Victorian Cooking

Regency Cookbook: Rout Cakes

This is a nice, easy one. Quick, too.

These small cakes were popular at evening parties or routs (hence the name) and, though the recipe I used was Georgian, they were still popular in the Victorian era. They pop up in Jane Austen’s Emma, Vanity Fair, and Dickens. All over 19th century literature, really.

FYI, I had a little helper in the kitchen this week, but he didn’t want to be photographed.

Emma: Picnic at Boxhill (at which rout cakes were almost certainly not served). Caption reads: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse…to say”

First, the regency recipe:

To make rout drop-cakes, mix two pounds of flour with 1 pound of butter, one pound of sugar, and one pound of currants, cleaned and dried. Moisten it into a stiff paste with two eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, as much rose water, sweet wine and brandy. Drop the paste on a tin plate floured, and a short time will bake them.

From The Cook and Housekeeper’s Dictionary by Mary Eaton, 1822.

You have to love the complete lack of detail in these old recipe books. “A short time will bake them?” What the hell?

Also that amount of ingredients would make a whole lot of rout cakes. I want about twelve, so I’m going to adapt a recipe from this book, which in turn adapts a recipe from Mrs. Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery from 1806, which is almost identical to Mary Eaton’s.

Ingredients:

100 g self-raising flour

50 g butter

50 g sugar

50 g currants

1 egg

2 drops of orange essence (in place of 1 tsp orange-flower water which I couldn’t get)

2 drops of rose essence (in place of rosewater which I also couldn’t get)

1 tbsp brandy (which I absolutely got)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190C.

  1. Rub the butter into the flour, then add the sugar and currants:

2. Whisk the egg with the orange and rose essences, and brandy. It will smell awesome and you’ll start to get excited. Also, I’m not supposed to show you this:

This is what happens when you ask an 8 yr old to crack an egg. His hands were now thoroughly dirty and he was not happy.

3. Add some of the egg mix to the flour and combine. Sadly, you won’t need all of it, so only add it until you have a thick paste that will hold its shape like this:

Ready to go in the oven

4. Put heaped teaspoons of mix onto a greased baking tray as above.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

You should end up with 12 little cakes that look something like this:

Finished rout cakes.

Now bring on your test subjects.

At last, a unanimous verdict. More or less.

8 yr old: “This tastes delicious.”

15 yr old: “I’m not sure…but I’m going to finish it.”

We adults loved them, and I know they ate them at evening parties during the regency, but these would be really good with a nice cup of tea. Definitely try them.

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