Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking is all about simple and tasty baking, a legacy from my Grandma's time as a cook-housekeeper in Edwardian times and a lifetime of baking.
As I was growing up, I watched her bake and cook, and acquired her expertise and passion for baking. Now I'm sharing Grandma Abson's traditional baking with baking devotees who remember it first time around and a whole generation new to baking. Enjoy!
time I make Coconut Macaroons for an event or a talk, they are often the first to be
snaffled up. I never realised there were so many coconut lovers out there. This traditional recipe comes from Grandma’s youngest sister, Ivy who continued the family tradition
in home baking. If you love coconut, they are a
delight. They should be crisp and golden on the outside and soft and chewy on the
What you need ....
Whites of 2 eggs
1oz/25g ground almonds
1 tbsp self
How to bake ...
the oven to 350F, Mark 4, 180 C. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Mix the
other ingredients together. Fold in the dry ingredients into the egg whites.
Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on rice or greaseproof paper. Bake on a tray
for 20 minutes.
Coconut Macaroons ready for the oven
Meryl says :Make sure the egg whites are really
stiff to ensure a sticky texture once cooked. Topped with a cherry or almond,
they are perfect for those coconut aficionados.
Dating back to the 1700s, a pound cake is named because
it contained a pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. It
therefore has a denser texture and a more buttery taste than the lighter
Victoria Sandwich cake created a century later. Since then smaller versions of
the cake have evolved but the ratio of the main ingredients has tended to remain
the same. Other variations include the addition of baking powder to lighten the
density and different flavours such as Lemon and Orange. I've made half the quantities of an original pound cake and it makes a good size cake
What you need
tsp baking powder
Zest & juice of
For the glaze
juice to mix
How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Mark 4. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Gradually
beat in the eggs. Mix in the flour and lemon juice to soften the mixture so it
drops off the spoon. Grease a 1kg/2lb loaf tin or 8"/20cms shaped cake tin. Bake for 45
minutes until firm on top. Prepare the glaze by mixing icing sugar and lemon
juice. Once the cake is out of the oven and cool, make a glaze by mixing icing sugar with lemon juice until runny. Then drizzle the glaze over the top of
Meryl says : I love this version of Lemon Pound Cake
from a 1920s recipe when it was popular in all the best hotels and serve with fruit
and cream. Feedback so far is looking good so I’m sure I’ll be making this cake
in 2020 to celebrate its 100 years' anniversary!
Cranberries and pistachios are my favourite
seasonal fruit and nuts and they make a great combination with the tangy taste
of lemon to show off Christmas colours and flavours.
What you need
50g/2oz icing sugar
300g/11oz plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g/2oz cranberries (dried)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
How to bake
a 20cm/8 inch square tin with baking paper. Using a food processor or mixer,
mix together the butter, sugar and flour until it comes together. Add the
vanilla, cranberries, pistachios and lemon zest and mix slowly to distribute
evenly. Add the lemon juice and mix briefly to combine all the ingredients. Press
the mixture into the tin and chill for 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170C/150(Fan)/Mark
3 and bake for around 30-35 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cut
into fingers whilst still in the tin. Then allow to cool.
Meryl says : These delicious shortbreads make
an excellent homemade gift and are very easy to make. Enjoy a Christmas treat with
friends and family!
of my favourite sweet tastes is Butterscotch and Doncasteris the place where it originates.
Samuel Parkinson used local places such as the church and the racecourse to market
this delicacy. Originally, it was described as ‘medicinal’ and acquired a ‘royal’
label after Queen Victoria visited the town in 1851 and tasted the ‘sweetmeat’
which was sold as ‘an emollient for the chest in the winter season’.
historians are divided over the name ‘scotched’ meaning ‘cut’ or ‘scored’ as Butterscotch
needs to be cut into pieces before hardening. Others are divided over whether the
buttery treacle ball is a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ crack as toffee. I was privileged to be shown
a copy of the original recipe from Doncaster’s Archives and made the recipe as
near to the original for a Georgian baking event at Cusworth Hall. It was a great success!
Meryl says : Here are
some more recipes using Doncaster Butterscotch you might like to try. I’m not
promising any medicinal cures but they are certainly tasty!
lived through WW1 and 2 and I’ve often thought about how this affected her approach
to food and baking. I’ve been doing talks about wartime baking and rationing and meeting
some interesting people who have memories of the difficulties of preparing food in WW2 so it’s
been fascinating to try out some of the recipes from that period.
I've been given a recipe for Beetroot cake. As with many ingredients in short
supply or on the rationing list, alternatives had to be found and, in this case,
beetroot replaced most of the cocoa powder. You might have used dried eggs, different fats and most certainly wholemeal flour.
2 eggs (beaten)
250g/9oz beetroot (cooked)
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
160ml/5 fl oz milk
2-3 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tsps baking powder
the oven to 180C (160C fan), mark 4. Line a 21cm/8 inch round or square cake
tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the
eggs. Blend the beetroot to a puree and add the vinegar and milk and add this
to the mixture. Mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and fold this in.
Pour this mixture into the tin and bake for around 45 minutes.
Meryl says :Another wartime recipe is Vinegar cakewhich has found some fans but suffers from its sour name. But Beetroot cake is now popular with modern cooks and has certainly reinvented itself. Whether you like beetroot or not, this cake must have been a real treat
during those dark wartime days; I should cocoa. See what you think!
I was delighted to support a Doncaster Heritage Skills baking session earlier
in the year and demonstrate a few recipes. Grandma’s mantra was ‘Waste not want not’
and when there were gluts of produce, nothing ever went to waste. This year has been a good one for Rhubarb, but there are only so many Rhubarb
Crumbles to eat so I made this spicy Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney. It got thumbs up all
What you need …
300ml/½ pint white wine or cider vinegar
2 onions (chopped)
10g lump root ginger
peeled and finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp salt
350g brown sugar
How to prepare …
Trim and wash the rhubarb, slice it into fairly fine
chunks. Heat the chopped onions, vinegar, ginger, sugar and salt in a wide
based non aluminium pan. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then add the
rhubarb. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Put into
sterilised jars and leave to cool.
Meryl says :It needs a bit more boiling than other chutneys but well worth the effort
and especially if you like a milder chutney it will go well with cheese and
meats throughout the year.
some confusion about ‘plums’ and ‘plumbs’. A ‘Lincolnshire lass’
(as she proudly described herself) gave me this recipe a few months ago. She asked
me to share her Gran’s ‘Plumb Loaf’ as it was a treasured family recipe. She wasn’t
sure why she had written ‘Plumb’ so we laughed when I said ‘plumb’ usually
referred to lead weight whereas ‘plum’ was a traditional term for any type of
dried fruit. However, she may have the last laugh as I found Elizabeth Raffald'srecipe for ‘Plumb Loaf’
and ‘White Plumb Loaf’ when researching this Doncaster born cook.
Elizabeth Raffald's Plumb Cake
The recipes are similar but the quantities are much greater especially when it comes to eggs!
Here’s what you
2 cups/8oz/225g self raising
½ cup/2oz/50g butter
1 cup/4oz/110g sugar
2 cups/8oz/225g mixed fruit
2oz/50g ground almonds
2oz/50g glace cherries
1 egg (beaten)
a little milk
How to bake it ….
the oven 180C/350F/Gas 4 to Rub the butter into the flour well, add the mixed
fruit, ground almonds and cherries with the sugar. Then add the egg and milk.
The mixture needs to be stiff so don’t add too much milk. Put into a lined loaf
tin and bake for 45 minutes approximately.
Meryl says :When checking
up on ‘plums’ and ‘plumbs’ I discovered that ‘plumming’ was a
term used in Victorian times to describe dried fruit as it expands. That’s why
the Victorians called Christmas pudding ‘Plum Pudding’. Why not try my Great
Aunt Emma’s Plum Pudding recipe.
enjoy doing research into Heritage baking and earlier this year,
I was delighted that Doncaster Heritage Festival asked me to do some digging for a talk entitled ‘Uncovering Doncaster’s Food History’. There was a wealth of
material to explore from the famous Doncaster Market at the heart of the town since 1194 to the new Food Festival held in May. I discovered an amazing gem in the Central Library, where I poured
over a copy of ‘The Experienced English Housekeeper’ by Elizabeth Raffald, originally
published in 1769 and containing this tasty citrus biscuit. I've brought the recipe up to date for a modern oven.
you need ….
3 eggs (yolks only)
2-3 tbsps water
1 lemon zest
Few drops orange extract
How to bake ….
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Rub the butter into the
flour. Then add the egg yolks and sugar. Mix in the water, lemon zest and a few
drops of orange extract. Form a ball with the mixture and leave to chill in a
cool place for 30 minutes. Then roll out as thinly as you can. Cut rounds as
large as you wish. Bake for 20 minutes in a slow oven.
about Elizabeth Raffald ....
Raffald was born in Doncaster in 1733 but spent most of her adult life in
Cheshire and Manchester where she has a blue plaque in her honour. She died
aged 47 in 1781 but by that time she had become a true entrepreneur. She was
firstly employed as a cook housekeeper by the Warburton family at Arley Hall
where she honed her skills and acquired the knowledge to write her book.
Together with her husband, John she moved into Manchester and there she ran a
confectionery shop, a cookery school, a catering business, the first employment
agency for servants, the first trade directory and a coaching inn. She created the
modern version of the Eccles cake with flaky pastry and is reputed to be the
first cook to design a Bride’s cake with almond paste and royal icing.
Meryl says :Cracknells are known today
more as a biscuit made with popular breakfast cereals and chocolate but I love
Elizabeth Raffald’s citrus version. They make a real Heritage biscuit and a
tribute to this truly domestic goddess of her time.
tangy homemade Mango Chutney goes well with the usual Indian dishes but can spice
up a variety of summer dishes, meats and even toasted sandwiches. I’ve made Mango & apple Chutneybefore from one of Grandma Abson’s Chutney recipes but
this one is an easy Chutney recipe. These ingredients make about 4-5 small jars.
250g/9oz light brown sugar
600m/1 ptl white wine vinegar
4-5 mangoes (stones removed, peeled and chopped)
2 onions (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 red chilli
50g/2oz root ginger (grated)
2 tbsps lemon juice
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
110g/4oz raisins (optional)
Boil the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan till dissolved.
Chop the mangoes and onions and then add these together with the garlic, chilli
and grated ginger to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Allow to
simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour until the fruit is tender. Pound
the seeds and cardamon in a pestle and mortar. Add these spices, the turmeric and the lemon juice, mustard
powder, and salt. Finally, add the raisins, if using. Continue to simmer
for 5 to 10 more minutes until the chutney leaves a clear trail when a spoon is
drawn across. Allow to cool and then spoon into clean, sterilised jars.
Meryl’s tip :This chutney will be best eaten after a few months, when the
flavours have started to combine – that’s if you can wait!
Edwardian times, every large house had a Great Kitchen where the cook was in
charge. At Cusworth Hall in 1901, the Great Kitchen was the domain of Eliza Haddrill,
a 47 year old lady from Berkshire. She would meet her mistress, Lady Isabella
every morning to decide the menus for the day and with the help of the kitchen
maids, prepare meals for the family and servants.
the recent Servants’ Day, I got dressed up as Eliza to bake some recipes for
the visitors which the Servants might have eaten. I made a Slab Cake.
This is a light fruit cake which has no additional spices in the recipe so it retains
a simplicity which the servants would have enjoyed.
What you need to bake Slab Cake…
5 eggs (beaten)
2 tsps baking
How to bake …
Pre heat the oven Mark 2, 300F, 150C. Grease and line a 23 cm/9 inch square cake tin. Cream the butter and
sugar. Add the eggs gradually. Mix together the flour, baking powder, ground
almonds, fruit and walnuts. Add these to the creamed mixture. Bake for 1½ - 2 hours.
Meryl says :This was one of Grandma Abson’s recipes which she would have made at
Oakleigh when she was a cook in service in Edwardian times. This cake got the thumbs up with the visitors, alongside theGround Rice Cake. I hope you enjoy it too!
know that at the beginning of the Edwardian era in 1901, Cusworth Hall was a grand
establishment. There were 11 servants living in the Hall, including the
housekeeper, butler, cook, kitchen maid, a scullery maid and 2 housemaids and many
others were employed in the house and on the estate. The cook would need to
provide food for all these employees as well the family and guests at the
year, Servants' Day included visits to the Servants Quarters and the Great
Kitchen. I baked some of the recipes which the servants might have eaten during
their daily routine. They would gather at 11.00 in the Servants Hall for morning
tea and to receive instructions. The cakes the cook provided for them would have been
plain, made with cheaper ingredients so I think Ground Rice Cake would have
been a popular choice.
What you need …
Few drops lemon
extract or zest of 1 lemon
How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 325F, Mark 3, 170 C. Separate
the egg whites and whisk well. Beat the yolks and butter to a cream with the sugar
and then mix with the flour and ground rice. Fold in the egg whites. Add the
lemon zest or extract. It may be flavoured with almond extract instead of
lemon. Put the mixture in a lined loaf tin. Bake for approximately 1 hour.
Meryl says :Visitors to the Hall
enjoyed trying out Ground Rice Cake. It reminded some of them of Ground Rice
Pudding. Others liked the lemon taste and the distinct grainy texture of Ground
Rice. Try it at home and see what you think. I'll be adding another recipe from Servants' Day soon so look out for Slab Cake!