Austen · Emma

Donwell Abbey’s Pound Cake


Author: Austen, Jane
Book: Emma
Difficulty rating: Harry Potter
Deliciousness rating: Outstanding

Part of Afternoon Tea with Emma

Did it measure up?
Surprisingly delicious! It tasted like eggnog made into pound cake, but with a crispy top. It was pretty fantastic with the fresh strawberries and lemon curd served at our tea. Thumbs up!

From The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black & Deirdre Le Faye

Recipe Notes:
We were having a bit of difficulty figuring out authentic dishes that Emma & Co. would have enjoyed — the only food they specify eating at Donwell is strawberries. Luckily, a bit of poking around the internet found me this glorious book: a collection of recipes connected to Jane Austen and her family. This pound cake is from Mrs Perrot — Jane’s aunt by marriage. What goes better with strawberries than cake??

As with many an olden recipe, it’s super-brief. Happily, The Jane Austen Cookbook offers updated instructions that are much more comprehensible to the modern cook.

Here’s Mrs Perrot’s original recipe:

A pound fine sugar well dried  & sifted a pd of new churn’d Butter beat into it with a wooden slice, till they become an Oyl, in about 1/2 an hour, then add 8 eggs very lightly beaten with half the whites, a tea cup mountain a nutmeg grated and a small bit of Cinnamon sifted, keep all stirring till ye oven is ready (which must be made pretty hot, but ye first heat let go a little off as they are apt to be over colourd) have ready a pd of flour well dried and no lumps as that makes em heavy, and mix it with ye rest just as its going into ye oven If you chuse Currants 3/4 of a pound well washd & pick’d to be strew’d over them just as they are put into your Tins.

… Yeah. And here are the modernized instructions we followed:

Ingredients & Supplies Needed:

  • 8 oz butter
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, lightly beaten together
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teacup of Madeira wine (Madeira is a little hard to find — I got ours at Wine Bank, a specialty store in downtown San Diego)
We happily drank the rest of the bottle after measuring out the half-teacup. You know what’s delicious? MADEIRA.

1. Grease a 8-inch square cake pan, and set the the oven to 300 F.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and well-blended. (We used our KitchenAid mixer and ended up blending this forever as we waited for the eggs to get closer to room temp.)


3. Add the eggs, a little at a time.

4. Add the half-tea cup of Madeira. Then the spices and salt.

5. Let the mixture keep beating until the oven is heated.

6. Right before putting the pan in the oven, fold in the flour.

7. Put the mixture in the pan, smooth the top, and bake for two hours, until the cake is firm and golden in color. Cool on a wire rack.


The batter rose a wee higher than expected.
Tiered Tray
The pound cake, cut into squares on the middle tier.

Austen, Jane. Emma. 1816. Reprint. New York: Penguin Books, 2015. Print.

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