Shrewsbury Cake

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You'll find this recipe in:
The Frugal Housewife's Manual
By “A.B. of Grimsby”
Toronto, 1840

Original Recipe:

10. Shrewsbury Cake.
Mix half a pound of butter well beaten, and the same weight of flour, one egg, six ounces of sifted loaf sugar, and half an ounce of carraway seeds; form these into a paste, roll them thin, and cut them out. Bake on tin, in a moderately heated oven.

My Recipe:

1 cup (½ lb) softened butter
¾ cup white sugar – 170 g
1 ½ cups white flour – 225 g
1 egg
3 tbsp caraway seeds

1) Cream the butter and sugar together, then incorporate the flour, egg and caraway seeds to form a dough. You may be thinking: “There isn't enough flour” or “This is WAY too much caraway”, but there's no need to worry.

2) Since this is a very wet and buttery dough, you'll need to use a lot of flour on the rolling pin & rolling surface when you roll it out. Roll the Shrewsbury Cakes thin, then bake in a 350F/175C oven for about 15 minutes, until they are slightly golden on the bottom.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen 2 inch/5 cm cookies.

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These Shrewsbury Cakes are one of first recipes that I tested out for the Open Hearth Cooking Classes that I'm teaching at Nelles Manor in Grimsby, Ontario on September 9th (Grimsby is close to Niagara Falls).

Open hearths are like people – they've all got their own idiosyncrasies - so I thought it would be wise to spend some time getting acquainted with the 230 year-old hearth in the Nelles Manor kitchen before teaching the cooking workshop. Open hearth cookery is much more exciting than using my regular old oven, anyway. Check out these photos of the Shrewsbury Cakes on the griddle!

My aim for this workshop is to prepare some seasonal autumn recipes that will highlight a variety of open hearth cooking techniques, one of those being using a griddle over the fire. I selected this recipe and another from the same cookbook to test out on the griddle, one of which we'd make at the workshop and the other would be destined for my blog.

Shrewsbury Cakes are so buttery that, even though the griddle at Nelles Manor is very well balanced, they tended to slide off the griddle! I actually lost one into the fire, but after that I was able to shepard them back onto the griddle when they slid. In the end, slipperiness was the deciding factor for which recipe we'd be making at the class.

There's a very good reason why I selected these two recipes: they are both from the first English-language cookbook that was both compiled & printed in Canada. The Frugal Housewife's Manual was published in Toronto in 1840, but the cookbook author is credited as “A. B. of Grimsby”. I love this connection to the Nelles family, since they likely would have known this mysterious A. B.. As far as I know, the author's identity is still unknown, but the folks at Nelles Manor seemed intrigued by the puzzle. Perhaps we'll have a short list of possible authors soon.

Read the Cookbook: