This recipe for a lemon sponge offers a good insights into the level of physical exertion demanded of kitchen staff in the Georgian era.
As the only raising agents in the recipe, the eggs needed to be whisked with sugar for an hour to incorporate sufficient air into the cake mix. And then there are the almonds, which were to be pounded down into a paste with rosewater before being combined with the other ingredients.
The whole process is made all the more cumbersome because of the large quantities involved. There are 3lbs (1.36 kg) of dry ingredients alone, without factoring the astonishing number of eggs required.
Today we could whip up this recipe in no time using an electric whisk and blender, but in the eighteenth-century it relied on good old-fashioned elbow-grease…
A Lemon Cake
Take 16 eggs, half the whites, a pd & half of dubble refind sugar. Put yr eggs & sugar together & whip them for an hour till as white as cream. Then put to it a nagin of rose water or orange flower water & the out side rind of 4 lemons greated, 1 pd of fine flower dryed, half a pd of Jordon almonds with rose water. Mix all well together with a whisk. Put paper in the pan. Put it quick in the oven. An hour and a qr bakes it.