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17th century Shropshire Cakes

I have been baking various types of biscuits in the last couple of months since volunteering to be a historic baker at Ham House. I love it when the aromas of caraway, anise and other spices waft around the house all they way to the main entrance. And it's been great seeing visitors enjoy their biscuit samples and talking to them about the recipes.

For these Shropshire cakes I used a 17th century recipe which Peter Brears recorded in his ‘Traditional Food in Shropshire‘ where he includes a modern version as well.

This is the 17th version of the recipe:

To make a Shropsheere cake

Take two pound of dryed flour after it has been searced fine, one pound of good sugar dried and searced, also a little beaten sinamon, or some nottmegg greeted and steeped in rose water; so streene two eggs, white and all, not beaten to it, as much melted butter as will work it to a paste; so mold it and roule it into longeroules, and cutt off as much at a time as will make a cake, two ounces is enough for one cake: then roule it in a ball between your hands: so flat it on a little white paper cut for a cake, and with your hand beat it as big as a cheese trencher and a little thicker than a paste board: then prick them with a comb not too deep in squares like diamon and prick every cake in every diamon to the bottom; so bake them in an oven not too hot: when they rise up white let them soake a little, then draw. If the sugar be dry enough you need not dry but searce it; you must brake in your eggs after you have wroat in some of your butter into your flower: prick and mark them when they are cold: this quantity will make a dozen and two or three, which is enough for my own at a time, take off the papers when they are cold.

And here's a modern version of the recipe:


  • 450g plain flour

  • 225 g butter

  • 225 g caster sugar

  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon

  • 1 medium egg

  • 1 tsp (5 ml) rosewater


1.Mix all the dry ingredients together and rub in the butter.

2.Work in the egg as well as the rosewater.

3.Knead lightly to form a stiff dough.

4.Divide the dough into equal balls, and pat out into roughly 10cm rounds.

5.Decorate with the blunt side of a knife to form diamond shapes.

6.Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes.

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