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Savoy Cake with Oranges

This glamorous dish is an interesting example of how French culinary innovations were absorbed into the English tradition during the nineteenth century. This architectural sponge cake is garnished with orange quarters filled with alternate sripes of coloured jelly. The technique of layering jellies had been familiar in England since at least the seventeenth century - one example called 'ribband jelly' frequently appeared in our early cookery texts. However, it seems to have been the great French patissier Antonin Carême who first published a recipe for a variation on the theme, which rapidly became a popular English party piece. Urbain Dubois, one of Carême's pupils, hit on the idea of combining his master's recipe for savoy cake with the orange jellies to create this spectacular grosse pièce. By the end of the ninetenth century, this dish too had been absorbed into the Anglo-French style of cookery practised in the great houses of England, by chefs like Theodore Garrett.

Sugar syrup being poured into whipped eggs

Although both Carême and Garrett both made their Savoy Cake batter with dry sugar, many other 19th century pastry cooks preferred to pour a hot syrup into their whisked eggs before gradually adding the flour.

Savoy cake mix being poured into mould dusted with sugar

Before the Savoy Cake mould is filled with the batter, it is lined with a layer of sugar and potato flour to facilitate easy demoulding of the finished cake.

Click the savoy cake to see more

The cooked savoy cake, or biscuit, has a smooth coating of hard baked sugar.

Orange Jelly 3

The oranges are hollowed out and filled with alternate layers of blancmange and red jelly. When the jelly has set, they oranges are cut into quarters.

Click the baba mould to see more

Large Victorian cake moulds were also used for baking babas, compiegne cakes, solilems and kougelhopfs. Click the old print to see the baba mould.

A stale moulded sayoy cake was frequently soaked in alcohol to make a tipsy cake. Click to see more.

This decorative cake would have been served among the sweet entremets of a Victorian dinner.

Savoy Cake with Oranges

This fanciful dish has only eccentricity to recommend it. It was originally prepared by Urbain Dubois for the court of Prussia. Put 4lb. of castor sugar into a basin with 2 table-spoonfuls of powdered orange sugar, 1 pinch of salt, and the yolks of seven eggs; beat the mixture well till frothy, then sift in gradually 3oz. of flour and 2oz. of potato-flour. Whip the whites of eight eggs to a stiff froth, mix them with the batter, and pass the whole through a fine hair sieve. Warm a mould and grease it with kidney fat, dust some caster sugar and potato-flour, mixed in equal quantities, over it, shaking out all that does not adhere. Three-parts fill the mould with the batter, set it on a baking-sheet that has been covered with live embers, and bake it for an hour in a moderate oven. When cooked, turn the Cake on to a sieve, and leave it till it has cooled. Out a round of genoa Cake, 2in. thick, and a little larger than the savoy Cake, and bake it in a flat stewpan. Coat the surface of the round of Cake with orange icing, place it on a dish, and put the savoy Cake in the centre. Make a slight aperture in some oranges on the sides near the stem, and empty them with a vegetable-spoon; when quite cleared, stop up any holes in the rind with butter and place the orange-peels on powdered ice. Fill the hollows of the oranges with alternate layers of blanc-mange and slightly reddened orange-jelly. When the mixture in the oranges is firm, divide them into quarters from top to bottom, cut an end off each of the quarters so that they will stand upright, surround the savoy Cake with small baskets made out of mandarines, and garnish the base of the round of Cake with the imitation oranges and serve.

From Theodore Garrett The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (London: 1880s )


According to Theodore Garrett, whose recipe is quoted above, this elaborate sweet entremet was originally designed by Urbain Dubois, when he worked as the chef de cuisine to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia. This type of cake was frequently called a biscuit. At this period a smooth and polished crust of sugar on the outside of the biscuit was much admired. This was achieved by lining the copper cake mould with suet. The mould was washed until it was scrupulously clean, placed in the oven with the opening upward to ensure that no steam got trapped in the top. Once it was dry, but still hot, a little melted and strained suet was poured into the mould and the mould rotated to ensure that every part was coated. Butter was not used, because its higher water content would cause the cake to stick. The suet from around the kidneys of a calf was deemed to be the most suitable, as it had little flavour. While the mould was still hot and the suet still semi-molten, it was thorougly dusted with fine sugar, or a mixture of sugar and potato flour. Some paper was then tied round the top of the mould to ensure that any cake mixture which rose out was contained. Once baked, this excess was cut off when the cake had cooled. With very large cakes, hot pieces of charcoal were put on the baking tray on which the mould was placed in order to form a hot micro-climate around the baking cake. This ensured that the air-rich cake would not slump in the temperamental ovens of the period.

Moulded biscuits like this, frequently formed the basis of tipsy cake, a Victorian favourite. Stale savoy cake was spiked all over with blanched almonds and saturated with a sweet wine like madeira, marsala or sherry.


Orange Jellies

Historical Notes

Careme's oranges

Carême's illustration of his orange jellies from the English edition of his works published in London in 1836. They are garnished with orange leaves.

Acton's Orange Jellies

Eliza Acton's illustration for the same dish from her influential work Modern Cookery (London 1845). Acton's jellies are garnished with aromatic myrtle leaves.

Carême's original recipe called for the basket which holds the oranges to be made of almond paste. He also suggested that the dish would look even better if the whole arrangement were covered with a spun caramel dome.

Dubois, who thought up the addition of the Savoy and Genoa Cakes, found Paris a difficult place to be during the Franco Prussian War, since he had worked for the enemy. He fled to London, where he published his extraordinary Artistic Cookery in 1870.

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