Potingall Cakes (Portugal Cakes) 18.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Make It, Freeze It, Take It Dec 31, 2014

This recipe offers insight into the tastes of 18th century British society — its love of rosewater, its lack of chocolate — and into the period's disregard for conventional spelling. (The name is a mangled version of "Portugal cakes," a common dessert at the time.) The resulting "cakes" are akin to a firm madeleine and go well with coffee or tea.

In the spirit of updating the recipe for the modern kitchen, the batter is beaten with an electric mixer. You'll need a madeleine pan; or see the VARIATION, below, about pans and yields.

Make Ahead: The cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

18 pieces

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 18 pieces

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (may substitute orange flower water)
  • 2 whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon sherry (may substitute orange juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried currants


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the madeleine pan(s) with a little butter.

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Combine the 16 tablespoons of butter and the rose water in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on low, then medium speed until lightened and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

On low speed, add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time and the sherry; stop to scrape down the bowl. Add half of the flour mixture, beating on low speed, then add the remaining flour mixture and the currants. Spoon the batter into the pan(s), filling to the top. Bake 1 pan at a time for 14 to 16 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat to use all the batter.

VARIATION: The batter will make 24 mini cakes in a mini muffin pan, with enough left over to make 8 cupcakes (in a standard-size muffin pan). Fill the mini muffin wells nearly full; fill the muffin pan wells 1/2 to 3/4 full. Mini cakes and cupcake-size cakes will not rise much.

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Recipe Source

Adapted by Alyssa Connell of the University of Pennsylvania's Cooking in the Archives project, from a 1730 cookbook catalogued as Ms. Codex 631 in the university's rare-books collection.

Tested by Sarah Kaplan.

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