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There is significant variation among records of Shrewsbury cake, but they seem to agree around a sort of very large, circular, shortbread with rose or lemon flavouring. The most famous maker was a Mr Pailin (or Palin, or Hailin) who reputedly began making them, a plaque on an old shop near to Shrewsbury Castle says, in the year 1760. These appear to have developed into the now commonplace Shrewsbury Biscuit
A Cylindrical 'Palins Original Shrewsbury Cakes' Tin
for Thomas Plimmer, Confectioner, Castle Street, Shrewsbury, 14.5 cm Diameter
Richard Barham's 'The Ingoldsby Legends' has "Oh, Pailin! Prince of cake-compounders! the mouth liquefies at thy very name."
(WM 1658, Wooley 1672, Moxon 1764, Family Guide 1747, etc)
Original Receipt in 'The Compleat Cook' by 'WM', 1658 (WM 1658)
To make Shrewsbury Cakes.
Take two pound of floure dryed in the Oven and weighed after it is dryed, then put to it one pound of Butter that must be layd an hour or two in Rose-water, so done poure the Water from the Butter, and put the Butter to the flowre with the yolks and whites of five Eggs, two races of Ginger, and three quarters of a pound of Sugar, a little salt, grate your spice, and it well be the better, knead all these together till you may rowle the past, then roule it forth with the top of a bowle, then prick them with a pin made of wood, or if you have a comb that hath not been used, that will do them quickly, and is best to that purpose, so bake them upon Pye plates, but not too much in the Oven, for the heat of the Plates will dry them very much, after they come forth of the Oven, you may cut them without the bowles of what bignesse or what fashion you please.
Original Receipt from 'Saleable Shop Goods for Counter-Tray and Window:' by Frederick T Vine (Vine 1907)
No. 57.- Shrewsbury Cakes.
2 lbs. Vienna flour. 1 lb. sugar.
¾ lb. butter. 1oz. volatile.
3 eggs. Milk.
Essence of lemon.
Mode, - Rub the butter and sugar into the flour; break the volatile down in a mortar with a little milk; break the eggs into the bay, add the volatile, a few drops of essence of lemon, and wet into dough with milk. Scale off into 5oz pieces; divide into two; mould up round, and roll out into 3 in. lengths; flatten out with your hand; wash over with milk, turn on to dust lump sugar, plate on to clean, greased tins; lay a slice of citron peel on top, and bake in a warm oven. Sell at 1d. each.
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