A Traditional Christmas Dessert Made Three Ways

What is the most Christmassy recipe you can think of? Does it help if we sing a song?

“Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating a Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out a plum,

And said, “What a good boy am I!”

So, to help get us in the festive spirit, we decided to explore the different variations of plum cake recipe’s in our own archives:

‘To Make a Plumb Cake’ by Elizabeth Slany (c.1715)

“Take 4 pound of flower and 4 pound of currans ½ a pint of sack plump the currans then take a quart of ale yest ¾ of a pound of sugar 10 eggs & half the whites a little nutmeg mace & cinnamon & a few cloves a pound of almonds blanch’t & beaten fine orange flower water a quart of cream boyl’d + when you take it of the fire put a pound of fresh butter in it heit [heat] till it is blood warm then mix the spices currans & a little salt with the flower then put in yest almonds cream eggs & mix them with a spoon then set it rising you may put in some musk & ambergrease [a waxy substance that originates in the intestines of the sperm whale, with a pleasant smell, which is also used in perfumery]your oven must be very quick and you must put it in a hoop an hour or a little more will bake it your bottom must be paper.”

‘To Make a Plumb Cake’ from Elizabeth Slany’s 1715 ‘Booke of Reciepts’ (D/DR Z1)

‘Little Plumb Cakes’ by Mary Rooke (c.1770-1777)

“Take one pound of flour, six ounces of butter, half a pint of cream, a quarter pint of yeast, two eggs, a little mace shred very fine, mix these into a light paste, and set it before the fire to rise, then put a quarter or half a pound of currants and a quarter of a pound of sugar, bake them on tins.”

‘Little Plumb Cakes’ from Mary Rooke’s 18th century recipe book (D/DU 818/1)

‘Oxfordshire Baked Plum Pudding’ by the Lampet Family (c.1807-1847)

“Put one pound of stale white bread sliced into as much new milk as will soak it, and let is stand all night. Now pour the milk from it and break the bread well with the hand – add half a pound of a suet chopped fine – three quarters of a pound of raisins – a quarter of a pound of currants shaking a little flour and salt among the fruit – half a nutmeg – two or three blades of mace – a clove or two pounded very fine – a little brandy – and sugar to the taste – mix all these ingredients well up together with four eggs well beaten – bake it.”

‘Oxfordshire Baked Plum Pudding’ from the Lampet Family’s 19th century recipe book (T/B 677/2)

Let’s play spot the difference!

  • The Lampet recipe is probably the most different: it uses bread with only a little extra flour, swaps butter for milk, and is the only recipe to use suet and alcohol.
  • Elizabeth Slany’s recipe has some of the most unusual ingredients such as musk and ambergrease, and orange flower water.
  • All three recipes use: eggs, currants, mace, yeast, and sugar.
  • Elizabeth Slany and the Lampet Family add nutmeg and clove for extra flavour
  • None of the recipes include plums!

Do you make plum cake/plum pudding for Christmas? Which of these recipes is most similar to your own?

If you want to see more festive recipes, we currently have Mary Rooke’s recipe book on display in the Searchroom for a seasonal Curiosity Cabinet. Recipes on display include gingerbread and the various components of a mince pie!

Sculpture in Harlow New Town

Project Archivist, Hector Mir has been working tirelessly this year to catalogue the records of the Harlow Development Corporation with the full catalogue ready to be launched on the 1st December this year on Essex Archives Online. This project has been made possible by an Archives Revealed cataloguing grant from The National Archives.

In his post below Hector explores the records of one of Harlow’s most notable features, it’s fantastic sculpture.

 A/TH 3/10/45/2  - "City" by Gerda Rubinstein, in Bishopsfield. Henk Snoek, 1972, Copyright Harlow Development Corporation
A/TH 3/10/45/2 – “City” by Gerda Rubinstein, in Bishopsfield. Henk Snoek, 1972, Copyright Harlow Development Corporation

Since its very beginning in 1947, the Harlow Development Corporation and its General Planner, Sir Frederick Gibberd, acquired a firm commitment to link the new town they were building with the culture and the arts. This aim is especially visible in respect of sculpture. From as early as 1951 up to the present day, the new town has filled up its streets with the works of some of the most renowned sculptors.

Such important activity appears well referenced in the papers of the Harlow Development Corporation Archive, which the Essex Record Office has now opened up by creating a new online catalogue (A/TH). 

The main source comes from the file “Sculpture” (A/TH 2/6/1), which includes papers relating to “Contrapuntal Forms” by Barbara Hepsworth (1951), murals from the Festival of Britain Exhibitions (1952), Centaur’s statue (1953), Henry Moore’s “Family Group” sculpture (1955-1956), Early Memorial (1959), “Kore” sculpture (1975), sculptured head of Sir Frederick Gibberd (1979).

A/TH 3/10/15/71 - Photograph of "Family Group" by Henry Moore  in the Civic Square. Henk Snoek, 1972, Copyright Harlow Development Corporation
A/TH 3/10/15/71 – Photograph of “Family Group” by Henry Moore in the Civic Square. Henk Snoek, 1972, Copyright Harlow Development Corporation

Scattered information on sculptures, including lists of Harlow Arts Trust sculptures (June 1968) can be found in the files related to Patrons of the Arts – Harlow Arts Trust (A/TH 3/2/8/33-36), covering the whole existence of the Corporation (1948-1980). The is also a file on Play Sculptures in the sixties (A/TH 3/3/3/4).         

A sculpture unveiling has been always an important ceremony. We keep the files of three of those events: the unveiling of Henry Moore’s “Family Group” sculpture in 1956 (A/TH 3/8/3/54), which includes invitation card and programme; “Kore” sculpture in 1975 (A/TH 3/8/3/2); and the unveiling of an obelisk at Broad Walk in 1980 (A/TH 3/8/3/50 and A/TH 3/11/65), including invitation card, programme and diagram of construction.

Sculptures are also well represented in the Social Development Department Photographic Collection (A/TH 3/10). Two files with 30 photographs cover specifically the subject (A/TH 3/10/26 and A/TH 3/10/44), with pictures of “Family Group” and Bronze Cross by Henry Moore, “Wrestlers”, “Chiron” by Mary Spencer Watson, Eve by Auguste Rodin, “Contrapuntal Forms” by Barbara Hepworth, “Help” by F.E. McWilliam, “High Flying” by Antanas Brazdys, “Kore” by Betty Rea, “Motif No. 3” by Henry Moore, “Trigon” by Lynch Chadwick, “Echo” by Antanas Brazdys, “The Boar” by Elisabeth Fink, Fountain Figure and Lion by Antoine-Louise Barye. As well as another file with 12 photographs of Henry Moore’s “Family Group” Sculpture (A/TH 3/10/25). There are also loose photographs of “The Sheep Shearer” by Ralph Brown, outside Ladyshot Common Room (A/TH 3/10/8/72) and “Boy eating apple” a statue in bronze by Percy Portsmouth, commissioned by the Harlow Art Trust and situated on the wall of the Mark Hall Branch Library in The Stow (A/TH 3/10/9/10).

A/TH 3/10/26 - Folder of photographs, two photographs of "Eve" by Auguste Rodin are visible (A/TH 3/10/26/3 and  A/TH 3/10/26/4). Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.
A/TH 3/10/26 – Folder of photographs, two photographs of “Eve” by Auguste Rodin are visible (A/TH 3/10/26/3 and A/TH 3/10/26/4). Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.
A/TH 3/10/15/1 - School children in Harlow creating their own works of art. Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.
A/TH 3/10/15/1 – School children in Harlow creating their own works of art. Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.

Finally, an excellent overview can be found in the 31 page booklet ‘Sculpture in Harlow’ (A/TH 3/11/17), published by Harlow Development Corporation in 1973.

A/TH 3/11/17 - "Sculpture in Harlow" booklet, 1973.  Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.
A/TH 3/11/17 - "Sculpture in Harlow" booklet, 1973.  Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.
A/TH 3/11/17 – “Sculpture in Harlow” booklet, 1973. Copyright Harlow Development Corporation.