3 Elizabethan Dessert Recipes
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
In honor of National Cooking Day, we’re sharing 3 Elizabethan recipes for desserts mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays!
Recipe Format: Old VS New
Hannah Wooley’s Recipe Book
The below recipes are taken from Hannah Wooley’s recipe book: The Queen-like Closet, or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of Rare Receipts for Preserving, Candying and Cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex. To which is added, a supplement, presented to all ingenious ladies and gentlewomen. It was first published in London in 1670. Although this was after Queen Elizabeth I’s 1603 death, the recipes remained essentially unchanged from her era.
Fun Fact: This book includes the first known recipe for Sussex pond pudding!
From Romeo and Juliet
Act I Scene V - Servants clean up after the Capulet's feast.
First Servant says,
“Away with the joint-stools, remove the
court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save
me a piece of marchpane; and, as thou lovest me, let
the porter let in Susan Grindstone and Nell.”
It’s basically stiffened marzipan.
Fun Fact #1: Buildings were often modeled with marchpane. In fact, a model of Old St Paul’s Cathedral was constructed from marchpane & shown to Queen Elizabeth I. She was very impressed.
Fun Fact #2: Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615) says that marchpane should have “the first place, the middle place, and the last place” of a banquet. Apparently, it was a real crowd favourite.
To make Marchpane
Take two Pounds of Jordan Almonds, blanch and beat them in a Mortar with Rosewater, then take one Pound and half of Sugar finely searced, when the Almonds are beaten to a fine Paste with the Sugar, then, take it out of the Mortar, and mould it with searced Sugar, and let it stand one hour to cool, then roll it as thin as you would do for a Tart, and cut it round by the Plate, then set an edge about it, and pinch it, then set it on a bottom of Wafers, and bake it a little, then Ice it with Rosewater and Sugar, and the White of an Egg beaten together, and put it into the Oven again,
When you see the Ice rise white and high, take it out, and set up a long piece of Marchpane first baked in the middle of the Marchpane, stick it with several sorts of Comfits, then lay on Leaf-gold with a Feather and the White of an Egg beaten.
Marchpane from a 1580s mould
From Merry Wives of Windsor
Act V Scene V - Climax of the Play! Mistress Quickly, Sir Hugh, and others disguise as fairies to scare Falstaff. They then make fun of him for falling for their trick, and Page invites him over to cheer him up.
“Yet be cheerful, knight: thou shalt eat a posset
to-night at my house; where I will desire thee to
laugh at my wife, that now laughs at thee: tell her
Master Slender hath married her daughter.”
It was initially a dessert or drink made from milk curdled with wine or ale.
Fun Fact: Besides being a fun drink, it was often used to cure colds and fevers. Shakespeare mentions its medicinal properties in Hamlet, Act I Scene V:
“And with sudden vigour it doth posset,
And curd, like aigre [sour] droppings into milk,
The thin and