Georgian Cooking

Georgian Cookbook: Ratafia Cakes

Regency romance readers will be familiar with ratafia as a drink at balls and parties, a fortified wine made from bitter almonds. Ratafia cakes are like little macaroons or amaretto cookies, and you can whip them up and have them in the oven in under five minutes.

Since bitter almonds contain cyanide and are now banned, I used Pen Vogler’s adapted recipe; almond extract may not be authentic, but at least it’s legal. You can buy Vogler’s book here. Martha Lloyd’s actual Georgian recipe includes “a little orange flower water,” so you could add that too if you want the recipe to be even more authentic.


  • 225 g ground almonds
  • 225 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2-3 drops almond extract

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a large bowl, sift the sugar into the ground almonds. I didn’t have icing sugar, so I used caster, which probably changed the texture of the finished cookies. Mix well.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Much easier with a modern electric whisk. Beat in the extract. Fold the resulting mixture into the almonds and sugar until you have a smooth (or, if you’re using caster, relatively smooth) paste.

The mix makes between 25 and 30 cookies, so line one or two (depending on the size of your trays) baking sheets with grease-proof paper. Each cookie needs a heaped teaspoon of mix. Press each one into cookie shape, then bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Since I had to use two baking sheets, the cookies on the lower shelf needed longer.

Allow to cool completely before eating.


Me: I made some biscuits and I want you to try them.

15 yr old: Okay… Wait, are these victorian?

Me: Georgian, actually.

15 yr old: Oh, no.

Despite this inauspicious beginning, this was by far the least controversial recipe I’ve tried. Everybody loved these. They were gorgeous. Particularly awesome with a nice cup of tea but, for the love of god, don’t make the tea in a microwave. My little British heart can’t take it.

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.