These crisp, buttery cookies, of which many varieties exist, have been known in England since at least the 1500s. They can be flavored with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Although their taste is similar to that of shortbread, they are rolled thin and cut into rounds. The late food historian Alan Davidson wrote that Shrewsbury cakes “always appear to have been known for their crisp, brittle texture.”
Serve Shrewsbury Cakes within a day of baking to ensure they maintain that characteristic crispness.
This recipe is based on the one found in Hannah Glasse’s cookbook and is a modern adaptation by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rose water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a large bowl beating by hand, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
2. Stir together the flour and sugar. Add to the butter gradually, mixing together well.
3. Stir together the eggs, rose water, and cream. Gradually add to the butter mixture, blending until smooth. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets with vegetable shortening.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll 1/4 inch thick and cut into 3-inch rounds, or other desired shapes. Sprinkle with additional sugar.
6. Place the cakes on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and slightly browned around the edges. Immediately transfer onto a wire rack, and set aside to cool.
7. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Makes about 4 dozen cakes
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