Happy Birthday!

So last weekend was my birthday! I got many lovely gifts, including the books Vauxhall Gardens: A History (thanks to Diane for the rec!), Versailles: A Private Invitation, and The Empire’s New Clothes: The Russian Fashion Industry 1700–1917. These will all keep me busy for quite a while. But what I really love about birthdays is cake!!

The Regency period wasn’t a big one for elaborate birthday celebrations, though there might be a special meal and small gifts of books and embroidered handkerchiefs and things like that, but even then people did like their cake. They probably didn’t have one like mine (which was this “Princess and the Frog” model), so I went to consult my bookshelves to see what they might have had. I pulled out Ian Kelly’s fascinating book, Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, First Celebrity Chef.

Careme is said to have invented the chef’s toque as well as the souffle, and he lived in remarkable times, being chef for the French royal family as well as Napoleon (he made the Emperor’s wedding cake when he we Queen Marie Louise!) before moving on to the Russian court, the Prince Regent’s household, and the Rothschilds. I found this recipe for Genoises Cakes a La Maraschino in the back of the book. (The historical note states that it was made at the Bighton Pavilion and Carlton House around 1817: “Maraschino, the Prince Regent’s favorite liqeur, was used repeatedly by Careme to flavor Brighton Pavilion recipes”).

I don’t quite have Carolyn’s dedication to hands-on research, so I can’t vouch for how this tastes! If you try it let me know how it turns out…

4 ounces almonds
Half an egg white
2 whole eggs
6 ounces flour
6 ounces pounded sugar
6 ounces butter
Zest of one orange
Maraschino brandy

Pound together 4 ounces of sweet almonds, half an egg white and then add six ounces of flour and six ounces of pounded sugar. Mix and add the zest of an orange, two whole eggs and a spoonful of brandy, a grain of salt and a splash of cochineal. Stir this for a full six minutes with a spatula, then take six ounces of butter, softened in the mouth of an oven, stir it a little, and then put it in the corner of a tureen, mix it with a little of the paste, and then more, stirring the whole for 4 or 5 minutes longer. Spread on a baking tray to the thickness of half an inch and level with a knife. Put in a slack (???) oven and as soon as the genoises are firm, cut them in all kinds of shapes, after which put them back in the oven to crisp

What is your favorite kind of cake? What would you choose for your birthday if you lived in the Regency? (And I love this Brighton Pavilion-shaped cake…)

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10 years ago


I love my Mother’s chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Living during the Regency period I might like some marzipan treats to satisfy my sweet tooth. The Pavilion cake is gorgeous.


Jane George
10 years ago

How the heck does one get half an egg white?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope your Princess and the Frog cake was delicious (sans cochineal).

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

LOL Jane! That is just one of the things I puzzled about with this recipe. But a cherry liqour-flavored cake does sound pretty yummy…

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Happy birthday, Amanda!

If I could guess what a “slack oven” is and where one could get cochineal (would red food coloring do?) I’d try that recipe!

As it is, I love flourless chocolate cake (my kids called it “flawless” when I made it), carrot cake and lemon poppyseed with glaze.

This is making me hungry!

Janet Mullany
10 years ago

Careme’s recipe sounds pretty much like a shortbread with ground almonds. Wouldn’t a slack oven be a low temp oven? Cochineal is the original red food coloring made from ground up South American bugs, but I’m not sure why you’d want pink shortbread in the first place!

Here’s a modern recipe which sounds nothing like it, described as a European sponge cake (?), http://allrecipes.com/recipe/genoise/ but has the advantage of no troublesome half egg whites.

Fancy cake, Amanda! Looks like there was lots of frosting…

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
10 years ago

Happy Birthday Amanda/Laurel! My favorite cake is white chocolate passionfruit.

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

I’m tempted to say my favorite cake is ice cream cake, but I do love a made from scratch white or yellow cake with some kind of creamy (not sugary) frosting.

Your cake must have made you laugh with delight!!! It is so pretty!

Happy Birthday!!!!!

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