To make Ratafia Cakes a Second Way

This is the 18th-century idea of dessert. Light, sweet and palate clearing, dessert represented the end of the meal. Often, desserts took the form of fruits and nuts. Additionally, sweetmeats such as marmalades and jellies could also be offered.

18th Century

Take one Pound and a half of Sweet Almonds, and half a Pound of Bitter Almonds, beat them as fine as possible with the Whites of two Eggs, then beat the Whites of five Eggs to a strong Froth, shake in lightly two Pounds and a half of fine Loaf Sugar beat and sifted very fine, drop them in little Drops the size of a Nutmeg, on Paper, and bake them in a slack oven.

Nott, John, “Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary 1726” Art 138.

21st Century

  • 2 ½ cups blanched almonds
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground, making sure that almonds do not start to release oil. You want a meal, not a paste.
  3. In a mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until incorporated.
  4. With a rubber spatula, slowly fold the ground almonds into the egg white mixture.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a ½ teaspoon measure, place the almond mixture in little balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing your drops 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake at 250 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set. Mixture will have lost its sheen and be dry to the touch. Allow to cool completely before removing from paper with spatula.
  7. Yield: 18 ¼ dozen one-inch drops. This recipe is very easy to cut down.

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15 Responses to “To make Ratafia Cakes a Second Way”

  1. August 26th, 2011

    Chris Hansley says:

    I have a couple of questions.

    1a. What is the best way to store these and for how long? 1b. Can they be frozen and what is the best way to thaw them?

    2. When cutting the recipe, can all of the ingredients be cut in half or quartered? Or do we need more egg?

    I really enjoy “History is Served.”

    Tinley Park, IL

    P. S. Pickled Watermelon Rind recipe?? I know Grand Illumination is only 14 weeks away, but I have a craving for this. How about selling it on line, like the corn relish, jellies and other great food mixes??

    • September 9th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Thanks for the great questions.

      Many cookie doughs can be frozen and then baked later, but with this recipe the leavening is coming from the whipped egg white. I am not sure that you would get the same result if frozen, it is probably better to freeze these after they are baked. You can just let them thaw at room temperature an hour or so before serving. Two eggs whites is fine for the half recipe.

      All the period recipes we have are for candied watermelon rind — not pickled. I think pickling them is more of a 19th-century innovation. I do agree it would be a good addition to our online food products.

  2. September 1st, 2011

    Pam Williams says:

    Question from me, too…

    Can a lazy person buy almond meal instead of grinding? (It’s available, I know, at Trader Joes)


    • September 9th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Yes, you can use almond meal, but the texture will be smother then if you grind your own almonds.

      Frank Clark

  3. September 6th, 2011

    Georgia says:

    What did people talk about while they were dining? What was off limits? How did they pass the plates? Where I can find more food pictures? I’m trying to do a lesson plan on all of this.

  4. September 9th, 2011

    Chris Hansley says:

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for your reply to both questions.I know you folks were a little busy around the 26th with the most uninvited guest named IRENE. We were relieved to hear she did not do much damage to any of the major historical sites in Virginia. I’ll gladly take the candied watermelon rind recipe.

    Thanks and have a great fall season.

    Tinley Park, IL

  5. October 16th, 2011

    mya says:

    You neglected to add the bitter almonds. I think Hannah Glasse’s recipe is even better. Make some and use them in her trifle

    • October 17th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:


      We have not been able to find bitter almonds in the stores around here, so we have not tried them. If you use some in your recipe, we’d love to hear how it comes out!

  6. November 19th, 2011

    I thought bitter almonds contained cyanide, and thus are no longer available for modern consumption.

  7. November 29th, 2011

    Pam Williams says:

    Early on, some one inquired as to the “keepability” of these. I made mine two weeks ago – and have kept the remainder in an airtight plastic container. They are still good today. I was afraid they might “fall” from dampness, but they have not – and they still taste as good as when they were on the table at Smallwood’s retreat on November 15.

  8. February 22nd, 2013

    I found that if I powdered the sugar in my mortar and pestle it worked better.

  9. April 23rd, 2013

    Daniel says:

    Ratafia Cakes sound delicious! YUM!

  10. June 13th, 2013

    Jhon Smith says:

    That’s really delicious!

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