Victorian Cooking

Georgian Cookbook: Bath Buns

This weeks’s recipe is from this book:

Before we even start, let me make it clear that I’ve never baked with yeast before. Never.

And I’m scared.

Here’s what you need for 12 buns:

450 g plain flour

1 tsp salt (not in historical recipe, so leave this out if you’re a purist)

150 g butter

7 g active dried yeast

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp caraway seeds

225 ml milk

2 tbsp sugar (for the glaze)

1 tbsp milk (for the glaze)

Now, here’s what you do:

  1. Add the salt to the flour and rub in the butter. Then, sprinkle in the yeast, sugar and caraway seeds.

2. Mix well. Then, warm the milk and stir into the dry ingrediants until you can form a soft dough.

3. Knead for about 10 minutes. I loved this part. Imagine the dough is a person who did you wrong and punch and pummel away. Grind their face against your counter. Drop them repeatedly from a great height. It’s very cathatic.

4. Place ball of dough in a bowl and cover with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours. I meant to take a photograph of the dough before I left it to rise, but I forgot. Luckily, my general incompetence is, I think, part of my charm.

5. Two hours later and, to my utter shock, this is what my smallish ball of dough had become:


5. Punch the air out of the dough and form into 12 balls. Don’t make them too smooth.

6 of 12

6. Cover with damp towels and allow to rise for another hour.

7. Now, I didn’t take a photo of what they looked like after the hour because, though they’d expanded, they’d gone out rather than up and they looked like sad little dough splats. Perhaps Because I am in no way a perfectionist, I decided to just cook the damn things.

8. Preheat oven to 190C. The recipe said bake for 12-15 minutes, but that is a filthy lie. With my oven, 20 minutes is much more like it.

9. Next, make the glaze by heating the milk and sugar together. Brush the warm glaze over the buns and sprinkle a bit of sugar on top. The recipe said caraway seeds as well as sugar, but I knew two of my test subjects would balk if I tried that.

Here’s what I ended up with:

They may not be as pretty as the ones in the book but they taste v. good.

Honestly, these didn’t rise the second time as much as they should have. You can probably do a better job.

But, anyway, here’s what the test subjects had to say:

8 yr old: “It’s good but not perfect.”

15 yr old: “Good but would be better with icing.”

The adults loved them. A bit too much. Not only are we doing Keto, but wheat (to paraphrase Jane Austen) “disorders my stomach.” We only meant to have a bite, but we both ended up having a whole bun each. (I’m probably not supposed to say this publicly, but Mr. B had two. Don’t tell him I told you.)

These are really, really good. Apparently, the Georgians ate them with jam and clotted cream (a bit like a scone) and, though I haven’t tried that, I bet it would be amazing.

Edited to add: Mr. Bennet had five in a single day. I had three. Totally worth the stomach disorder.

Next week: Amy March’s Pickled Limes.

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.


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)


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.