♔Queen Cakes, date as far back as 1724. These dainty little delicacies are essentially a pound cake recipe with currants, baked in small fluted pans.
The name Queen Cake originated from the cookbooks of the court chefs of the 17th and 18th century who dedicated their recipes to specific royals by naming them with ‘Queen’ in the title, such as: Queens Delight  and The Queen’s Royal Cookery  or “To make a Cake the way of the Royal Princess, the Lady Elizabeth, daughter to King Charles the first”.
One of the first recorded recipes dates back to the early 18th century from a cook book by Robert Smith called Court Cookery, (1724). Smith cooked in the kitchens of King William (1650 –1702) under the royal chef of four monarchs, Patrick Lamb. The Queens were probably: Mary (d 1694), and her sister Queen Anne (reigned 1702-1714). King George was estranged from his wife Sofia- who never became Queen of England.
The “pound cake” recipe, always had currants added in fact, Queen Cake without currants is not technically a Queen Cake. The small cakes might also contain flower water and ground mace. Other alternatives were; Orange flower water, rose-water, nutmeg, or pounded almond flour or almond pieces.
Particularly popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, Queen Cakes were always baked in small individual tins, either patty pans or individual tin moulds. The most popular of these was the ‘heart shaped mould.
Pans were sold in a myriad of forms and were still in production in the early twentieth century. Petty pans, Patty pans, Queen cake tins, and little tins. Patty pans were made from tin, glass, china or stone, and some were large enough to bake a pie or tart.
Queen Cake…there are tin moulds made particularly for that purpose; they are to be had at any tin shop; the moulds should be well buttered, and when the cakes are baked the pans should be wiped while hot, and on no account washed.
~A Complete System of Cookery by John Simpson 1816
For those without the means of buying cake pans, the alternative was to use a tea-cup or saucer to bake the small cakes.
…beat the whole an hour; butter little tins, tea-cups, or saucers, and bake the batter in, filling only half. Sift a little fine sugar over just as you put into the oven.
~The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary by Mrs. Frazer 1820
Mrs Rundell, the early nineteenth century cookery author, suggests baking them in ‘little tins, tea-cups or saucers’ or in ‘buttered patty pans‘. She also instructs the reader to butter the tea cups, so the cakes were designed to be removed from the cup to be served.
You may ice them if you please, but do not let the iceing be thicker than you may lie on with a little brush.
English Housewifry by Elizabeth Moxon 1764
Make an icing with the whites of three eggs, beaten till it stands alone, and twenty-four teaspoonfuls of the best loaf-sugar, powdered, and beaten gradually into the white of egg. Flavour it with a tea-spoonful of rose-water or eight drops of essence of lemon, stirred in at the last.
Leslie Eliza, Seventy-five Receipts for pastry cakes, and sweetmeats. Philadelphia: 1832
Makes 12 small buns
or 8 heart-shaped cakes
125g soft butter (generous half cup)
125g caster sugar (2/3 cup)
2 large free range eggs
150g plain flour (1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
the finely grated zest of one un-waxed lemon [or rose water or orange flower water]
125g of dried currants (scant cup) [You can use chopped raisins as an alternative]
a splash of milk
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 12 hole patty pan, or 8 heart-shaped pans. Line the bottoms of the heart tins with baking paper, and the patty pans with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, eating well after each addition. Beat in the lemon zest. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the currants. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the flour mixture, along with a splash of milk, to give a gentle dropping consistency. Spoon into the prepared cases, filling each no more than 2/3 full.
Bake in the heated oven for 20 minutes, until well risen and the tops spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 to 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
Delicious when fresh, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.