In my last post I wrote about rout cakes in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) and Vanity Fair by Thackeray (1847-48). Rout cakes were small rich cakes, flavoured with dried fruit and alcohol, which were commonly eaten at large parties and evening assemblies.
The earliest printed recipe for rout cakes that I could track down dates from 1806, from Mrs Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery. However, George Gascoigne advertised his new shop in the Leeds Intelligencer of Monday 6th July, 1795, noting that amongst the desserts he served up were ‘rout cakes’.
Mrs Rundell’s recipe for rout cakes is as follows:
Mix two pounds of flour, one ditto butter, one ditto sugar, one ditto currants, clean and dry; then wet into a stiff paste with two eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, ditto rose-water, ditto sweet wine, ditto brandy; drop on a tin plate floured, a very short time bakes them.
Since my version made with 150g flour produces 12-14 cakes, her quantities by my reckoning would produce about 80, probably a reasonable number for an evening party. Even were she feeding the likes of Joseph Sedley, who eats 24 in one evening, there would still have been sufficient for everyone else.
I used just freshly squeezed orange juice and brandy, instead of Mrs Rundell’s four different liquids, and added finely grated orange zest. And whilst I like the original version – with currants – I can heartily recommend using chocolate chips instead – in the photo below they are a mixture of currants and choc chips. And I’m sure other ingredients could also be used – dried cranberries, chopped nuts and glace cherries all spring to mind.
MRS ELTON’S ROUT CAKES (makes 12-14)
150g plain flour
50g butter at room temperature
50g caster sugar
1 small egg
40g currants (or choc chips)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons brandy
Finely grated zest of half an orange
Preset the oven to 180C / 160C fan oven/ Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a baking tray.
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl.
Rub in the butter using the tips of your fingers to make a crumbly mixture. Then stir in the sugar.
Beat the egg and stir in the orange juice and brandy.
Gradually mix the liquid into the dry ingredients to make a smooth dough.
Finally stir in the currants (or chocolate chips) and orange zest.
Spoon small heaps of the mixture onto the baking tray and bake for 16-18 minutes until golden brown.
When cool dust with sieved icing sugar.