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Martha Washington’s Great Cake

Since many of you are avid foodies I felt you’d want to add this recipe to your collection as it’s unlikely to already be there. And egg lovers should find it even more interesting – this is a cake that celebrates them.

It has quite a pedigree too, being well over 200 years old and bequeathed to us from Martha Washington. It is her Great Cake recipe, something no eighteenth-century house wife would have been without. Commonly made with spices, candied fruit, sherry and brandy, a Great Cake was a huge celebratory cake traditionally served during the Christmas holidays.

We know this to be Martha’s personal recipe as it was meticulously copied down by her granddaughter, Martha Custis. There are several existing copies of this recipe but the one transcribed by her granddaughter reads:

“Take 40 eggs & divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well work’d then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powder’d to it in the same manner than put in the Youlks of eggs and 5 pounds of flower and 5 pounds of fruit, 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine & some fresh brandy.”

Although the younger Martha’s transcript was light on punctuation – not to mention details like types of fruit, and the amount and timing of adding the brandy and wine – she made sure to make the important facts clear. With 40 eggs, that must have been a great cake indeed! 

2017-04-17 10:00:04