A recipe for 1610 rose cakes

Francine Segan“That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” But would these cookies taste as sweet without the candied rose petals on top?

Francine Segan, a food historian with a taste for the Renaissance, adapted a 1610 handwritten recipe to create these rose cakes. She is the author of six cookbooks, including the Opera Lover’s Cookbook, which was nominated for a James Beard award. The recipe below is excerpted from Shakespeare’s Kitchen (2003).

As Segan explains, the original recipe appears in the 1610 recipe book of Sarah Longe, which you can find in the Folger collection. Handwritten books like this one are being transcribed online as part of Shakespeare’s World, a collaboration between the Folger, Zooniverse.org at Oxford University, and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Thousands of volunteers are transcribing manuscripts created by men and women in and around Shakespeare’s lifetime, 1564–1616, with the goal of creating a searchable database that will help scholars learn more about how people lived in this time period.

Explore more Renaissance recipes from Francine Segan on Shakespeare & Beyond:

⇒ Related: Q&A with Francine Segan about adapting Renaissance recipes + a recipe for “pears” in broth

⇒ Related: Francine Segan shares a Renaissance recipe for citrus tarts


1610 Rose Cakes

Yield: Approximately 36 cookies

This recipe is from the 1610 handwritten recipe book of Sarah Longe. Ms. Longe intended the book only for her personal use and the recipes were not published during her lifetime. Holding this small, 400 year old book and reading Ms. Longe’s artistic calligraphy, in faded ink, I could easily imagine Shakespeare writing on similar paper and using similar ink, perhaps even purchased at the same London stationer’s shop.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 cup rose syrup
2 tablespoons cream
2 large egg yolks
2 cups pastry flour
2 tablespoons crushed candied rose petals (optional)

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar, mace, 2 tablespoons of the rose syrup, and the cream until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour, one cup at a time, and mix until just incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Using a cookie press in the shape of a flower, (or drop with a tablespoon) press out the cookies onto a well-buttered, nonstick baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of rose syrup on the hot cookies and sprinkle with the crushed rose petals.

Original recipe: To make sugar Cakes

Take a pound of butter, and wash it in rose-water, and halfe a pound of sugar, and halfe a douzen spoonefulls of thicke Cream, and the yelkes of 4 Eggs, and a little mace finely beaten, and as much fine flower as it will wett, and worke it well together then roll them out very thin, and cut them with a glasse, and pricke them very thicke with a great pin, and lay them on plates, and so bake them gently.

Mistress Sarah Longe her Receipt Booke, c1610