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Orange Poundcake Bites with a Cointreau Glaze

One rich, dense, buttery cake is in almost every recipe book from the 1700s and 1800s. This simple recipe of equal parts flour, butter, sugar (and eggs) was first named in the 1747 Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse as pound cake. A slight variation of this recipe comes a bit earlier in the British 1727 Complet Housewife by Eliza Smith, in which she calls it a Portugal cake (and continues to be called a Madeira cake in the UK). When this recipe was in vogue, this cake ticked many boxes for the home cook. The richness extended the dessert's freshness for days, making it available for surprise visitors while allowing creativity by incorporating new and exotic flavors into baked goods. Even Hannah Glasse offered different staple recipe variations using caraway seeds or currants. The colonists often dried currants in their kitchens which were readily available for baking. Poundcake was always on the 18th-century dessert or tea table, complemented with coffee, tea, or a spirituous beverage or two.

"Of butter, flower, sugar, a quarter of a pound of each and as much yoke of egg as will mix into a stiff paste. Make them into round cakes the size of a half a crown. Bake them in tins. Put some caraway seeds in them" - Hannah Glasse

Whatever version was made, the recipe took a solid arm to combine. Today we use a hand or stand mixer to blend the ingredients; in the earlier years, the recipe was completed one step at a time with a big bowl and spoon. Consider how long it takes to dissolve a pound of sugar properly by hand.

My variation of this recipe was inspired by many of these historic recipes, including Eliza Smith's incorporation of orange and an adjustment in the size of the cake, which I found in a recipe called "Little Cakes for Tea," dated 1756 by an unknown author of the Pilgrim Colonies in Massachusetts.

Grab a spot of tea (or a glass of dessert wine) and take a bit into one of these beauties.


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