822 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

©2013 Patricia Bixler Reber

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