American Recipe Book, Mostly Cakes and other Sweets, ca. 1860-ca. 1869

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[Library Title: Recipe book [ca. 1860-ca. 1869]]

Manuscript Location
Winterthur Library, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera
Holding Library Call No.
Doc. 416
Manuscript Cookbooks Survey Database ID#
Place of Origin
United States
Date of Composition
likely mostly 1860s, possibly with some slightly later additions

This book has two principal authors. It was begun, probably in the 1860s, by an individual who wrote culinary recipes on the first 28 pages and then, after a gap of blank pages, added medical and veterinary recipes beginning on page 54. A second writer wrote additional recipes, all culinary, on some of the blank pages left by the original author and in empty spaces among the original writer’s medical recipes. One or more other individuals with hands similar to that of the second writer may also have added recipes. The interests of both principal writers are similar. The book's culinary recipes mostly focus on cakes and cookies, secondarily on other sweets, particularly pies, puddings, and candies.

The recipes of the original writer comprise an interesting mix of long-traditional favorites such as loaf cake, hard gingerbread, and rich jumbles, and recipes that emerged around the time of the Civil War, such as pork cake, marble cake, cream pie made with starch-thickened milk rather than cream (titled “imitation,” page 8), mock mince pie (with crackers rather than mincemeat), and jelly roll. Several of the original writer's cake recipes are titled "cheap," which home cooks of the day understood to mean that expensive butter and eggs were largely replaced by milk or water and chemical leavening. The original writer credits several recipes on pages 10-12 to Mary Cornelius, author of The Young Housekeeper’s Friend, first published in 1845 and republished in an updated edition in 1859. The original writer provides an early recipe for modern strawberry shortcake under the title "Strawberry Cake" on page 13, an early recipe for "Sugar Cookies" on page 22, and an uncommon recipe for Fremont Gingerbread, presumably named for John Fremont, the first Republican presidential candidate (in 1856), on page 25.  

The recipes of the second writer are more consistently characteristic of the latter third of the nineteenth century. Among these recipes are several for candies, including chocolate caramels, butterscotch, and walnut creams. This suggests that the book may have been continued into the 1870s, as home candy-making did not gain widespread popularity in the U.S. until then.

To view digital images of this book, click on the link in the library catalog under "Multimedia" and then click on "1800s."