Last week, just in time for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Eliza Duckmanton's Recipe & Remedy book was added to Collections Online. This blog post pays tribute to her in the most delicious way.
Eliza Duckmanton was a bush nurse and mother of 12 who lived in Dunkeld, Victoria. She created the book in 1870 and its contents - recipes for cakes, pickles, jams, jellies and biscuits - reveal what pioneer women cooked for their families. Eliza's book of clippings and handwritten recipes is also dotted with the odd sketch.This treasure was passed down the generations of the Duckmanton family until it was donated to Museum Victoria in 2002.
While the food section in any bookshop today is spilling over with cookbooks about every kind of edible, published cookbooks were relatively uncommon in Victorian times. The English & Australian Cookery Book written by Walter Abbott in 1864 is considered the first Australian cookbook. Recipes were handed around between friends and family members, or torn from newspapers, and compiled in books like Eliza's. Hers is particularly interesting for its remedies, too - her cure for cancer is a concoction containing saltpetre, sulphur and molasses!
I quite liked the idea of reviving one of Eliza's cake recipes, so on the weekend I baked her Queen Cakes. I assume these are named for Queen Victoria but would love to know the full story if there are any food historians reading. Although Eliza didn't specify that Queen Cakes are baked in individual cases, my copy of the CWA cookbook did. The recipe is transcribed below along with a few changes I made to the order of operations.
As I cooked, I thought about the 140-odd years between Eliza and I. My ingredients came in neat supermarket packages and an electric mixer saved me a lot of elbow grease. Eliza might have made her own butter and hauled home sacks of drygoods. She probably collected and chopped the wood that fuelled her oven and it certainly didn't have a thermostat. Despite this, I'm sure her cakes were just as buttery, dense and delicious as the modern remake.
Queen Cakes made from Eliza Duckmanton's 1870 recipe.
Source: Museum Victoria
1 lb flour
½ lb butter
½ lb pounded loaf sugar
1 teacupful of cream
½ lb currants
1 teaspoonfull of soda
Work the butter to a cream. Dredge in the flour and add the sugar and currants. Mix the ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, when fluffy, mix the cream and flavouring and stir these to the flour, add the soda, beat the paste well for 10 minutes, bake from ¼ to ½ hour.
*Changes made: I creamed butter and sugar together, then added eggs and cream, mixed lightly, and cooked about 15 minutes at 180ºC. This made about 20 small cakes.