Thursday 20 April 2023

Recipe Test Simnel Cake

 Here is another Victorian Recipe Test by VSA member Marian Gibbard.


The Victorian Society of Alberta

Recipe Test:    Mrs.Crocombe’s Simnel Cake 

From:    English Heritage - The Victorian Way YouTube channel
Link:    English Heritage. (2023, April 4). How to Make Simnel Cake - The Victorian Way

When the link to this video was posted to the VSA Facebook page just before Easter, I thought it would be the perfect dessert for my holiday dinner. But then someone mentioned cheesecake and lemons and raspberries, and suddenly Simnel Cake turned into a ‘next weekend’ project.  And now, here we are at next weekend already.

Mrs Crocombe as depicted by Kathy Hipperson on English Heritage’s The Victorian Way YouTube channel is absolutely my favourite Victorian cook.  The humour is subtle, the educational details extensive without being oppressive, the attention to detail exceptional, and the recipes tantalising. I’d definitely recommend the channel to anyone interested in Victorian food or life ‘below the stairs’ on a Victorian estate.

I had most of the ingredients for the Simnel Cake in my kitchen already, other than the candied citron peel and candied lemon peel.  Since I wasn’t able to find either of them in any of the stores I visited while doing my last minute shopping, I substituted some fruitcake fruit that I had leftover from making Christmas cakes a few years ago. By carefully picking out only the paler coloured bits from the mixed fruit, I think I succeeded in getting mostly lemon peel and citron for my cake.  Mrs Crocombe tells us that we can use currants or sultanas and milk rather than brandy if we prefer,  so I used sultanas since my currant jar was empty, and milk since there was no brandy in the cupboard. Only having large eggs in the fridge, I used only 2 instead of Mrs C’s 3 small ones.

The instructions provided are straightforward, and easy to follow.  Mrs Crocombe doesn’t actually tell us what size of pan she uses, but thanks to technology and instant replays I guessed that my largest fruitcake pan (8” diameter x 3” deep) would be about the right size - a springform and would probably also work well.

The cake smelled wonderful as it was baking.  Everyone passing through the kitchen commented on it. Just the smell was enough to make me feel that this would be a successful trial. About 1 hr 20 min into the baking time, I noticed that the top of the cake was already fairly brown, so I laid a square of parchment paper over top to hopefully help control it.  I think it helped, but the cake was still quite dark by the time it was done.  At 2.5 hrs the cake tested done, smelled delightful, but was just beginning to blacken a bit around the edges. Hoping for the best, I turned it out to cool.




The almond paste I was using for the top of the cake was softer than it should have been - it was leftover from another baking experiment and had a bit of orange juice added to it, which made for a lovely flavour, but a softer and stickier paste which was difficult to roll out and shape nicely. Fortunately, the cake wasn’t being judged on its artistic merits, so I just pressed the almond paste into place and sprinkled it liberally with icing sugar.





The finished cake is quite dense, and mine had quite a heavy crust, so a sharp knife is definitely needed for cutting.  Its a rich cake, somewhat reminiscent of a good fruit cake (or Christmas cake, or wedding cake) but a less intense flavour.  I definitely prefer the Simnel cake to the others. I’d recommend that you keep the pieces on the smallish side, and as Mrs Crocombe says, it is rather good with a cup of tea.

This is definitely on the list of things that will be made again.



Notes for next time:

Pan size: 8” diameter x 3” deep seems to work well.

Consider how best to reduce excess browning -

    - line the pan with paper, like you do for Christmas cake,

    - check about 1 hr into cooking time for colour - cover if necessary,

    - possibly reduce cooking temperature to 325 F from 350 F

Friday 14 April 2023

April Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we present an incredible collection of sewing patterns and information.

Cosplayer Artemisia Moltabocca has done us all a service by pulling together a fantastic set of free resources for sewing your own costume, from an Italian Renaissance ball gown to petticoats from the 1950s.

Moltabocca, who also has a great set of sewing tutorials on her site, has gathered free patterns from across the internet, as well as pattern making sites that help you generate the perfect pattern for a custom corset. And if you aren't sure how to take the pattern images and enlarge them properly, Moltabocca also shows how to quickly and effectively enlarge a pattern using Powerpoint.

For a $3 USD Paypal donation you can download a bookmark file with hundreds of links!

Worth every penny!

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Download Link 


A collection of 1,000+ links to hundreds of free sewing patterns for women, men, and children from 3000BCE to 1960 with a focus on 1800 - 1920.

Also includes:

  • Monthly issues of Godey's Ladies Magazine in date order.

  • Singer service manuals 600, 603, 604, 600e, 603e, 604e, 560.

  • Singer 600 and 600e series chainstitch manual from my personal collection.

Don't be confused by copycat sites - we are the OG! OpenCulture | ArtOfIt | MentalFloss | MyModernMet | LifeHacker | ArtFido | ColoradoVirtualLibrary. 
List is a bookmarks.html file. Use as-is, or import into your own browser. Download on desktop or laptop. Your $3 donation will buy me a coffee as I maintain and expand this list. Immediate download.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

April Book Tuesday

 Happy Spring!

I hope the weather where you are is starting to moderate a bit.

For this month's Book Tuesday we have a real treat.

Asher & Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry 1876

Reprinted in 1976.

This very large volume 11" x 16" was created to celebrate the Industrial achievements of the US at the end of its first 100 years. 

From the Amazon listing:

"Asher & Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry is a rare and beautiful window on the America of a Hundred years ago, a volume visually rich and uniquely authentic in its portrayal of nineteenth-century American life. Here are depicted in faithful and elaborate detail, mines and railway cars: farm machines and factories: hotels, carriages, colleges, and elegantly appointed Victorian showrooms. The more than 1,000 fascinating engravings reprinted here were made for the original edition of the album, first published in 1876 at the time of the national Centennial. A great contrast from our present harried times."

The engravings in this large folio book are sharp and clear and cover hundreds of machines and buildings and examples of the Industrial wonders found daily in post Civil War America.

While American based these were the background of the industrial equipment available in the West once the railroad was running.


Definitely worth checking out.

The Victorian Society of Alberta