1414 Scottish wedding cakes*

Shotlandskija, svadebnyja lepeshki


  • lb butter
  • ½ lb , or glasses, flour
  • glasses, or ½ lb, [sic] almonds
  • ½ egg white
  • glass fine sugar


Heat slightly lb fresh unsalted butter, being careful not to let it boil. Add ½ lb fine wheat flour, ½ cup fine sugar, ½ cup finely chopped, blanched almonds, and ½ egg white. Knead, beat thoroughly, and roll out into a flat cake ½ vershok thick. Cut into 6–8 parts. Prick liberally with a fork and bake in the oven on a baking sheet. The oven must not be too hot since the pastry must dry out in the oven for a long time.

*This is really a recipe for shortbread. According to Fitzgibbon, shortbread was often served at weddings in the Shetland Islands, especially an elaborate version called the “bride’s bonn(ach),” which was baked with a comfit the size of a sixpence in the middle. Traditionally, each unmarried guest had to break off a piece of cake; whoever touched the comfit was reputedly doomed to remain single. (Fitzgibbon, Food of the Western World, 429.)

It is not as surprising as it might seem for Molokhovets to know about and include a recipe for a Scottish wedding cake. In late Tsarist Russia, members of the upper class were very cosmopolitan, perhaps even more than their European and English counterparts. They were well read and usually were fluent in several European languages including French, German, and English. Much of this fluency was due to the efforts of foreign governesses, who were widely employed in wealthy house-holds from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the Bolshevik revolution. Pitcher, who has written about English governesses in Russia, estimates that thousands of English-speaking governesses, including a very large number of Scots and Irish, lived with Russian families during this hundred year period. (Pitcher, When Miss Emmie Was in Russia, xi.) Along with language skills, a good governess would also acquaint her charges with some aspects of her culture, especially life-cycle events like weddings. Such information would have spread rapidly in the society; young women have an avid interest in such matters, as folklorists readily attest.