16th Century English References by Johnnae llyn Lewis


With regard to this subject of icing, the earliest reference that I have located is from:


The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits and Hidden Secrets by John Partridge.Imprinted at London for Richarde Jones. 1573. STC# 19426. This is the earliest of Partridge's works and predates The Widowes Treasure of the 1580's.


Prior to the conclusion of Patridge's long recipe for "To make a Marchpane. Cap.ix" he states:

"it may not bake but only be hard and through dryed, and ye may while it is moyft ftick it full of Comfets of fundrye coolers, in a comely order ye mufte moyft it ouer with Rofe water and Suger together, make it fmoothe: and to fet it in the Ouen or other inftrumet,".


He concludes: "The greateft Secret that is the makynge of this cleare, is with a little fyne flowre of Ryfe, Rofewater and Suger beaten together & layd thin ouer the marchpane ere it go to dryinge: this will make it fhine lyke Ice, as Ladyes reporte."


Patridge's "this will make it shine lyke Ice" does not use Ice as a verb of course, but it may well be the earliest use of Ice as a descriptive term for the sugar and rosewater (here with rice flour) mixture used as a coating for a cake. It certainly predates the 1605 Bacon quotation given by OED for the meaning "A congelation or crystalline appearance resembling ice." Or 1602 for garnishing a cake. OED lists "icing" or encrusting a cake back to 1769 and Mrs. Raffald. None of the other secondary works that I have checked cite either this recipe or this work by Partridge as sources on icing.



A BOOK OF COOKRYE by A. W. which was published by Edward Allde in 1591 contains the following recipe for a sugar-icing...

On page 29 at the end of a recipe for "a good Marchpaine":

" Or ever that you bake it you must cast on it fine Sugar and Rosewater that will make it look like Ice."



The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin of 1594 concludes a recipe for "a rare Conceit, with Veale baked." with the words: "when it is baken drawe it foorth, & cast Sugar & Rofewater, upon it, and ferve it in." [p.30] "A Tart of Creame" concludes with: "and when it is baked, fprinkle a little Rofewater and Sugar, and a little Butter molten upon it." [p.31]


"A Tarte of Cheefe" instructs one "clofe it up with a cover, and with a feather lay fweet molten Butter upon it, and fine Sugar, and bake it in a foft Oven." [p.31]


"Ice" and "icing" are not used as terms in these recipes, but they pose interesting questions.

Is the sugar strewn on and rosewater sprinkled on separately or are they combined? Would the butter

be combined with the sugar? Was the lid just buttered and then sugar strewn over? What was the intent of the author and how was his recipe used in actual practice?



The 17th Century


Here are some additional 17th century recipes or mentions for sugar icing. Keep in mind that recipes for pies and tarts include instructions for "icing", as well those for iumbolds, kickshaws, and marchpane. Recipes for marchpane are very valuable because they seem to have included "icing" prior to the recipes for small cakes and other baked goods. I have abbreviated the recipes for space and include only the parts that pertain to icings.



1609 edition. Plat. Delightes for Ladies.  recipe 16,

To make Iumbolds "..when they are baked, yce them with Rosewater and Sugar, and the white of an egge being beaten together, then take a feather and gild them, then put them againe into the oven, and let them stand in, a litle while, & they will be yced cleane over with a white yce, and so boxe them yp, and you may keep them all the yeere." (Fussell reprint, 1948, p.27)


If royal icing is a mixture of sugar beaten with egg white to which a small amount of flavoring is added, then this recipe by definition is royal icing.  It will not be a royal icing made with powdered or confectioners sugar. The sugar would be sugar scraped from a sugar cone and pounded fine in a mortar and pestle. Normally today we don't dry our icings in an oven, but if the humidity were high it might be prove useful to do so.




A New Booke of Cookerie by J. Murrell includes:

"To make Kicks-Hawes" which concludes: "and Ice them with Rofewater and Sugar, and fet them in the Oven, when your pyes are halfe bakte."  [pp.47-48] Kick-hawes were not always iced as the recipe for "Kickfhawes in Pafte" does not include finishing in icing.


This volume also includes "A Cherry Tart." Which instructs "bake them in a fet Coffin: Ice them, and ferve them hot in to the Bwrde." [p.19] and A quarter Tart of Pippins." where one is instructed: "Then clofe your Tart, and bake it : Ice it before it goe to the Bwrd, ferve it hot." [pp.17-18] And "A made Difh of Muffels and Cockles." which instructs: "bake it, Ice it, and ufe it :" [p.20]


By the time of the fifth edition the author's recipes for Kickshawes have been modified and combined to include more instructions.  Murrels Two Books of Cookerie and Carving. The fifth time printed with new additions, 1638. [facsimile by Jacksons of Ilkley, 1985] contains this recipe:


"To make Kick-fhawes." which notes that if one fried them, then they might be served plain "at dinner, or

fupper." However, "If you will bake them, then you may turne them into the difh raw, out of your moulds, and Ice them with Rofewater & Sugar, and fet them in the Oven, when your pyes are halfe bakt." [p.53]


In The Second Booke of Cookery, there is a recipe on pp.122 and 123 entitled: "To make an Olive Pie to be eaten hot." This is a pie made from slices from a "legge of veale".  One is instructed after baking the pie to "wafh over you Pie with a little Rofe-water and Butter, and ftrew upon it hard Sugar and floure beaten together: if any place grow prefently drie, wet it againe with Rofe-water and Butter, and fet it into the Ovene againe, and within a quarter of an houre it will be crifp like yce: then draw it forth, and ferve it hot to the Table."


Another of Murrel's recipes for "To bake a Chicken Pie to be eaten hot." concludes with the words:

"draw it forth, and wafh it it with Rofewater and Butter, and ftrew on floure, and Sugar, beaten together, and fet it againe into the Oven a quarter of an houre, it will be like yce:" [pp.124-125]  Note here that "yce" is being used for its descriptive quality.



The 1631 edition of Gervase Markham's The English Housewife includes this recipe [115] which states:

"To make a marrow bone pie" "...and candy all the cover with rose-water and sugar only; and so set it into the oven a little, and after serve it forth." "A herring pie." [recipe 120] ends with the words: "and so serve it up, the lid being candied over with sugar, and the sides of the dish trimmed with sugar." [p.101]  The word ice is not used.


Recipe 173 "To make the best marchpane." concludes: "which done, wash it over with rose-water and sugar mixed together, for that will make the ice; then adorn it with comfits, gilding, or whatsoever devices you please, and so set it forth." [page 116]


Markham's "jumbles" recipe 157 omit icing.[page 112]


[Michael Best edited reprint, 1986.]


A late 1636 edition of the unpaged A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, gives a recipe titled as:

"To make a March-pane, to ice it, and garnifh it after the Art of Comfit-making."


"then ice it with Rofe-water and Sugar, made as thick as batter for Fritters: when it is iced, garnifh it with conceits, and ftick long Comfits in it, and fo gild it, and ferve it."


This is the earliest instance that I have located where the term icing occurs in an actual recipe title, instead of being appended to the end of another recipe.



A True Gentlewomans Delight [which is bound with A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery] in 1653 offers:


"To make Fine Diet Bread." [p.52]

"if you will have it gloffe and Icie on the top, you muft wafh it with a feather, and then ftrew Sugar very finely beaten on the top before you put it into the Oven." This is done prior to baking, but the term "Icie" is still used.


"To make a tart of Rice." [p.103]

" then clofe it, bake it, and ice it, fcrape on Sugar, and ferve it."

"To make a Tart of Strawberries." [p.104]

"and bake it half an hour, ice it, fcrape on Sugar, and ferve it."

Tarts of Pippins and Hips are also treated in the same fashion.


[The work was published by W.I. Gent. The Author is credited [not without dispute] to be Kent, Elizabeth Grey, Countess of. The 1653 is a second edition.]


The Art of Cookery Refin'd and Augmented by Jos. Cooper which was published in 1654 includes a number of recipes that call for scraped sugar and serving without icing. He does offer:


"How to make a Bacon-Tart." [pages 114-115]

"it being baked, ftick the lid full of fliced Cittron, ftrow in fome fmall perfumed Carraway-comfets, or ice it with Rofe- water and Sugar: it will eat well hot or cold, but beft cold."


He also offers this recipe:

"How to make butter'd Loaves." [pages 134-135]

After being baked for half an hour, one is instructed:

"then take one pound of fweet Butter, three or four fpoonfuls of Rofewater, and as much Sugar as will fweeten it, beating it well together; then cut your Loaves up and butter them with it, and ferve them up hot."

While not called "icing" this gives us a dated recipe for sugar/buttered bread being served.



The same interesting vein of "Iumbolds"  recipe as given by Plat in 1609 continues in: The Ladies Cabinet, Enlarged and Opened: by Lord Ruthuen. The second edition. with additions; 1655. [Falconwood Press edition of 1990] page 18.

63 - To make Jumbols.

"ice them with Rosewater and sugar, and the white of an egge, being beaten together;"


The Compleat Cook by W.M. was published in 1655 as a part of the trilogy entitled The Queens Closet Opened which appeared in numerous editions up until 1713. The recipes were said to have drawn from the recipe books of the widowed Queen Henrietta Maria.


A recipe "To Make Buttered Loaves" will be discussed first.  It differs slightly from Jos. Cooper's in that it instructs "prepare a pound and a halfe of Butter, a quarter of a pint of white Wine, and half a pound of Sugar; this being melted and beaten together with it, fet them into the Oven a quarter of an hour."

[pages 9-10] No instruction is given to spread the mixture over the bread, although that must have been the intention.


"To make a very good great Oxfordfhire Cake." ends with the words:

"it will take three hours baking; when baked, take it out and froft it over with the white of an Egg and Rofewater well beat together, and ftrew fine Fugar upon it, and fet it again into the oven, that it may ice." [pages 13-14]


This may be the earliest use of the word "frost" meaning to ice. OED lists 1756 as their earliest quotation for "frosting" and 1832 for the verb "frost" meaning "to give a frosted surface to". Frosting as an American term for icing is normally thought to be 19th century in origin.



The Compleat Cook also included recipes for "Mrs. Dukes Cake."... "have fome rofewater and fugar finely beaten and well mixed together to wafh the upper fide of it, then fet in the Oven to dry, when you draw it out it will fhew like Ice." [p.115] and on page 116 included this recipe: "To make Marchepane: to Ice him &c." which seems to be an adaptation of the recipe from A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen of 1636 which is cited earlier.


The Queens Closet Opened also includes a volume entitled A Queens Delight (which is a companion to The Compleat Cook). It includes "To make Marchepane to Ice and Gild, and garnifh it according to Art." [page 67-68] "take it out of the Oven, and ice it with Rofewater and Sugar, and the white of an Egg, being as thick as butter, and fpread it over thin with two or three feathers; and then put it into the Oven again,and when you fee it rife high and white, take it out again and garnifh it with fome pretty conceit..


It concludes with the suggestion: "If your Marchepane be Oyly in beating, then put to it as much Rofe-water as will make it almoft as thin as to ice."


By this time the term "ice" must have been understood if one is being instructed to add liquid to make something "as thin as to ice." [1984 Prospect books facsimile edition which reproduces the 1671 editions of both The Compleat Cook and A Queens Delight.  The 1671 editions were found to be identical to the 1655 edition.]


The 1675 edition of The Gentlewomans Companion Or, A Guide to the Female Sex still ends recipes such as that for "Apricocks green Baked." with the words: "close it up and bake it, ice it, scrape on Sugar, and serve it up." [page (144)]


[The new 2001 edition by Prospect Books includes a very detailed account regarding the crediting of Hannah Woolley as the author of this work.]


The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, Kt. Opened of 1669 contains what many culinary scholars consider a breakthrough in the creation and use of icing. Digbie's work includes a number of cake recipes with a new attention paid to icing them, calling for specific icings for specific cakes. His instructions are longer and more precisely worded and include such admonishments as to beat for two hours.  Many feel this is start of true "royal icing."


"To Make A Cake" omits the words icing or ice but instructs:

"Take then a pound and half of double refined Sugar purely beaten and seared; put into the whites of five Eggs; two or 3 spoonfuls of rose-water; keep it a beating all the time, that the Cake is a baking which will be two hours; Then draw your Cake out of the oven, and pick the dry Currants from the top of it, and so spread all that you have beaten over it, very smooth, and set it a little into the oven, that it may dry." [page 181]


A recipe for "Another Cake" states:

"When it is half-baked, Ice it over with fine Sugar and Rose-water, and the whites of Eggs, and Musk and Ambergreece."

[page 182]


"To Make A Plumb-Cake" concludes:

"Then to Ice it, take a pound and half of double refined Sugar beaten and searsed; The whites of three Eggs new-laid, and a little Organe-flower-water, with a little musk and Ambergreece, beaten and searsed, and put to your sugar; Then strew your Sugar into the Eggs, and beat it in a stone Mortar with a Woodden Pestil, till it be as white as snow, which will be by that time the Cake is baked; Then draw it to the ovens mouth, and drop it on, in what form you will; let it stand a little again in the oven to harden.

[pages 182-183]

These instructions given above that instruct one to drop the icing "on, in what form you will" argues Simon Charsley, are the beginning of not only royal icing, but of cakes being decorated with formed stiffened icing. He suggests that Digbie may have learned this method from his travels in France in the time of La Varenne.


"To Make An Excellent Cake" concludes:

"You Ice the Cake with the whites of two eggs, a small-quantity of Rose-water, and some Sugar."  [page 183]


"Another Very Good Cake" concludes:

"Let your oven be of a temperate heat, and let your Cake stand therein two hours and a half, before you Ice it; and afterwards only to harden the Ice. The Ice for this Cake is made thus: take the whites of three new laid Eggs, and three quarters of a pound of fine Sugar finley beaten; beat it well together with the whites of the Eggs, and Ice the Cake. If you please you may add a liitle Musk or Ambergreece." [pages 184-185]


"Excellent Small Cakes" are simply "Afterwards Ice them over with Sugar."  [page 185]


"My Lord of Denbigh's Almond March-pane" states:

"Then you must Ice them thus: Make a thick pap with Orange flower or Rosewater, and purest white Sugar: a little of the whites of Eggs, not above half a spoonful of that Oyl of Eggs, to a Porrenger full of thick Pap, beaten exceeding well with it, and a little juyce of Limons. Lay this smooth upon the Cakes with a Knife, and smoothen it with a feather. Then set the pan over them to dry them.  Which being if there be any unevenness, or cracks or discolouring, lay on a little more of that Mortar, and dry it as before. Repeat this, till it be as clear and smooth, and white, as you would have it. Then turn the other sides, and do the like to them. You must take care, not to scorch them: for then they would look yellow or red, and they must be pure, white and smooth like Silver between polished and matte, or like a looking Glass. This coat preserves the substance of the Cakes within, the longer moist. You may beat dissolved Amber, or Essence of Cinnamon, with them." [pages 185-186]



[Prospect Books edition, 1997. Edited by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson.]


The 1685 edition of Robert May's The Accomplisht Cook includes a wide variety of treatments for finishing pies and tarts.


Some merely state as in the recipe "A made Difh of Pippins" on pages 243-244, "and being baked ice it." May also includes recipes for pyes that continue to merely "scrape on sugar" after baking. Some even state "bake it, ice it, fcrape on fugar, and ferve it in." as in the recipes for "To make a Tart of Hips." [page 245] and "To make a Strawberry-Tart." [page 246].  A recipe for "To make a Warden or a Pear Tart quartered" concludes with "then ice it with a quarter of a pound of double refined Sugar, rose-water, and butter." (p.244)

"To make a Pippin Pye." concludes: "then ice it with butter, fugar, and rofe-water." [page 242] Several other of May's recipes include the addition of butter to the previously used rosewater and sugar. This use of butter combined with sugar and rose-water for flavouring is more in line with modern icings, although we can't determine the proportions of butter to sugar. (and it would not be confectioner's sugar but finely pounded granulated sugar in any case)



His marchpane of To make Marchpane." states: "and ice it with rofewater and fugar, being made as thick as butter for fritters, to fpread it on with a wing feather, and put it into the oven again; when you fee it rife high, then take it out and garnifh it with fome pretty conceits made of the fame ftuff..." [pages 271-272]


His "Jemelloes" on pages 274-275 concludes with

"and when they be dry, boil them in rofe-water and fugar; it is an excellent fort of banqueting."




17th Century Manuscript Recipes


Manuscript recipes that contain references have been placed in this special section. I will date them as being 17th century. Individual recipes do not carry dates, so we cannot determine when they were recorded.  All four of these English works cited here were initially edited and published only after 1970.


Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, as edited by Hilary Spurling, includes a recipe for "maccaroonds" that ends: "or if please you when it is through baked you may Ice it over." [pages 225-227] The "marchpane" recipe concludes: "when it is reasonable well hardned take it out & ice it, & set on your conceits, then put it in the oven againe, untill yo' iceing bee hardned, then take it out, & stick on your comfits, & when it is cold gild it, your iceing is made with nothing but rosewater & sugar beaten togither, it must bee somewhat

thick, I think some 3 greate spoonfulls of sugr will serve for the iceing of it." [pages 228-229]

[Lady Fettiplace's manuscript was started in 1604 and includes recipes from the 17th century, as well as later additions in other hands.]



A Booke of Sweetmeats, which is one of the two Tudor-Jacobean manuscripts that comprise Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, as edited by Karen Hess, includes recipes:

"155. To Make Little Cakes"

"...when they are baked, you may Ice then over with A little sugar & rosewater wash'd over on ye top, & ye white of an egg beaten with it, & after set them a little into ye oven againe. & soe you may Ice your great Cakes."  [pages 320-321] Hess suggests that a ratio of 1 tablespoon rosewater to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar to the one egg white be used for the glaze or ice.


Recipe 158  for a Marchpane uses the term "candy" instead of ice as in "candy ye other side." [page 322] But recipes 159 and 161 return to "Ice."


"159. To Make a Marchpane Cake"

"...& dry them. then take ye white of an egg, & beat searsed [sugar] into it till it is something thick,& Ise ye one side of them over with it & dry them againe in a warme oven for a quarter of an houre, then turne them & ice ye other side of them in ye like manner, & they will be very white with smooth sides. & soe keep them for yr use."  [page 325]


"161. To Make a Marchpane" instructs one " then take 2 or3 spoonfulls of rose water & beat searses sugar in it till it be something thick, then set it on papers & Ice your marchpane within, with it, & bake it." [page 327]


Recipe 193 is a recipe for Almond Iumbals" where the wording is "glase them with ye froth of ye white of 2 new layd eggs beaten with sugar, as much as will make it thick as pap. Then spread it with A Knife as thin as you can on the Jumbals. Then let them stand in the stove againe 5 or 6 hours. then glase the other side & set them to dry in the oven." [page 350] This recipe uses "glase" meaning glaze as in "cover with a

smooth and lustrous coating". [OED]



Rebecca Price began her manuscript of recipes in 1681. This most interesting collection was published as The Compleat Cook, Or the Secrets of a Seventeenth-Century Housewife in 1974. It was edited by Madeleine Masson. It contains numerous recipes that are of interest when searching for icing references. It is also a joy to read for the combination of recipes, practical advice hints and reminders given that are well matched with the author's intimate and warm personal style.


"An Apple-pye to eat Hott" instructs that "bake ye pye an hour or not quite so much, then serve it to the table buttered, and sweetened with good fine pouder suger". [page 148] For "Plum, Raspe, or Grape Tarts", one is instructed to "cutt a cover, ice it and bake it."[page 149]


Rebecca included pages of cake recipes, including these:


"A Receipt for a very good Cake, my first Cousin Clerkes"


"and when it is baked ice it and put it in the oven againe for a quarter of an howre with the stome [lid] downe, that the suger may looke the whiter;"  [page 190]


"A very good, and a Rich Cake, often made by me"


"and when it is baked take it out of ye oven and ice it, and put in the oven again for a quarter of an hour with the lid down that the suger may looke the whiter: this will make a very large cake, and it will take up

foure pound of lofe suger to ice it." Rebecca notes that if you make "an extraordinary great cake" with 12 pound of flour, "it will require 3 howers bakeing; and 6 pound of suger to ice it." [page 193]


For "A cake of 6lb. of flower wch. is usually what I send away", she listed the specific weights of the

ingredients used, including "3:quar. of a pound of suger" in the cake and "2:pound off lofe suger will ice it." The cost was noted as "12s:6d this cake cometh to." [page 194]


For "Little plum cakes," she instructs: "-if you will Ice them, as soon as they are baked take them out of the oven and mix some fine lofe suger being sifted with a little water and spred it over the cakes, and set them in the oven again with the Lid down for to harden them." [page 195]


For "Portingall Cakes" which are a cake made of flour and eggs and no ale barm or yeast, the recipe ends: "and when they are baked ice them, but let your Iceing be thike, you must not forgett to prick them, when you put them in the oven." [page 198]


The section on cakes concludes with this recipe that I will copy out in full:


"To Make Iceing for A Cake; my Lady Sheldon

Take a pounde of lofe suger beaten, and sifted; then put to it as much gum-dragon that hath been steeped in rose water, or oring-flower water, as the quantity of a nuttmeg; mix with your gum the white of an egg, and 5 or six spoonfulls of rose, or oring-flower-water, so straine it altogether into your suger, and put it into a morter and beat it extreamely for an howre or more if you see occation. for the longer

you beat it the whiter it will be, and if you will you may add a little muske, or ambergreece; when your cake is baked poure it one the top and spread it all over it, and also the sides, you may spread it with a knife, then set it in the oven againe and let it stand a little till it harden, but not couller: be sure don't put to much water to make it than three spoonfulls of ye waters is soficient."

[page 199][ editor's note: gum dragon = tragacanth;



This as complete a recipe as that given by Digbie. It's use of the gum dragon makes for a recipe that somewhat resembles the sugarpaste recipes that were used for marchpanes in the 16th centuries and even more akin to the modern cakes draped in gum paste coverings. Note the warning not to let it couller or color (turn yellow or scorch) in the oven.


Small cakes that were baked on plates such as the recipe for "Very fine Cakes" says "when they are baked ice them with rose-water; and suger, they will be quickly baked." [page 259]. Rebecca's "Shell-Bread: given me at schoole" are baked in mustle shells, taken out of the shells, "and ice them with rose-water, and suger, this is very fine; it is called the Italian-Mussell, you may keepe them all the yare, and in rayny weather put theem into the oven." [page 261] The recipe for "Oringe jumbells" instructs "when they are drye, take more fine suger mingled with rose water, prety thike; then with a feather spread it over the jumbells, when one side is drye spread the other, the suger and rose water must be beaten together." [page 262] For "Almond Jumbells" the instructions read: "when they are all don, take the white of an egg and some double refined suger, sifted, worke it together a good while to make it look white, then with your knife lay it on one side of your jumbells, and so set them in the stove, when that side is drye, slide them on cleane papers, and with the top of your knife do the other side, when they are drye box them." [page 262]


"Almond Cakes Iced one both sides: my Aunt Rye's Receipt" instructs one to make make little cakes, "then mingle the the rest of the suger with damaske rose-water as thike as you stir a puding; then with your feather Ice your cakes on one side, and set the lidd of a bakeing-pan over them, covered with wood coles, and let it stand till the Iceing is hardened and begins to blister, when the cakes are thorow cold, turn them upon fresh papers, and Ice the other side, in the same maner." [page 265]  These cakes are thus iced on one side before being baked or dried in what we might today call a dutch oven and then iced on the other side after being baked.  The recipe suggests itself as being suitable for campfire cookery since it doesn't require the use of an oven.



The scholar, John Evelyn (1620-1706), is well known for his Acetaria A Discourse of Sallets published in 1699.  His volume of receipts was unpublished until 1997 when Prospect Books published the culinary sections as John Evelyn, Cook. It was edited by Christopher Driver.  Evelyn often simply wrote "Ice it as you do any Other" as in the recipe for "a very light Cake". [#207 page 126] He did, however, elaborate as in the following specific recipe:


"206. To ice the cake.

Take a p[ound] of Double refined sugar sifted the whites of 3 Eggs beat with a spoonfull or more of Rose water mix in the sugar by degrees continue beating till it is very white and the Cake baked then draw the Cake to the ovens mouth and spread it equally let it stand to harden a litle while and so draw it[.]" [page 126]


Those using Evelyn should note that Evelyn uses a term "icings" as in "274. To make white oatmeal pudings or icings." Here the term means a sort of sausage from the word "ising".



18th Century references and notes for purposes of comparison and further study.



John Nott's Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary of 1726 (facsimile by Lawrence Rivington, 1980) provides a valuable collection of recipes in use during the latter part of the 17th and the early part of the 18thcenturies, or roughly 1650-1715. Nott's sources were wide-ranging and not identified as to author or place. Arranged in dictionary format, one finds that Nott includes the following under IC:


"To make Ice and Snow" a recipe for cream made with rennet.


Then follows:

"4. To make Icing.

Take half a Pound of fine Loaf-fugar, beat it very fine in a Mortar; then fift it; then put it again into the Mortar with four Spoonfuls of Rofe-water, and the whites of two eggs; ftir it all one Way, 'till your Cakes and Tarts come out of the Oven, and almoft cold, dip a Feather in your Icing, and ftrike over your Cakes or Tarts, and fet them in a cool Oven to harden." [page IC]


Nott concludes the section with "5. how to ice all Sorts of Waters" which gives instructions for using pieces of ice and salt to "freeze" moulds. [page je]



Edward Kidder (1665?-1739) ran a school for would-be cooks. One of the recipe notebooks compiled by one of his students was published as Receipts of Pastry & Cookery For the Use of His Scholars [Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1993]. The manuscript reproduced in facsimile is dated 1720-1739.


"A Batter Cake" ends with the following:

"The Iceing

Beat & sift a pd. of double refind sugar & put to it the whits of 4 eggs put in but one at a tyme beat them in a basson with a silver spoon till tis very leight & white" [page 126-127]


"A Seed Cake" which follows ends with the instruction:

"Strew over it double refind sugar & rough carraways" but whether this is done before or after baking is left unclear.


"Another Way" for the making of Gingerbread Cakes indicates "when they are bakd dip them in boyling water to glaze them" [page 129-130]


This is not of course sugar "glazing".


Double layers of icing were apparently the invention of Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald who in the 1769 The Experienced English House-Keeper included a recipe for a Bride's cake that included an almond icing that is set to harden topped by a layer of sugar icing. Many feel that this is the beginning of not only the traditional British Christmas Cake but the British Wedding Cake whereby a cake is layered first with marzipan and then coated in royal icing. Raffald offers much informed comment in an introductory section to Chapter IX of her work which is entitled "Observations upon Cakes."

[various reprints inc. 1997 Southover Press of Lewes, East Sussex, UK.]



I will mention that Barbara Wheaton credits the Patissier Francois of 1654 as one of the earliest sources for both "the egg-and-sugar-foam-based batters from which sweet cakes developed" and "a simple royal icing."

[Savoring the French Past, 1983. pp.177.]


I will not attempt to go into any French-English connections at this point, except to note that the work was published in English in 1656 as The Perfect Cook with the author being given as Mon. Marnette. {And as I do not have a copy I can't at this time quote what that work has to offer regarding either cakes or icing.}





These recipes that call for a simple mixture of rosewater and sugar might be what we now refer to as "glazed" where an item is lightly iced. Note that most of the cakes and items being iced are not cooled before icing. Almost all modern recipes instruct one to cool the cake prior to icing.  Most of these early recipes call for the items to be then placed back into an oven to dry.  (Modern terminology : Glazed as in glazed doughnuts)


Sugar would have been obtained in cones of varying weights and quality. There were two English sugar refineries in the 1550's; by 1650, there were at least 50 in just London. Double refined sugar was refined sugar that was refined again in England. Powdered or confectioners' sugar would not have been in use. Any reference to powdered sugar is to granulated sugar that is pounded fine and sifted. Elizabeth David notes that it was the latter decades of the 19th century before caster and icing or confectioners' sugars became common.


I do not as yet have a firm date for the common use of what we now refer to as buttercream frostings. Robert May, for one, did use butter in his recipes, although we can't really state that this was a true buttercream.


I will not attempt to go into the history of English cakes, except to note that most cakes prior to 1600 were the rich yeast (more akin to modern sweet) dough variety to which spices, currants, candied fruits, and nuts might be added. Large cakes and even some of the small cakes were generally treated as breads would be and use yeast, good ale yest, ale barm, or hartshorn for leavening. Recipes using eggs beaten for as long as two or three hours begin to appear primarily in the 17th century, although Wilson quotes a date of 1596 for Thomas Dawson's Biscuit Bread that rises from the use of eggs beaten for two hours.



Charsley, Simon R. Wedding Cakes and Cultural History. 1992.

{Use Charsely with caution. He confuses Price's The Compleat Cook with that of the 1655 The Compleat Cook by W.M.}

David, Elizabeth. English Bread and Yeast Cookery. 1977, 1980.

Henisch, Bridget Ann. Cakes and Characters. An English Christmas Tradition. 1984.

Wilson, C. Anne. Food and Drink in Britain. 1974; 1991.

Fleming, Elise. (Dame Alys Katharine) Confectioners Newsletter. Vol.3, No.1. February, 1994. "Powdered Sugar" which includes notes from Karen Hess regarding powdered sugar and its various meanings when the term is found in recipes prior to 1800. history and use.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edition. Online restricted edition.


This is the work of Johnnae llyn Lewis//Johnna H. Holloway ,

4 November 2001. Please credit the author when using her comments.