Victoria Buns

This recipe from Harriet is another hastily scribbled one, consisting of a list of ingredients and little else. I’m guessing that working as a domestic servant was not leaving her with much leisure time to perfect her recipes.

Harriet was a housemaid at St Margaret’s Vicarage, Huttons Ambo (modern day picture below). Actually consisting of two villages, Low Hutton and High Hutton, in 1901, two years before Harriet wrote this recipe, it had a population of just 376 people. Most families worked on the land or on the railways. There don’t appear to be many other servants in the village although the 1901 census states that there was a cook called Lucinda Pickering at the Vicarage. A local woman just three years older than Harriet, I wonder if they were friends or if, indeed, it was Lucinda that Harriet watched at work, noting down the recipes as she did so.

View to the Old Vicarage. Reproduced with the kind permission of Philip Stone,

The newspapers of the time tell me that the local football and cricket clubs both held concerts in the village. Otherwise, the town of Malton was only three miles away on a train. But, with her father and several siblings presumably still nearby, I suspect precious days off may have been spent visiting family.

By the time Harriet wrote down this recipe, the second in her book, Queen Victoria had been dead for two years. Her long reign and renowned healthy appetite lived on in a number of recipes and foodstuffs though, from Victoria plums to the Victoria Sandwich and Marrow Toast à la Victoria. These simple buns first appear in Mrs Beeton’s The Book of Household Management in 1861. However, given Mrs B’s reputation for ‘borrowing’ other people’s recipes, it was probably in circulation before this date. Mrs Beeton’s and many later recipes include ground rice and candied peel in the list of ingredients.

To me, these resemble Rock Cakes in taste and texture but they are also featured in Mrs Beeton’s book as ‘Rock Biscuits’ so must have a different provenance. To complicate matters further, the similar Brighton Rocks also make an appearance around this time in The Complete biscuit and gingerbread baker’s assistant. In Victorian and Edwardian times there seem to be no end of different recipes composed of flour, sugar, butter and fruit!

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