This post was originally going to be called “Martha Washington’s Potato Rolls.” I had found recipes by that name in several cookbooks, and thought this would be a straightforward historical re-creation. Well food history is rarely straightforward — haven’t I learned that by now? The recipes turned out to be completely different, and I couldn’t tell which was really Martha’s.
We visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia estate, with some friends a few weeks ago, and had a good time touring the house and gardens. I then made a beeline for the exhibition “Hoecakes and Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington,” which is on display at Mount Vernon’s Reynolds Museum through August 11th.
This exhibition explores the work that went on behind the scenes to feed the Washingtons and their many visitors. Some of the original pots and pans and tableware are on display, as are a number of Martha’s cookbooks and recipes. There are recipes for hoecakes (George’s favorite breakfast), sturgeon, a “ragoo” of asparagus, and Martha’s “Great Cake.” But the one that appealed to me most was for a drink called cherry bounce. Continue reading
When I read about Martha Washington’s Great Cake, I wondered whether it was called that because it was really good or really large. I think the name was meant to describe its size — to give you an idea of just how big it was, here is Martha’s recipe:
Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work’d. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy. Continue reading