Mary Kettilby’s 1734 Recipe for ‘Apricot or Quince Cakes’

“Take a Pound of your ripest Apricots, scald them, peel them and take out the Stones ; then mash them to Pieces with the Back of your Spoon ; then take half a Pound of double-refin’d Sugar, and a Spoonful of Water, boil it to a Candy ; then put in the Pulp of your Apricots ; let it stand a quarter of an Hour on the Fire, and boil a little, stirring it well ; then pour it into shallow flat Glasses. that it may easily turn out ; let it stand two Days in the Glasses ; then lay them on Glass Plates, stove them, and turn them daily.

You may do Quince Cakes thus, only allow more Sugar ; but if your Apricots are full ripe, this, by that time they are skinn’d and ston’d, is a fit Quantity, and will keep them all the Year.”

Mary Kettilby, A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick, and Surgery, 5th edtn (1734)

Here in the UK it is, of course, far too early in the season for fresh, home-grown apricots, but the fruitlets are forming on the tree in the kitchen garden at work, and it’s always a good idea to stockpile a few relevant recipes for when they are ripe and ready to pick.

This eighteenth century recipe for ‘Apricot Cakes’ turns out to be a method for making preserved apricot cheese, rather than a cake as we’d understand it today. No flour, no eggs, just the fruit pulp, added to sugar boiled to “a Candy” and then turned out into glasses to cool and set, before drying them in a stove. The same treatment can be applied to quinces, even later in the year.

How about you? Do you have any favourite recipes for apricots? Do you preserve yours, or bake a cake with them? Or do they not last long enough to be cooked? Do let me know, via the comments.

3 comments

  1. I’d love to grow apricots. Do you think they’re suited to the Manchester climate? I would have a go at this 18th-century recipe. It sounds delicious.

    1. Hi Christopher – We’ve got an apricot (and a peach, and a nectarine) growing against a south-facing wall in the kitchen garden at Quarry Bank, and apparently they do quite well. I suspect they’d need that shelter and additional warmth to fruit well though.

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