As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my Little Fine Cakes to finish baking, I pour a coffee and imagine myself as a Fort York officer. It is a cold snowy night before Christmas and I have just overseen the changing of the soldiers in the guardhouse. I push open the heavy wooded door of the Officer’s Mess and am greeted by the aroma of my favourite, Little Fine Cakes. The cook has just pulled them from the bake oven beside the fire in the open hearth fireplace.
The officers of Fort York ate well, I learned from the book “Setting a Fine Table” edited by Elizabeth Baird and Bridget Wranich. A cooking course I took at Fort York also gave me a feel for cooking over the open hearth and the challenges faced by those who cooked for the officers in the early 1800’s.
The Little Fine Cakes is a recipe featured in Setting a Fine Table. Here is the original that dates back to 1796.
Here is the modern equivalent of the recipe given in the recipe book.
- 2 1/2 cups ( 625 ml) currants
- 2 cups (500 ml) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 medium eggs
- 2 medium egg yolks
- 4 cups(1 L) all purpose flour
Grease 24 muffin cups. Line the bottom of each with parchment paper cut to fit.
Soak the currants in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and spread out to dry on a towel-lined tray, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the butter until very fluffy and cream- coloured and glossy, about 10 minutes. Beat them into the butter mixture in 2 additions.
Stir the currants, then the flour, I cup (250 ml) at a time, into the butter mixture. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake in the centre of a 350 degree oven until the cakes are golden brown and firm on the top and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the cakes with a blunt knife and turn them onto the rack to cool completely.
Fort York brings this period of history to life over the Christmas season each year.
In 2015, Fort York offered History Cooking Classes including:
- Cooking Mince Pies in November
- A Frost Fair in early December
- The Holiday Season from Dec. 14 to Dec.31/15
- Gingerbread Make and Bake ( for both children and adults) from December 14 – Dec.31/15
For more information: