John Nott on Making Clear Cakes of Plums

Stone your Plums, put them into a Jug, set the Jug in a Kettle of boiling Water ; when they are dissolv’d, strain them through a Cloth, put a Pound of Sugar boil’d to a candy Height to every Pint of the Plum Liquor ; incorporate all well together, let them boil a little, stirring them together ; make it into Cakes, put them into Glasses, and set them in a Stove that is moderately hot, or else they will grow tough ; let them stand for a Fortnight or three Weeks without being cool’d, removing them from one warm Place to another, turning them daily till they are thorough dry, and they will be very clear.

John Nott, the Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary (1724)

This eighteenth century recipe seems to be for a plum confection that, if I’m reading it right, must turn out to be a sort of clear, solid jelly, rather than a ‘cake’ in the sense that we usually understand the word i.e. one baked with flour. I guess it would be similar in consistency to a liquorice ‘Pontefract cake‘?

I’m really not sure I’d be able to keep the oven on for three weeks to try to make the plum version though. Of course this was written for an audience, presumably of cooks to the estate-owning gentry, who would have been used to having large kitchen ovens accessible to them at all hours. The idea of using the spare overnight heat to make clear plum cakes would probably have seemed like a good use of spare capacity.

I don’t suppose anyone else is likely to have a go at this one either, but if by some chance you do, please do drop me a line with your notes and pictures, I’d love to know how they turn out.

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