American Cookbook in Recurring Hands, Early 1800's

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[Library Title: Receipt book]

Holding Library Call No.
LMC 2435
Manuscript Cookbooks Survey Database ID#
Place of Origin
United States
Date of Composition
ca. 1800-ca. 1820

This American cookbook comprises approximately 65 pages of recipes written in an oblong notebook measuring 6 1/4 x 8 inches.  A small 24-page fascicle containing additional recipes has been inserted or sewn into the center of the notebook.  The book is in many hands, some of which appear to recur in the volume, suggesting that the book was a collaborative project.

Many of the recipes in the book look back to the eighteenth century.  For example, the first three recipes in the book—Potatoe Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding, and Whipt Cream—are copied virtually verbatim from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, an English cookbook first published in 1747 that was extremely popular in America. However, the fourth recipe, Christmas Cookey, is copied from the first printed American cookbook, Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery, first published in 1796, and several other recipes, such as Composition Cake, were likely not current until the first or second decade of the nineteenth century, which is likely the approximate composition date of the entire volume. (The fascicle may have been compiled a bit later.) Because American Cookery was the only important American cookbook in print prior to 1824, this manuscript is of high value.

The book focuses primarily on cakes and puddings, secondarily on tea cakes (milk biscuits, buns, wigs, Bath cakes, muffins, crumpets, and the like), fruit preserving, and dessert creams such as whipt cream, trifle, and syllabub. The principal courses of the meal are represented by only a few sporadic recipes for catchups, beef dishes, and potted foods. Reflecting the early time in which it was written, the book contains a number of recipes that are clearly English in origin, such as the recipe for Gofers (digital image 71), an English term (from the French gauffres) that could denote either wafers or waffles.  However, there are also a number of American recipes, including Election Cake, Cider Cake, Indian Pudding, Spruce Beer, and Loaf Cake, the last a yeast-raised fruited cake baked in large batches for tea and other uses. The 35-pound Loaf Cake outlined on digital page 23 includes the note, “This is the cake to bake.”