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The Gothick Table

Dining at Gibside

Gothic Revival Sugar Sculpture

Food historian Ivan Day will be making a number of the foodstuffs which would have been consumed in a banqueting house of this period. There will be a particular emphasis on dessert foods, particularly those with a neo-gothic decorative element.

It may come as a suprise, but gothic revival elements were as popular in cuisine just as much as they were in the decorative arts and architecture. Ivan will demonstrate the creation of a number of gothic-revival dessert foods, including sugarwork and jellies that would have made Pugin feel hungry. Ivan will also be explaining the history and purpose of banqueting houses throughout the two days. For more details visit the Landmark Trust website.


Greenwood Press

Cooking in Europe by Ivan Day

A new book by Ivan Day to be published by the Greenwood Press in November 2008. £25.95 ($45.00).

ISBN: 0-313-34624-0

Recipes include examples from France, Italy, England, Austria, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, and Scotland, from the simple Salad of Pomegranate from La Varenne's 1651 cookery book to the elaborate 1833 Boar's Head in Galantine by Carême. This unique book is a culinary treasure trove to complement all European History library collections.

Find out more


Come to see food historian Ivan Day unmould the fascinating history of the jelly in a series of remarkable demonstrations at Brodsworth Hall Jelly Festival.

Gilded Flummery Fish 1769

Tiny gilded jelly fish floating in a pond of sweet dessert wine made from original 1750 moulds.Click on the image to hear Ivan making jellys for Jenny Murray on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour.

Flummery Pineapple

A blancmange pineapple made in a mould from the time of Jane Austen. This beautiful dessert dish looks as if it has been made from porcelain.Click the image to hear Ivan talk about the history of gelatine on the prize winning American podcast Eat-Feed.

Click the pineapple cream to see the mould

Pineapple flavoured jellies are difficult to make, because the juice contains an enzyme that prevents gelatine from setting. However, Victorian cooks used other setting agents like isinglass (sturgeon's bladder - true!) to set the jelly. Click the jelly above to see the mould.

Conical Stepped Jelly

This mid-nineteenth century tiered cone jelly was designed to wobble in a most provocative way. Many a straightlaced Victorian diner must have cried with mirth when they saw this little fellow going through its paces. Watch a strawberry flavoured version of this naughty Victorian jelly misbehave itself outrageously in the video opposite. The jelly was made in a mid-nineteenth century ceramic mould designed and manufactured by Copeland. This is just one of the many remarkable dishes that were recently made on an Historic Food Victorian Cookery Course.

Brunswick Star Jelly and Mould

Brusnswick Star Jelly Mould with liner

A Brunswick Star Jelly and mould. When this remarkable jelly was sliced it revealed a white blancmange star (left) going all the way through the centre. It was designed to celebrate the marriage of Edward Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. It was a pendant to the Alexandra Cross Jelly, which had the Danish Flag running through the jelly. Both jelly moulds were provided with a special liner that allowed blancmange to be poured into a cavity in the centre of the jelly.

Brodsworth Hall Gardens

The Jelly Festival takes place in the beautiful gardens at Brodsworth Hall. Click the image to go to the Brodsworth Hall website. If you want to know more about this event, there are also more details on the website of English Heritage. This will be a fun event for all members of the family.

Playing Card Jelly

A Jelly in the form of a playing card. These moulds were also used for making ice cream. Whole sets of cards couild be made. Although these date from the nineteenth century, the idea is much older. Sugar playing cards were made in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and there are records of whole edible chess sets.

Cream Jelly with Berries

Above - a Victorian milk jelly made in a pipe mould and filled with summer fruits. Below - an asparagus cream garnished with savoury ballettes.

Asparagus cream and savoury ballettes.

A Chocolate Extravaganza

Georgian Chocolate Pot with Batavian ware bowls

Pass your mouse cursor over the image above and click to go to Harewood House website for more information on this event. The image shows a Georgian chocolate pot with its mill and Batavian ware Chinese bowls. The rollover image is an early eighteenth century Italian manuscript illumination.

Chocolate Dolphin

Culinary moulds like this were multi-purpose. This one could be used for making a nougat centrepiece, or one made of chocolate. Hold your cursor over the mould to see the chocolate dolphin.

Georgian Chocolate

Seventeenth and eighteenth century chocolate was sold in ready prepared tablets, which could be grated to make drinking chocolate. These usually contained sugar and were sometimes spiced or perfumed. Confectionery and baked goods whichg were flavoured with chocolate started to appear in the late seventeenth century, but true "chocolates" did not arrive on the scene until quite later.

The first chocolates were called Diavolini or Diablotins - little devils and were described in a recipe in Les Soupers de la Cour in 1755. Like a lot of good things they seem to have been invented in Naples.

The photograph opposite shows an eighteenth century epergne and some sweetmeat glasses filled with various items of historical chocolate confectionery, including diablotins (1755), chocolate drops (1789) and the Queen's Chocoladoes - in the central bowl of the epergne. These were candied immature cacao nuts and date from the 1660s. Ivan made these for the ground breaking exhibition In Praise of Hot Liquors held a few years ago at Fairfax House in York, a city with historical links to chocolate and its production.

Ices at Harewood 2007

A selection of eighteenth and nineteenth century ices made by Ivan in the old kitchen at Harewood in 2007. This year he is going to demonstrate the skills of the chocolatiers of the past, making moulded chocolates like the cockerel and hen on the right and a whole range of other forgotten chocolate delights. If you are a chocoholic who wants to learn more about the history of your addiction, come to this uniqe event at beautiful Harewood House.

1930s white chocolate



This winter, museum goers in New York City were treated to a very special re-creation of an Imperial Russian dessert table, complete with authentic eighteenth century style sugar architecture and fragile pastillage flowers. This unique display was a feature of Fragile Diplomacy, a major exhibition of Meissen Porcelain held at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhatten. Exhibition curator Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, probably the world’s foremost authority on Meissen, had managed to persuade the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg to lend the exhibition a remarkable dessert service made at Meissen in 1745, known as the St. Andrew’s Service. This was one of the most important ever made at the manufactory and was given as a gift by Augustus III, the Elector of Saxony to Elizabeth, Empress of Russia. Mrs. Cassidy-Geiger invited the British food historian Ivan Day to use the service to re-create a mid-eighteenth century dessert in its full glory.

As well as all the plates, dishes and tureens used for serving the food, dessert services often came complete with a set of porcelain figures for decorating the middle of the table. The St. Andrew’s service includes a group of beautiful glazed white porcelain figures which represent Apollo and the Muses. By the middle of the 18th century, white ceramic figures of this kind were beginning to replace the elaborate sugar sculpture which had graced high status banquet tables for the best part of two hundred years. Meissen, Europe’s first porcelain factory, started this trend in the 1730s.These figures were usually arranged on a raised plateau or surtout de table, made of mirrored glass, which ran down the centre of the table.

Parterre Dessert Seting

Fig. 1

1742 Table Setting

Fig. 2



Link to Events Pages 2005-6

Link to Events pages 2006-7


Landmark Trust Open Days

13th-14th September 2008


Gibside Banqueting House

The banqueting house at Gibside was designed by Daniel Garrett, a former assistant of Lord Burlington. It was built in the early 1740s for the Whig MP George Bowes, whose daughter married the Earl of Strathmore, creating the family name Bowes-Lyon. The building is a very good example of the early Gothick style and was designed for summer dining. Earlier buildings of this type were probably used for serving dessert foods, but the banqueting house at Gibside may have been designed for meals of the picnic kind. Two years ago Ivan re-created an early Jacobean Banquet at the East Banqueting House at Old Campden House, another Landmark Trust property - see details.


A new book by Ivan Day

Publication Date - 11th November 2008

Illustrations from Cooking in Europe

Some illustrations of pastries from Cookery in Europe 1650-1850


Brodsworth Hall and Gardens - 25-26 July 2008

5 miles north west of Doncaster off the A635.

Victorian Jellies

Victorian cooks loved to put on a spectacular show. See Ivan make all these jellies at Brodsworth and many more besides. (He actually made over fifty)! These were all well-known and popular jellies in the second half of the nineteenth century. From the top in a clockwise direction: Imperial Lion Jelly, Brunswick Star, Belgrave, Russian Jelly and Alexandra Cross.


Orange Jellies

These spectacular striped orange jellies were invented by the great French patissier Antonin Carême - they are much easier to make than they look. Learn how at Brodsworth Jelly Festival.

Click the play button to see the world's most wobbly jelly. This naughty dish recently became the world's first celebrity jelly when it wobbled for Brit Ekland on BBC's One Show.

Slices of Brunswick Star Jelly

Spectacular slices of Brunswick Star Jelly

Flummery Melon 1769

Flummery was a kind of "jellified cream" - what we would call blancmange. It was very popular in the eighteenth century. Realistic melons were moulded from flummery and then decorated with foliage to create spectacular centre-pieces.

Asparagus Cream Jelly

Early Victorian Asparagus Cream Jelly

Belgrave Jelly

The mysterious Belgrave Jelly with its spiral columns

Belgrave Mould and Lining

One of the rarest of all jelly moulds - an oval Belgrave with its pewter lining

A CHOCOLATE EXTRAVAGANZA Harewood House 22nd June 2008 10am-5pm

Chocolate baveroise

Two Victorian moulded chocolate baveroises with a large copper chocolate mould in the form of a dolphin.

Food Historian Ivan Day will be exploring the forgotten history of chocolate in the beautiful Old Kitchen at Harewood. He will be making chocolate from cacao beans in the age-old way using a metate, an item of equipment originally used by the Aztecs, to whom chocolate was sacred. The metate was adopted by European confectioners until the chocolate making process became mechanised in the nineteenth century. A variety of early chocolate sweets and drinks from the late Stuart, Georgian and Victorian periods will be conjured up in the kitchen using original items of period equipment. Ivan will demonstrate the use of some remarkable chocolate moulds and will be making seventeenth century Neapolitan chocolate sorbet, chocolate tarts from the reign of Queen Anne, moulded chocolate delights  from Queen Victoria’s kitchen and a whole range of other goodies beloved of the chocoholics of a bygone age.

This event is kindly sponsored by Nestlé UK

Victorian Chocolate Cockerel and Hen

Georgian Chocolate confectionery

Chocolate Hen and Mould

Chocolate Fish and Mould

See Ivan make chocolate creatures like the spectacular examples above. The fish is hollow and was designed to hold small confectionery items. He will also make a varity of vintage chocolates like those on the left using 1930s praline moulds.


Fragile Diplomacy

Bard Graduate Center, New York City

Autumn 2007

St Andrew's Table 1

Ivan based his table scheme on two contemporary sources. The first of these was a layout in Menon’s La Science du maître d’hôtel confiseur ( Paris: 1750), which shows a table set up in the form of a formal garden with parterres made out of coloured sugars (see fig. 1 in the left hand column). The second was an illustration of the Empress Maria Thérèse dining at a state function in Vienna in 1742 (see fig. 2 in the left hand column). The table in this print is decorated with two flamboyant sugar paste pavilions. Under the pavilions are pyramids of artificial fruits and flowers. In the middle of the table is a sugar basket filled with artificial flowers. Ivan wanted to be sure that his table design was perfect for the period and for this level of royalty, and these images were the best models he could find.

Using a number of wooden moulds from the period, Ivan made a sugar paste pavilion based on the 1742 Vienna design. The only feature of the original he did not faithfully follow were the candy twist columns in the original engraving. This was because he had access to an original wooden mould of the period for making fluted Corinthian columns, so made a set of these instead. The pavilion and its component parts were made with a pastillage paste from a period recipe comprising 1 ounce of tragacanth gum to 16 ounces of confectioner’s sugar. Only water was used to mix the paste – no egg white or other additives. This simple mixture makes a very strong elastic paste that is perfect for pressing from wooden moulds, as it releases easily and takes very fine impressions.

Basket of flowers

Eighteenth century pastillage flowers made by Ivan and Alyson Lillyman

To bring the table to life, Ivan needed about 600 pastillage flowers. He made about half of these himself in true eighteenth century style - mainly large showy roses, ranunculus, carnations and pinks, some with stamens made from saffron strands, others with feathers and silk threads. However, he needed many more flowers than he could make himself in the time allowed. So he invited Alyson Lillyman of Perfect Petals to make the others he needed. Alyson had been recommended to Ivan by Beverly Dutton of Squire’s Kichen and she turned out to be a perfect choice. She completed a very demanding order in a very short time and the quality of her work was of the highest standard. Alyson made hundreds of delicate orange blossoms, jasmine and violets - all strongly scented flowers in their natural state and as a result very fashionable at court in the eighteenth century.

In order to make the table as authentic as possible, a linen table cloth was specially made by New York artist Amy Haskins. Amy, who is a silversmith, also made the silver edging for the mirror glass plateau which ran down the centre of the table.

This exhibition demonstrated the lavishness of royal dining at a major European court. It showed how the sugar art of the confectioner was as on a par with that of other artists working in more conventional materials and at this very high level was taken just as seriously.    

St Andrew's Service

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