Rich Pound Cake

Cake, often regarded as dessert, was in fact, during Jane Austen's day, saved for breakfast or tea. Dessert, as mentioned in an earlier article, would have been fruit and nuts. Upon a visit to Stoneleigh Abbey, Mrs Austen, Jane's mother, was known to have remarked on the quantity of food at breakfast, listing, "Chocolate Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Rich Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter, and dry toast for me". The capitalizations are hers.

In their book, Cariadoc's Miscellany, David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook offer this recipe:
To Make an Excellent Rich Pound Cake (GOOD) To a peck of fine flour take six pounds of fresh butter, which must be tenderly melted, ten pounds of currants, of cloves and mace, 1/2 an ounce of each, an ounce of cinnamon, 1/2 an ounce of nutmegs, four ounces of sugar, one pint of sack mixed with a quart at least of thick barm of ale (as soon as it is settled to have the thick fall to the bottom, which will be when it is about two days old), half a pint of rosewater; 1/2 a quarter of an ounce of saffron. Then make your paste, strewing the spices, finely beaten, upon the flour: then put the melted butter (but even just melted) to it; then the barm, and other liquours: and put it into the oven well heated presently. For the better baking of it, put it in a hoop, and let it stand in the oven one hour and a half. You ice the cake with the whites of two eggs, a small quantity of rosewater, and some sugar.
3/8 lb = 1 1/2 sticks of butter 5/8 lb currants = 2 c = 10 oz 1/4 t cloves 1/4 t mace 1/2 t cinnamon 1/4 t nutmeg1/2 T sugar 2 T sack (or sherry) 1/4 c ale yeast settled out of homemade mead or beer (or 1 t dried yeast dissolved in 3 T water) 1 T rosewater 8 threads saffron Icing: 1/8 egg white (about 2 t) 1/4 t rosewater 2 T sugar
  1. Mix flour, spices, and sugar.
  2. Melt butter, mix up yeast mixture, and crush the saffron in the rosewater to extract the color.
  3. When the butter is melted, stir it into the flour mixture, then add sack, yeast mixture, and rosewater-saffron mixture.
  4. Stir this until smooth, then stir in currants.
  5. Bake at 350deg. in a greased 10" round pan or a 7"x11" rectangular pan for 40 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan and spread with a thin layer of icing; We usually cut it up into bar cookies.
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