Tag Archives: 18th century cooking

Just a Trifle, Nobody’s Fool

Trifle in Hattie Morgan’s cut glass bowl

It all started when I made a cake that didn’t quite turn out right. In trying to get the cake to cook through to the middle, the entire cake got a bit too dry. We ate most of the cake, but I didn’t want to throw the rest out. Then I remembered that I’d been meaning to try making a trifle.

What is a Trifle?

Trifle recipes today generally call for ladyfingers, but the general construction can be quite flexible. Basically, you will have some kind of cake, moistened with some kind of liquid, spread with some kind of preserves or jelly, layered with custard (and more recently, fruit and maybe nuts) and topped with a layer of whipped cream.

The trifle will show off its colorful layers best in a glass dish with plain sides. Thus, you can buy a dish specifically for trifle, like this one by Libby’s glass, advertised at Amazon.

A Bit of History of Trifle

1585 The Gud Huswife’s Jewel by Thomas Dawson, who apparently mansplained to huswifes how to cook.

1774 Hannah Glasse added jelly to the Trifle in her book, The Art of Cookery. (see her recipe below.)

Scots have their Tipsy Laird (tipsy Lord), with whiskey to moisten the cake. That name morphed to a more democratic Tipsy Parson or Tipsy Squire in Colonial America.

A neighbor who dropped by to sample my trifle said that in her mother’s case, the cake would macerate for several days and everyone in the household might add a few drops of booze to the cake. She called it Tipsy Cake. Appropriately, her family lived in the South, and the dessert is commonly called Tipsy Cake in the South.

So what’s this about Fools? Although the term is used interchangeably, the fool does not have pudding and cake–just a tangy fruit, cooked and cooled, mixed with whipped cream. But Fools originated about the same time as trifles and both feature whipped cream.

I want to share an earlier recipe for Trifle, but in case you are impatient to start cooking, I’ll jump to the modern recipe first.

Trifle with strawberries

Strawberry Trifle

The traditional English trifle made with a different fruit juice, strawberries and almonds and a  pudding mix.
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Keyword fruit, pudding, trifle, whipped cream
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 10


  • pieces dry or stale cake equivalent of 9″ layer cake
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice or sherry
  • 1/4 cup rasberry preserves or flavor of your choice
  • 1 pkg pudding mix
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 cup almonds, sliced


  • Make pudding mix according to instructions.  If cooked, let cool in refrigerator with plastic wrap spread across top to prevent 
  • Cut cake in one inch cubes. Lay the cake cubes out on a cookie sheet and brush with the liquid.
  • Spoon dabs of preserves on cake and spread with back of spoon.
  • When pudding is cool, start layering in deep glass bowl–cake, then pudding, scatter some almonds, then fruit–2 or three layers according to size of bowl.
  • Whip cream with sugar and vanilla.  Spread on top or drop swirls in decorative pattern.  Top with whole strawberries, almonds, or other fruit or garnish.
  • Put whole bowl into refrigerator for an hour or until ready to serve.


Times given assume you have the cake on hand and use a  boxed pudding mix. Allow more time, if you are baking a cake to use, or are making custard from scratch.
Some recipes for decorations include flowers.  Fruits other than or in addition to strawberries might include sliced bananas, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.
Brandy or sherry are traditional, but I used cranberry-mango juice for a very good taste.

18th Century Version–Hannah Glasse

To Make a Trifle

Cover the bottom of your dish or bowl with Naples biscuits broke in pieces, mackeroons brlke in halves, and ratafia cakes. Just wet them all through with sack, then make a good boiled custard, not too thick and when cold pour it over it, then put a syllabub over that. You may garnish it with ratafia cakes, currant jelly, and flowers and strew different coloured nonpareils over it. Note, these are bought at confectioners.


Naples biscuits:  no longer used–a cookie made with egg whites and flavored with rose water.

mackaroonsMrs. Glasse provides a recipe for a cookie made with almonds pounded fine (like almond flour) , sugar and eggs whites 

ratafia: Almond liqueur, and the flavoring in ratafia cakes or biscuits.

syllabub: A drink or dessert of whipped cream with wine or other acidic drink. Mrs. Glasse has several recipes, including one for “solid syllabub, which I imagine is the type you would use for the trifle.

sack: no longer used term for a fortified wine, although sherry is close.

I hope you’ll have fun trying your own version of trifle, and will come back and share your results in our comment section.

In the Kitchen of Christina Manbeck

When I wrote about Rudolph Manbeck’s will, I mentioned his bequests to his wife Christina and the detailed list of items that his son John was to be sure Christina Manbeck had each year after Rudolph passed on.  I also talked about the family’s reliance on flax–growing and making linen cloth–but I skipped over most of Rudolph’s itemization of kitchen items which gives us an opportunity to talk about the German immigrant’s kitchen. (Although aprons are not mentioned, Christina surely must have been protecting her clothes and doing a lot of cooking.)

Rudolph and Christina are my husband Ken Badertscher’s 4th great grand-parents, and the first North American arrivals of the Manbeck clan, along with their parents.

Christina Manbeck 1745-1824

I have not proven to my satisfaction that Christina’s family name was Ziegler, but the birth date above assumes that is correct. It also assumes that she was born in Freudenstadt, Germany, and arrived in Pennsylvania as a child in 1752.

Although she grew up as a resident of the new world, and lived through the American Revolution, she lived the somewhat enclosed life of a German immigrant in a thoroughly German community, attending a German church where sermons were in German. It stands to reason that her cooking, therefore, would derive from her German background. That is borne out by the foods that her husband thinks it is important for her to have in her kitchen.

Christina Ziegler Manbeck

Christina Manbeck and John Manbeck signatures as executors on Rudolph Manbeck’s will.

Christina never learned to read and write, signing as executrix of Rudolph’s will with an “x” (above), although her husband was literate–witness the TEN books in the inventory of his goods, listed with other guy stuff like razor , musket and knives (below).

Rudolph Manbeck books

Rudolph Manbeck owned books – Inventory- Probate Records, 1794

In addition to general living, and the business of growing and using flax, here’s what Rudolph believed Christina needed in the way of foodstuff each year:

  • 8 bushels of wheat (ground into flour)
  • 4 bushels of rye (ground into flour)
  • 1 fat hog, at least 70 pounds, butchered
  • 40 pounds of beef, twice a year
  • a dairy cow with feed
  • 1/2 of the calves produced by that cow
  • Hens enough for however many eggs she needs,
  • half a bushel of salt
  • 1/4 pound pepper
  • 1/4 pound allspice
  • 1/3 pound ginger
  • However many apples, peaches and other fruit she needs to eat and to dry
  • 1 barrel of cider
  • 4 gallons of vinegar
  • 1 gallon of apple brandy
  • 10 pounds of tallow (rendered lard used for cooking, making soap and making candles)
  • as much firewood as she needs
  • 6 bushels potatoes.

There are several things I noticed right away.  Some time ago, I talked about the foods brought to America by German immigrants.   In case you don’t have time to read the article, it is worthwhile to repeat the main points, and see how they match up with the food in Christina’s kitchen.

I did not realize until I delved into the subject, that Germans brought SO MANY food ideas to America.  And I had never focused on the importance of balancing sweet and savory (sour) in recipes–despite my love of hot potato salad with its sugar and vinegar, the fact that I use brown sugar in sauerkraut and my love of mouth-watering sauerbraten.

Without the German immigrants, we would not have sauerkraut, potato pancakes,  sticky buns, apple butter, knockwurst, bratwurst and liverwurst and 3-bean salad.  How about some strudel or Black Forest Cake for dessert? We wouldn’t even have cream cheese!  Although some other nationalities made a creamy cheese, the one we principally use today in America was invented in Philadelphia by German dairy farmers.

In addition to the foods supplied by her son, Christina Manbeck will be able to grow vegetables and herbs in the 1/3 of the kitchen garden which shall be set aside for her and fertilized with manure.  She shall have the use of the kitchen and the kitchen furniture and wooden tubs (presumably for laundry). She shall also have “bushels” (bushel baskets) and ironware for her use.

Her husband appreciates that Christina needs certain spaces in order to keep house. Besides the kitchen, she shall have free access to the garret (attic), cellar (for storage of preserved foods), spring house (for water and for storing foods that need to be cool, such as butter and the bake oven.  If she and her son cannot coexist in the old family farmhouse, he must build her rooms onto the spring house including a fireplace and a pipe stove. (This was indeed a modern family, as many at this time had only a fireplace for cooking!)

So what did she make with wheat flour and rye flour and those spices? Certainly the good German rye bread.  I will use the spices in the Lebkucken coming up next week. Pepper, allspice, ginger, and vinegar all go into that German favorite Sauerbraten and the new German roast recipe I’ll be trying. Spices are so important that they get mentioned in the will, because as mentioned above, the Germans like sweet and sour and highly spiced foods.

Christina is going to use a LOT of allspice and ginger. She will have 4 oz every year. I have 1 to 2 ounces, and I don’t use nearly all that in a year. The Germans used other spices, like cloves, mustard seed, and anise, for instance, but perhaps they are too expensive to buy in such large quantities, and she would buy small amounts as needed.

But, Rudolph, did you forget sugar? Is that because the family used only honey?  There is a hive mentioned in the will which goes to a daughter. I hope that Catharine will share the honey with Christina!

And when I read the Inventory of goods, which is what will be sold– left over after Christina gets her share — I notice several things that surely she could have used. Why were these items not specified in the long, detailed list?

Candle molds and candle holders, pewter ware, utensils, earthenware pots and other earthenware surely would be useful. The Manbeck holdings include a quantity of corn, buckwheat and oats. Why is she not provided with those grains?

However, she does receive 50 shillings cash, presumably every year, so she can buy whatever she cannot share with son John.

I have really enjoyed visiting the 18th century kitchen of Christina Ziegler Manbeck. Rudolph appears to have thought about just about everything that his wife will need.


Here is my transcription of the whole section of the will devoted to Christina:

It is also my Will and I do Order that my Son John or his Heirs and Assigns, As a further Consideration for my Aforesaid Plantation or Tract of land, Shall give, deliver and make good yearly and every year unto my beloved Wife Christina, so long as she Lives and remains my Widow the following Articles that is to say—Eight Bushels of good Wheat four Bushels of good Rye and to the same from time to time as she Need go into the Mill and fetch these Meal and Bran Home into her dwelling, a fat Swine which shall weigh Seventy pounds and to Kill the same, forty pounds of good Beef, both in the fall or Killing time, to keep a Cow, Summer’s and Winter’s in provender like his own Cow’s and when said Cow gets dies or is old and unfit, then to find or give her a young one again from his Cows. But he shall have the old Cow and the one half parts of the Calfs her Cows always bring, from year to year twelve pounds Hatchled (?) Flax, twelve pounds Tow, four pounds good wool, So many New Shoes and to Mend the old ones as she has Need of, So many Hens of Fowls and Eggs for her to eat as she has Need for, half a Bushel good Salt, ¼ pepper,/1/4 Alspices, 1/3 Ginger. So many Apples and other Fruit for to Eat and make Dry Apples and Peaches, one Barrel good Cyder, four Gallons Vinegar, one gallon Apple Brandy, ten pounds Tallow, the one third part of the Garden were she pleases to have it and to Dung it when required, Six Bushels Potatoes, So much small Cut Fire wood fit for use to be delivered to her dwelling House as she has Need for, to have the Liberty to Live in the House as at Present Live in with with the use of the Kitchen, Garret, Cellar, Spring House, Bake-Oven, with Free Egress and Regress and in Case they cannot live peaceable together, then he is to make new Room on the Spring House in good order with a pipe stove and fireplace in it for her to live in; and keep it in good Repairs, fifty shillings Cash in specie, and when she should get Old and Infirm or Sick, to give or find her good Attendance.

I give and bequeath unto my beloved Wife Christina a Bed with Bedstead, Chest, all the linen and linen furniture, fifty pounds Flaxen yarn, thirty pounds Tow yarn, Spinning Wheel, Reel, and C___ to do her choice, one chair take her choice, to have the Liberty to take so much of the Kitchen furniture and Wooden Tubs. Bushels and Iron Ware for her use as she has Occasion for and that then all the same shall be in full for my beloved Wife’s one-third part of my personal Estate and to have no further demand against the same.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Adam Daniel Bair, who is the son of
  • Daniel Manbeck Bair, who is the son of
  • Elizabeth Manbeck Bair, who is the daughter  of
  • Jacob Manbeck, who is the son of
  • Rudolph Manbeck and Catharina Ziegler Manbeck

Research Notes

Estate Files, 1752-1915; Author: Berks County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Berks, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993, Rudolph Manbeck, 1794. On line at Ancestry.com

A historical booklet of Altahala Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rehrersburg, Berks County, Pennsylvania : published for the 200th anniversary, Sunday, June 23, 1957, Rehresburg, PA: Brossman, Schuyler C.,Church Council, 1957.  From Ancestry.com

Genealogy! Just Ask!  I received help on unfamiliar terms in will from this Facebook Page. Principally from Marlys Pearson, but many others chimed in as well.

History of the Grim family of Pennsylvania and its associated families : including the following: Merkle, Greenawalt, Fertig, Zechman, Schaeffer, Smith, Felver, Conde, Garner, Robbins, Long, Kisling, Schartel, Manbeck, Giltner, Schreiner, Dreher, Kircher and Moyer families. Long, William Gabriel, “The Manbecks”, M.E.G. Grim, J.L.G. Long, H.H. Grim, 1934. On line at Ancestry.com images 134-136.