Cupcake wars

Historical recipe-making at the Wangensteen Historical Library

Recipe for Portugal Cake from 1820
Recipe for Portugal Cake from 1820

What did cake taste like in 1820? It is hard to know exactly because recipes from the past did not necessarily include exact measurements. Baking temperatures were not often included, nor were recommended baking times. A full list of ingredients was not even a requirement for a recipe.  

This did not stop Emily Beck and Sarah Juntunen of the Wangensteen Historical Library from trying to recreate a recipe for Portugal cake from an 1820 English recipe manuscript, one of many recipes held in the Library’s large collection of manuscript and print books.

In fact, it motivated them to compete in the Wangensteen Historical Library’s inaugural Cupcake Wars, inspired by the Great British Bake Off television series.

View old recipes
Our UMedia Archive contains all of the recipes from the Wangensteen Library.

Browse the recipes

Beck remarks of the competition, “Making historical recipes reveals not only what the writer knew, but what the reader was expected to know and be able to do.”

Will Beck and Juntunen reveal their knowledge of baking?  Will the currants sink to the bottom of the cake? Will they choose the right pan? Will their respective Portugal cakes be edible?

Watch the Cupcake Wars, with a guest appearance from Host and Baking Judge, Nicole Theis-Mahon, who will reveal the answers to these questions and more at the judging table.  

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