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History Cookbook: Shrewsberry ( Shrewsbury) Cakes

This recipe is in categories Georgians / Regency, Snacks
About this recipe
Healthiness : (572 votes)
Difficulty:  2 out of 5 difficulty
Comments: Modern flour seems to be drier than flour of the period, as the original recipe does not contain enough liquid to make a dough. The podcast recipe uses about 5 tablespoons of rosewater to make the recipe work. In our modern version, we suggest using a little rose water and some tapwater.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes
Number of servings: Makes 8-10 cakes
Serving suggestions: Serve with syllabub.

Shrewsberry/Shrewsbury cakes are a kind of biscuit. They are less crumbly than a shortbread but have a buttery flavour.

They were made to accompany many dishes but were popular with syllabub, which is a sugared, whipped cream, flavoured with cider or sherry. Sugar was an important trade item and refined (white) sugar was very fashionable. This recipe uses white sugar which would have been pinched off a sugarloaf and then ground (beaten) until fine enough to use in the recipe.

Traditionally they are baked as thick, large biscuits and were able to be kept for long periods of time. 

Our recipe comes from ' A delightful Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen' 

Take a quart of very fine flouwer, eight onces of fine sugar beaten and cersed, twelve ounces sweet butter, nutmeg grated, damaske rosewater- work together with your hands for halfe an houre, then roule in little round cakes about the thickness of three shillings, then take a glasse and cut the cakes, then strow some flower on white papers and bake them in an oven as hotte as for manchet. If the oven be not hotte sett your lid downe ( there is a long explanantion for testing/changing the heat in the  period oven which i have omitted)  until they be baked enough, for they must lokke browne not white. you may keep them halfe a yeare but new baked are best.

  • 100g (4oz) plain white flour
  • 100g (4oz) white, caster sugar
  • 100g (4oz) salted butter (very soft, works best)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated (or ground) nutmeg
  • 2-3 teaspoon rosewater
  • 3-5 tablespoons tapwater (at room temperature)
  • optional: a little caster sugar to sprinkle on the top

( Note: You may need more water to make a stiff dough, it will depend on the flour you use.)


  • Weighing scales
  • Teaspoon
  • Tablespoon
  • Grater (optional)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Rolling pin
  • Large cutter
  • Fork
  • Baking sheet
  • Cooling rack
  • Airtight container
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

  1. Pre-heat the oven Gas 4, 350F or 180C
  2. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a bowl and mix well with a fork. You should end up with fine breadcrumbs. If the butter is hard you will need to rub it in with your fingertips, like making pastry
  3. Add the rosewater, enough water to make a soft dough and add the nutmeg
  4. Gather the dough together with your fingers in the bowl
  5. Kneed lightly
  6. Flour a surface and roll the dough out to about half a cm depth
  7. Use a large cutter to cut the cakes (biscuits) out
  8. Prick the surface of the cakes (biscuits) with a fork
  9. Space the cakes (biscuits) out on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes,  the cakes should be golden brown when cooked
  10. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray to firm up for 2-3 minutes
  11. Then transfer to a cooling rack
  12. Serve cold
  13. These will keep well in an airtight container
Shrewsberry ( Shrewsbury) Cakes - print view  Shrewsberry ( Shrewsbury) Cakes - print view

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There are 3 comments for this recipe.
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Name: Denise 10th November 2014
i think you forgot to add the lemon zest to the Shrewsbury cake/biscuit
Name: Laura 20th June 2014
Just tried this. The dough was extremely soft even before adding rose water. We didn't need any other liquids and in fact added more flour. Even so the cakes spread out flat on the tray and lost their shape. Are the quantities of butter, sugar and flour really supposed to be equal?
Name: Lizzie 29th May 2011
really nice recipe but you forgot to tell us when to the nutmeg in !!!!! Recipe now updated to make this clear. Thanks for your comment. The Cookit Team
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