The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

Georgian era recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs

In our last blog, we looked at the Cheesecake House in Hyde Park where you could feast upon all manner of delicious cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs. Today, we thought we would share a few Georgian era recipes for these delicacies. One thing we need to get straight from the start, you don’t need cheese to make these cheesecakes… they were more akin to a Yorkshire curd tart.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797.
The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797. Royal Collection Trust

Observations upon Creams, Custards, and Cheesecakes

When you make any kind of creams and custards, take great care your tossing-pan be well tinned, put a spoonful of water in it, to prevent the cream from sticking to the bottom of your pan, then beat your yolks of eggs, and strain out the treads, and follow the direction of your receipt.

As to cheesecakes they should not be made long before you bake them, particularly almond or lemon cheesecakes, for standing them makes them oil and look sad, a moderate oven bakes them best, if it is too hot it burns them and takes off the beauty, and a very slow oven makes them sad and look black: make your cheesecakes up just when the oven is of a proper heat, and they will rise well, and be of a proper colour.

The Sense of Taste, English, c.1750.
The Sense of Taste, English, c.1750. Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand.

To make Cheesecakes

Set a quart of new milk near the fire, with a spoonful of rennet, let the milk be blood warm, when it is broke drain the curd through a coarse cloth, now and then break the curd gently with your fingers, rub into the curd a quarter of a pound of butter, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a nutmeg and two Naples’ biscuits grated, the yolks of four eggs, and the white of one egg, one ounce of almonds well beat, with two spoonfuls of rose water, and two of sack, clean six ounces of currants very well, put them into your curd, and mix them all well together.

To make Citron Cheesecakes

Boil a quart of cream, beat the yolks of four eggs, mix them with your cream when it is cold, then set it on the fire, let it boil till it curds, blanch some almonds, beat them with orange-flower water, put them into the cream, with a few Naples’ biscuits, and green citron shred fine, sweeten it to your taste, and bake them in tea-cups.

Enter Cowslip with a bowl of cream.
Enter Cowslip with a bowl of cream. © The Trustees of the British Museum

To make Bread Cheesecakes

Slice a penny loaf as thin as possible, pour on it a pint of boiling cream, let it stand for two hours, then take eight eggs, half a pound of butter, and a nutmeg grated, beat them well together, put in half a pound of currants well washed, and dried before the fire, and a spoonful of brandy, or white wine, and bake them in raised crusts, or petty-pans.

To make an Apple Tart

Scald eight or ten large codlings, when cold skim them, take the pulp, and beat it as fine as you can with a silver spoon, then mix the yolks of six eggs, and the whites of four, beat all together as fine as possible, put in grated nutmeg, and sugar to your taste, melt some fine fresh butter, and beat it till it is like a fine thick cream, then make a fine puff paste, and cover a tin petty-pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it with your paste; bake it a quarter of an hour, then slip it out of the petty-pan on a dish, and strew fine sugar, finely beat and sifted all over it.

Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)
Detail from Mock Turtle, Puff Pastry by Thomas Rowlandson. Royal Collection Trust (from their website: a buxom female chef rolls out pastry as she is caressed by a lascivious footman wearing green livery. On the table are coddling tarts, apple dumpling and batter pudding.)

To make Solid Syllabubs

Take a quart of rich cream, and put in a pint of white wine, the juice of four lemons and sugar to your taste, whip it up very well, and take off the froth as it rises, put it upon a hair sieve, and let it stand till the next day in a cool place, fill your glasses better than half full with the thin, then put on the froth, and heap it as high as you can; the bottom will look clear, and keep several days.

The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
The Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

To make Lemon Syllabubs

To a pint of cream put a pint of double refined sugar, the juice of seven lemons, and grate the rinds of two lemons into a pint of white wine, and half a pint of sack, then put them into a deep pot, and whisk them for half an hour, put it into glasses the night before you want it: it is better for standing two or three days, but it will keep a week, if required.

Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

To make a common Custard

Take a quart of good cream, set it over a slow fire, with a little cinnamon, and four ounces of sugar; when it is boiled take it off the fire; beat the yolks of eight eggs, put to them a spoonful or orange-flower water to prevent the cream from cracking, stir them in by degrees as your cream cools, put the pan over a very slow fire, stir them carefully one way till it is almost boiling, then put it into cups, and serve them up.

The Pretty Bar Maid, 1778. An officer can be seen eating a custard or syllabub.
The Pretty Bar Maid, 1778. An officer can be seen eating a custard or syllabub. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Almond Custards

Put a quart of cream into a tossing-pan, a stick of cinnamon, a blade or two of mace, boil it and set it to cool, blanch two ounces of almonds, beat them fine in a marble mortar with rose water, if you like a ratafia taste put in a few apricot kernels, or bitter almonds, mix them with your cream, sweeten it to your taste, set it on a slow fire, keep stirring it till it is pretty thick, if you let it boil it will curdle, pour it into cups, &c.

Source:

The experienced English house-keeper, consisting of near 800 original receipts by Elizabeth Raffald, 1808 (first published in 1769)

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park

Today we are going to take a look at a building which stood in Hyde Park, on the north side of the Serpentine next to the Ring (a circular track around which the nobility could drive in their carriages). It was known as the Cheesecake House, (among other names) and was a place where refreshments could be purchased.

The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797.
The Cheesecake House in Hyde Park by Paul Sandby, 1797. Royal Collection Trust

An ancient building, made of timber and plaster with a flat tiled roof, the Cheesecake House stood in the park from at least the reign of Charles II (and perhaps even earlier). To gain access to the front door, the visitor had to cross the small stream which ran in front of the building via a rudimentary wooden bridge. Samuel Pepys was a visitor; in 1669 he took his wife for a visit and they sat in their coach and ate ‘a cheesecake and drank a tankard of milk’.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park by Thomas Hearne, c.1795.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park by Thomas Hearne, c.1795. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In the time of Queen Anne, it was known as the Cake House or Minced-pie House and later was called Price’s Lodge (later sources say after Gervase Price, chief under-keeper of Hyde Park). By the late seventeenth-century Price’s Lodge was run by a widow named Frances Price.

St James’s Park is frequented by people of quality; who, if they have a mind to have better and freer air, drive to Hyde Park, where is a ring for the coaches to drive around; and hard by is Mrs Price’s where are incomparable syllabubs.

A Journey to London in the year 1698 by Dr William King (1663-1712)

But, it is best remembered as the Cheesecake House, after one of the delicacies which could be bought there as cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs were all on the menu.

Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.
Detail of syllabubs from A Sense of Taste by Philippe Mercier.

Mrs Price was still the landlady in 1712 when a famous duel was fought literally on her doorstep in Hyde Park between James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun on 12th November 1712.

Lord Mohun’s coach was stopped by the keeper of Hyde Park but, telling him they were headed for Price’s Lodge, he allowed it to pass. Mohun and his second, an Irish officer named George Macartney, got out of the coach and walked away, bidding the coachman to go into the lodge and ask John Reynolds, the Drawer, to get some ‘burnt-wine’ ready for when they returned. Reynolds was wise to their tricks. He said he would not do so, ‘for very few came thither so soon in the morning but to fight…’.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park, 1786.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park, 1786. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The duel was fought with swords and the seconds joined in too; both Hamilton and Mohun were wounded, Mohun fatally but the Duke of Hamilton only received a cut on his arm, at least at that point. Accounts differ, but it was claimed that the duke then dropped his sword and Macartney, Mohun’s second, delivered a fatal blow to him. John Reynolds came out and tried to help the duke walk to the house but before they reached the bridge, Hamilton said ‘he could walk no further’ and died on the spot.

With both the main protagonists dead, the two seconds, Macartney and the duke’s man, Colonel Hamilton were charged with manslaughter; Macartney fled to Hanover but Hamilton stood trial and was found guilty.

The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park.
The Cheesecake House, Hyde Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Frances Price died around 1719 and her will, written seven years earlier, left Price’s Lodge to her grandson, John Price. However, Frances’ will stipulated that, if she wanted to take over the management, her widowed daughter, Anne Silver, who lived with her mother in Hyde Park, should be allowed to do so, paying John Price an annual sum of £10 a year for the use thereof. Sadly, Anne Silver was to predecease her mother.

By 1801 the Cheesecake House was in use as a boat-house and in the nineteenth-century was demolished altogether. Except when there was a fair, for around a hundred years no refreshments were allowed to be sold in Hyde Park, a situation which caused many complaints. Finally, on 1st April 1909, the Ring Tea House was opened, a newly built Georgian rustic style circular building which catered for the park’s visitors.

You might be interested to know that cheesecakes of the period contained no cheese and were akin to a Yorkshire curd tart. In our next blog post, we will take a look at some Georgian era recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs.

Sources:

Edward Walford, ‘Hyde Park’, in Old and New London: Volume 4 (London, 1878), pp. 375-405. British History Online

The Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1801

London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions by Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham, Cambridge University Press, 2011

Daily Telegraph and Courier (London), 9th April 1909

The Original Works in verse and prose of Dr William King, vol 1, 1776

The substance of all the depositions taken at the coroners’ inquest the 17th, 19th, and 21st of November, on the body of Duke Hamilton. And the 15th, 18th, 20th, and 22nd, on the body of my Lord Mohun, 1712

National Archives:

PROB 11/573/157, Will of Frances Price, widow of Hyde Park, 19 March 1719/1720

PROB 11/542/334, Will of Anne Silver, widow of Hyde Park, 25 October 1714