One a penny, two a penny

So, in A Lily Among Thorns there’s a scene where my heroine asks my hero to buy her a hot cross bun from a street vendor. She then gets frosting on her face, and he has to wipe it off.

Or, there WAS such a scene. My English friend Cat informs me that hot cross buns used to only be sold at Easter! …And that frosting is a mostly American word, hot cross buns are made with icing. …And that actually, the cross was not made of icing back in the day, but rather a water-flour mixture, and was cut into the top of the bun. Oops. There’s always something, isn’t there? So I was looking for possible replacement pastries, and discovered that sponge cakes were already quite popular in that time period:

Ladyfingers were generally called “Naples biscuits.”
A sponge cake baked in a mold was called a “Savoy cake”.

And then I found this, on Lesley Anne McLeod’s website:

“A tipsy cake was a favourite way of using up a stale Savoy cake. A mixture of wine and brandy was poured over the cake until it could drink no more. It was then studded with almonds and a custard was poured around the base, which was garnished with ratafias or macaroons.”

OM NOM NOM. I want to eat that RIGHT NOW. Plus it’s perfect for my scene. The picture on her site is pretty elaborate, but I’m sure there were less fancy ones made with smaller moulds. It probably couldn’t be sold from a cart or basket like a hot cross bun, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be sold from a stall!

There was also a version called a “Tipsy Hedgehog” where the cake was shaped to look like a hedgehog and then a big spoonful of jam was put in front of its mouth to look like it was eating…

2 Responses to “One a penny, two a penny”

  • Can I just say how reassuring it is to hear that you occasionally get these things wrong?

    “Garnished with ratafias” threw me. I’d only known of ratafia as a kind of weak liqueur that the ladies had to drink while the men were guzzling port or something.

    • Rose:

      Well, none of us are actually from Regency England. I think it’s a safe bet we all get stuff wrong pretty often!

      I had actually come across ratafia cakes a bit earlier doing research for another scene in the book that I needed cookies for, so that one didn’t throw me. There’s a lot of dessert in this book!

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