Wine Jelly (1942)

An American expatriate hostess extraordinaire, the Duchess of Windsor, in the late 1930s.


Whatever else they may have thought of her life’s eye-popping trajectory, the family, friends, and guests of Wallis Warfield (1896—1986), the Baltimore belle best known as the Duchess of Windsor, hailed her skills as a hostess. As a friend of the duchess’s wrote in a letter in 1931, when the royal spouse was still Mrs Ernest Simpson, “Wallis’s parties have so much pep no one ever wants to leave. Cocktails with sausages, not on skewers, caviar with vodka, soup with sherry, fish with white wine, hock, champagne, from then on to the brandy. Needless to say, I do not attempt this lavish mixture. But her food is as elaborate as her wine list.”

More than 100 of the duchess’s dishes, from appetizers to desserts, were published in Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942), a slender but stylish cookery book whose royalties were earmarked for the British war-relief effort. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt penned the painfully earnest foreword, while the duchess, then cooling her high-society heels in the Bahamas, wrote the introduction, observing, “I have been very happy to help carry some of the well-known dishes of my native land to other countries, and especially to have served on my table Southern dishes which appeal to the Duke … [It] is the simple dishes of my homeland which are most popular with me, and which are the ones most frequently served at my table.” Whether Wallis Windsor actually wrote those words is arguable, since the book was copyrighted by food journalist Marie M. Meloney, a friend of Mrs Roosevelt’s. It was Mrs Meloney who doubtless encouraged the duchess to provide only easy, accessible recipes, which most of them, perhaps surprisingly, are.

My husband had first crack at the book when it arrived in the post, and last weekend, for a large dinner party, he made the duchess’s recipe for Wine Jelly. Think of a cool, quivering dessert the color of French-vanilla ice cream and infused with the delicate taste of white wine. Odd, perhaps, but strangely elegant, especially when prepared in a ceramic mold that gave it a decorative appearance, rather like carved Carrara marble. My husband has begun to amass a collection of such molds, so expect some extraordinary desserts to result as time goes by.

The verdict? A slightly bland but refreshing dessert that might have been improved with a bright drizzle of raspberry sauce. We’ll be serving it again—the looks are impressive, which is half the battle, don’t you think?—though I will be experimenting with other types of wines. Wine Jelly might look beautiful prepared with jewel-tone layers of rosé and white wine or even Champagne. And instead of white granulated sugar, which the recipes calls for, perhaps light brown sugar would add a deeper flavor note.



SOURCE: Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942)
SERVES: Six (6) portions, according to the cookery book, we managed to get nine (9) good slices out of the recipe.


1-1/2 tablespoons [powdered] gelatin
2/3 cup white wine
3 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup [granulated white] sugar
3 cups milk, scalded


1. In a bowl, soften the gelatin in the wine and set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly.

3. Transfer to a medium sauce pan over hot water, or to a double boiler, until the mixture coats a spoon.



4. Remove sauce pan from the heat. Add gelatin to the milk-and-egg mixture. Stir until dissolved.



5. Carefully pour the mixture into a mold. Chill until firm.

6. When ready to serve, dip the mold, for just a moment, into a bowl of warm water to loosen. Place a serving plate, upside down, on top of the mold, and turn the mold over, waiting for the jelly to loosen.

7. Serve immediately, slicing the mold as one would a loaf of bread, with one slice per person.

Charlotte à la gélée au coing (1961)

Heinrich Hurter's 1781 miniature of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III of England, framed with pearls and rubies. Formerly a princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, she has been proposed as the namesake of the classic desserts known as Charlottes. The miniature is held by The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection in London, England.

My husband and I were gratified recently when a friend recently told us he looks forward to our dinner and drinks invitations because we always have an unexpected guest list. This set us to beaming, obviously—our gatherings may not be perfect but we do try to make them congenial as well as spirited. Our village is so small that everyone knows one another, so planning a gathering enlivened with a few surprise elements is more difficult than one might imagine—blending old friends, new friends, couples, the unattached, conservatives, liberals, professionals, and free spirits into an amusing whole. The space issue can be another serious challenge: our dining table only seats eight people comfortably, yet we want each meal to be memorable. A stellar dessert always helps.

Recently I have become enamored of Charlottes, an age-old dessert basically composed of fruit purée encased behind a decorative fortress of liquor-soaked lady fingers. Its history is as complicated as its preparation is simple. No book agrees on the origins of the Charlotte though it seems clear that the baked fruit desserts of the Elizabethan age rank early in its genealogy and that the trifle is a close cousin. Given the Charlotte’s popularity in the late 18th century, some sources believe that the wife of George III of England is the dessert’s namesake, perhaps due to her love of apples (apple Charlotte is a culinary classic) or as a tribute paid by Marie-Antoine Carême, superstar chef to an enviable array of crowned heads. Another scholar believes the name can be traced to one Goethe’s fictional characters, a certain Charlotte Buff, heroine of a bestselling 1774 novel called The Sorrows of Werther. Complicating matters is the assertion of Richard Olney, in The French Menu Cookbook, that Charlotte correctly refers to the straight-sided metal mold used to prepare such a dessert—and only, by association, to the dessert itself. Then there’s the thorny issue of capitalization; does one or does one not? I like the formality of the capped C and am sticking to it.

Charlottes have been a frequent dessert in our house of late, washed with crème à la vanille and carried into the dining room on a fancy silver platter of no great age but splendid appearance. My first attempt was just before Christmas, inspired by a cookery book my husband and I often use: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961). The creative countess offers several Charlotte recipes but one in particular caught my eye. Called Charlotte à la gélée au coing, it interweaves ladyfingers and quince jelly (coing is French for the little-used fruit), which certainly sounded wintery enough to me. Unfortunately I could not find quince jelly in time for a dinner party so resorted to melting down, in a sauce pan, a few shimmering blocks of quince paste I picked up at Whole Foods on Columbus Circle in New York City. This decision, I hasten to add, was not an unalloyed success. The flavor of the paste was too strong and the texture, even when melted, somewhat dense, but our dinner guests finished the Charlotte and asked for seconds. In the end all that remained was a few crumbs and a puddle of leftover crème à la vanille.

Since that evening I have relied on Mme de Toulouse-Lautrec’s recipe as the foundation for other, quite toothsome Charlottes, including one made with apricot jam and another with raspberry preserves, each of which has been resounding successes. I plan on making an orange marmalade version in the very near future.

The finished quince-jelly Charlotte, on its platter, covered in crème à la vanille, and ready to be carried into the dining room.


SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961)

SERVES: Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec states that the recipe serves six (6), but we had eight (8) people at dinner and several had second helpings.



NOTE: Makes about two cups. You could also double the recipe, as I did, so there will be enough crême à la vanille to put in a pitcher as extra garnish.

1 pint whole milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar (NOTE: I used vanilla-flavored sugar, which my husband always keeps in the pantry; just insert a vanilla bean into a sealed container of sugar and allow the flavor to be absorbed.)

1 vanilla bean, cut in half, lengthwise

4 egg yolks


1. Scald the milk and sugar in a sauce pan, with the vanilla bean segments.

2. Beat the egg yolks with a wood spoon in a large bowl.

3. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the hot milk mixture, slowly, into the egg yolks, and stir until well combined.

The vanilla cream, thickening over a low flame.

4. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and heat, over low flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, enough to coat the back of the wood spoon. Do not allow to boil.

5. Set the vanilla cream aside to cool and then refrigerate until cold and until ready to use.


1/2 cup kirsch (NOTE: I used the cheapest Polish cherry brandy I could find.)

1/2 cup water

3/4 pound ladyfingers, prepackaged (NOTE: Buy two packages to be on the safe side; either regular or gluten-free will work fine.)

1 jar quince jelly (NOTE: Almost any jelly or preserve will do.)

2 cups vanilla custard cream (NOTE: Recipe above)


1. Mix the kirsch and the water in a bowl and dip the lady fingers lightly into the mixture—do not soak them, just fully immerse each one before using. Line the bottom of the Charlotte mold with several moistened lady fingers; you will have to break some of the lady fingers into pieces for them to fit properly. Next line the sides of the mold, with the lady fingers standing upright. (NOTE: Since I wanted the Charlotte to be rather boozy, I dipped the lady fingers a few times, which meant I had to replenish the kirsch-water mixture.)

The Charlotte, in process.

2. Spread the bottom layer of lady fingers with jelly and continue alternating layers of jelly and moistened lady fingers until the mold is full. Finish with a layer of lady fingers.

The Charlotte, weighted with a jar of maraschino cherries and a wine coaster.

3. Cover the mold with a small plate weighted with something heavy so that the cake will be pressed together firmly. (NOTE: I used a big jar of maraschino cherries and a wine coaster.)

4. Chill the weighted mold for several hours in the refrigerator.

5. Gently unmold the cake onto a dessert platter—you might have to slide a knife carefully around the edges to loosen—cover with the custard cream, and serve.

A cross-section of Charlotte à la gélée au coing, drenched with crème à la vanille.

Royal Gingerbread (pre 1920)


The Duke of Windsor, at his country house in France's Loire Valley, in the 1960s. Image by Horst for American Vogue.

The Duke of Windsor isn’t known much for food, though he certainly made an impact on fashion with his idiosyncratic mixing of plaids and stripes. As a child, however, the future king of the United Kingdom and emperor of India had a passion for gingerbread — the stickier, the better, according to one of his doting aunts. The thin, crisp gingerbread we know today, primarily through gingersnaps and gingerbread houses, bears no resemblance to the royal child’s favorite confection. His was more like a cake or a brownie: dense, sweet, and, yes, sticky, thanks to a serious amount of treacle. Think of a sticky toffee pudding, without the sauce, and you’ll get the general idea.

Recently I was alerted to the duke’s preferred gingerbread recipe by a Facebook friend. It was published in Court Favourites: Recipes from Royal Kitchens (André Deutsch Limited, 1953) by Elizabeth Craig, a leading British cookery expert and author of masses of food- and housekeeping-related books. In recent years an adaptation of the recipe has shown up on various cookery related blogs. Do not, however, trust anything but the original, because the adaptations reduce the spices to an alarmingly degree and deliver instead a pleasing, middlebrow gingerbread without any real bite. The gingerbread preferred by the Duke of Windsor is apparently as bold as his suits—rich, moist, and intensely spiced, and the flecks of candied citrus peel give it an interesting, fruit-cake edge. As for the required stickiness, I didn’t have ready access to black treacle, so I was forced to substitute a blend of dark and light Karo syrups. I baked two gingerbreads and took one to work the following day. My co-workers quickly wiped it out, one pronouncing it the best traditional gingerbread she had ever tasted. As for the one I left at home, my husband nibbled at it over the course of three days, saying, “It was a very spicy cake, very delicious, though I thought the store-bought lemon peel was a bit too hard on my teeth. Homemade is better.”

When preparing this gingerbread, a stand mixer with the flat-beater attachment is the best course of action. Just keep a close eye on it, because the batter gets very thick before the softening addition of the treacle or syrups. I nearly burnt out the engine of our KitchenAid when I got distracted by a Netflix episode of “Green Acres.” How very Lisa Douglas of me.

NOTE: A reader of this blog has pointed out that the recipe will be significantly different if actual black treacle can be found. Therefore I have ordered Lyle’s Black Treacle via and will post again about this recipe once it arrives, perhaps as early as next week-end.



SOURCE: Court Favorites: Recipes from Royal Kitchens (André Deutsch Limited, 1953)

SERVES: Makes two (2) cakes

EQUIPMENT: Two (2) 9 x 13 cake pans, either metal or glass


1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 pounds (4 cups) plain white flour

1 pound (2 cups) dark brown sugar

2 ounces ground ginger

1 pound (2 cups) slivered almonds

3 ounces ground caraway seeds (NOTE: I couldn’t find ground caraway at the market so bought whole seeds and pulverized them in a coffee grinder.)

4 ounces chopped mixed candied peel (NOTE: I used Paradise brand store-bought lemon peel.)

2 ounces ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 pounds (4 cups) treacle (NOTE: I didn’t have any Lyle’s Black Treacle on hand so substituted one 16-ounce bottle of light Karo syrup and one 16-ounce bottle of dark Karo syrup. I have since been advised that one could use 2/3 molasses mixed with 1/3 Lyle’s Golden Syrup to achieve a gingerbread somewhat closer to what the Duke of Windsor ate as a child.)

6 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal. (NOTE: I just dumped those two ingredients into the bowl of the stand mixer and turned the machine on low.)

3. Stir in the sugar, ginger, almonds, spices, candied peel, and the bicarbonate of soda until well combined.

4. Beat the eggs with the treacle and stir into the dry ingredients.

5. Pour the batter into two buttered and lightly floured 9 x 13 cake pans — fill them only half way — and bake in the oven until the cakes have risen and are “just” shrinking from the sides of the pan. (This will be about 35 minutes. Use a toothpick to test.)


6. Turn out onto racks and allow to cool. Wrap in parchment paper and then wrap in foil.


The finished gingerbread, slightly overcooked but it was delicious nonetheless.

Strawberry Tart (1964)

Life has been a little hectic on our blustery hilltop of late, which explains for the recent paucity of posts. My apologies for that, and I’ll try to do better.

Now that the apologies are out of the way, might I tempt you with some fragrant strawberries? I know they’re not in season right now and the department-store variety can be imperfect but my husband recently came across a recipe for a strawberry tart in one of our favourite vintage cookery books and couldn’t help making it for dessert a few days ago. Having been educated in France and Switzerland he has a weakness for Gallic culinary delights and often turns to La Cuisine de France by Mapie, Countess de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion Press, 1964). I think it’s likely his favourite cookery book. The dessert section is quite tempting, filled with all manner of delicious possibilities. Strawberry Meringue Tart, or Tarte aux fraises meringuées, is very easy to make, and it includes a step—the arrangement of the strawberries—with which our daughter, Catherine, could help. She’s pretty good in the kitchen, though she claims she most enjoys washing dishes. The tart was incredibly good, and the next morning, I even had a slice with breakfast.


SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1964)




2 cups sifted flour

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour

2-1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

9 tablespoons butter, slightly softened


Heap the well-mixed flours on a working surface and fashion a well in the center. Into the well put the sugar, salt, egg, and slightly softened butter cut in small pieces. With your fingers gradually work the flour toward the center and add just enough water, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you have a very smooth and shiny ball of pastry. The pastry has to be kneaded slightly, but do it no longer than necessary. Let this pastry rest for several hours before using.


1-1/2 pints strawberries

2 egg whites

4 tablespoons sugar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the pastry and line a [well-]buttered tart tin with it. Prick well with a fork and bake 10 minutes. [After removing from the oven, reduce heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.]

Arrange the strawberries, pointed side up, in the tart. Beat the egg whites stiff and fold in the sugar. Spread the meringue over the berries [evenly] and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.

A Dessert for St. Patrick’s Day

Porter cake, hot out of the oven and a trifle overcooked.

Each year an amiable couple we know in the nearby village of Cherry Valley, New York, host a St. Patrick’s Day party. It is a laidback potluck buffet dinner, attended by a bohemian crowd of writers, artists, and other creative types, and everybody pitches in with enthusiasm. Children of all ages run around, toasts are made, plates are balanced in one hand or on one’s knees, politics local and national are discussed, gossip is shared, and much alcohol is consumed.

This year my husband took it into his head to visit a nearby second-hand bookstore and find a couple of vintage Irish cookery books for inspiration. The dish I decided to bring to our friends’ party last Saturday night was found in the pages of Feasting Galore: Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland, a 1952 work by Maura Laverty, the James Beard of Ireland. Porter cake is a traditional Irish dessert whose hearty taste comes from beer, either porter or Guinness stout, and liberal amounts of chopped citrus peel and lots of raisins. The only trouble I had was in following the recipe’s directive for the loaf-shape cake to be baked for two hours. I took it out at the 1-hour-15-minute mark because the cake was beginning to burn and have adjusted Laverty’s recipe accordingly.


SOURCE: Feasting Galore: Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland by Maura Laverty (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1952)


4 cups sifted flour

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

3 cups raisins

1 cup porter or Guinness stout

2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons chopped citrus peel [I used the peels of 3 oranges, with the pith carefully removed]

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg [I used ground cloves because I couldn’t find the nutmeg]

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons salt


Sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Add sugar, nutmeg, and allspice. Rub in butter finely. [NOTE: I worked the butter into the dry ingredients with my hands, which was far easier than using a spatula or wood spoon.] Mix in raisins and citrus peel. Beat the eggs, add to them the porter or stout, and pour into the flour mixture, using a spoon to combine thoroughly. Pour the batter into a well-greased loaf tin and bake for 1 hour in a moderate (375 degrees Fahrenheit) oven or until a skewer or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

[SERVING SUGGESTION: Cut into thin slices and serve with vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of rich cream.]

Reader’s Request

Ruth Graves Wakefield—dietitician, lecturer, and inventor of America's favourite cookie.

Yesterday a reader asked where she could get two recipes mentioned in my post about Ruth Graves Wakefield, inventor of the Toll House cookie and author of Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes (M. Barrows & Company, 1940). Her wish is my command.




1 cup butter [softened]

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs beaten whole

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water

2-1/4 cups flour sifted with 1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts

2 bars (7 ounces) Nestle’s yellow-label semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces the size of a pea [or similar amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips]

1 teaspoon vanilla


Cream butter. Add sugars and eggs. Mix dissolved soda into the sugar-butter mixture, alternating with additions of sifted flour until fully combined. Add nuts, chocolate, and vanilla. Drop by half teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes in a 375-degree-Fahrenheit oven.



2 seven-ounce packages Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate [or similar amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips]

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups cornflakes

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup prunes (uncooked, stoned, and cut into small pieces)

1/4 cup raisins or dates (cut finely)

1/4 cup dried apricots (uncooked and cut into small pieces)

1/4 cup candied ginger (cut finely)


Melt chocolate in double boiler. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well and drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper. Allow to harden. Serve as cookies with dessert or use as candy.

A Cake with a Gimmick

The Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, circa 1940. The building was destroyed by fire in 1984, and the site reportedly is now occupied by a Wendy's burger joint.

I’m an enthusiastic cook but my skills as a baker are only so-so. Cakes don’t rise properly for me; as for bread, I leave that to my husband—the man crafts superlative baguettes. Though the oven and I sometimes don’t see eye to culinary eye, I continue to try, try, and try again.

On Saturday I dove into Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes by Ruth Graves Wakefield (M. Barrows & Company, 1940). The author and her husband, Kenneth, once ran The Toll House Inn, a hugely popular New England watering hole housed in a rambling 1709 Cape Cod in Whitman, Massachusetts. And if the name of the establishment sounds familiar, it should. The restaurant, which opened in 1930, when Mrs Wakefield was 27, and was sold in 1966, when the couple retired, was where Toll House chocolate-chip cookies were born, the very first of the genre. In fact the recipe printed on the back of Nestlé’s chocolate-chip packages today is Mrs Wakefield’s own, thanks to an agreement that resulted in her recipe getting nationwide publicity and her restaurant receiving free chocolate for decades.

The celebrated Ruth Wakefield (1903-1977), co-owner of The Toll House Inn and inventor of the Toll House cookie, first baked in 1933.

Ruth Whitman’s expertise as a dietician and nutritionist drove the menu, whose culinary manta was simple: “there are no substitutes for butter, cream, eggs, fresh fruits, and vegetables in preparing a fine meal.” Encouraged by this appreciation of fine ingredients—butter and cream, who couldn’t love butter and cream?—I began flipping the yellowed pages. I was briefly tempted to make her celebrated Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookies (page 216) or the fruity, no-bake Toll House Ting a Lings (page 217), but I ultimately settled on Cross Word Puzzle Cake. Since our dinner guests would include two third-grade classmates—my daughter, Catherine, and her friend Alex—a cake revealing a dark-and-light checkerboard with each slice seemed like a fun way to end the meal.

Wakefield's Cross Word Puzzle Cake, as baked by The Aesthete.

A cross-section of the Cross Word Puzzle Cake; overlook the central slump, if you can.

My inaugural attempt at this Wakefield specialty resulted in one perfect layer and a swaybacked twin. Strategically deployed chocolate frosting—the recipe also came from the book—concealed most of the structural damage. So did a last-minute dusting of slivered almonds. Served with a scoop of Breyer’s natural vanilla ice cream, the cake was delightful. Perhaps my next attempt will look as good as it tastes.


SOURCE: Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes by Ruth Graves Wakefield (M. Barrows & Company, 1940)


2 nine-inch-round cake pans

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Grated rind of 1 orange

2 egg yolks, beaten

2-1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

1 egg white, beaten very light

1-1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate, melted


Grease and lightly flour the cake pans. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add orange rind. Add yolks.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder and then thoroughly sift. Add a bit of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then a bit of the milk, then a bit of the flour mixture, et cetera, until thoroughly combined. Fold in egg white.

Place one half of the batter in a separate mixing bowl. To it add the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.

This photograph shows how the batter for the two layers is to be poured or, more accurately, spooned into the pans.

In one cake pan place a circle of light batter in the center and then a ring of dark batter around it and so on, until the pan is filled. [SEE PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE.] In the other pan start with a circle of dark batter in the center and a ring of light batter around it and so on until the pan is filled.

Place the pans in the oven and bake until done, approximately 25 to 30 minutes or when a toothpick pushed through the center of cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool. Spread with chocolate frosting (see recipe below) between the layers and over the top and sides.



Melt slowly 2 squares chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in 1/2 cup rich milk. When chocolate is melted and mixture is thickened, remove from fire and let stand until lukewarm. Add confectioner’s sugar until of the consistency to spread. Flavour with vanilla. If frosting is too bitter, thin with a little warm milk and add more confectioner’s sugar. Keeps very soft and smooth.

Cherries, Elsie Style

Elsie de Wolfe's Flaming Cherries, halfway to completion.

Any recipe involving liquor and a match makes dinner a celebration. One of the easiest desserts involving these two elements is Flaming Cherries from Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining. As the ending to an evening meal it is simple, basic, and good, a sophisticated version of nursery food.

Flaming Cherries, ready to eat.

Below is de Wolfe’s recipe. Following that is our seat-of-the-pants adaptation, using E & J brandy (my husband called it “wino quality”), canned Bing cherries, and Nuyens Wisniowka, a cherry cordial we found on the bottom shelf of our bar, hidden so well it had a coating of dust. Feel free to substitute our happenstance ingredients with anything suitable that happens to be hanging around your pantry. Our daughter’s verdict? “I didn’t like the cherries but the cherry sauce with the vanilla ice-cream tasted good.” Oh, and in case anybody’s wondering, her serving of ice cream was topped with three cherries without the cherry-liqueur addition.


SOURCE: Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining (The William-Frederick Press, 1947)

Take a bottle of very best conserved red cherries and heat well. Add a large wine glass of brandy and set aflame. When flame has died down, add a small glass of Kirsch liqueur. Serve hot with vanilla ice-cream.





An 8-ounce can Bing cherries, drained

1 cup E & J brandy

1/4 cup of Nuyens Wisniowka cherry liqueur

Vanilla ice cream


Heat the cherries in a skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the brandy and carefully light. When the flames subside, add the cherry liqueur. Spoon the hot cherries over ice cream and serve.

A White House Dessert

Grace Coolidge, First Lady of the United States, in 1924, the year she donated a recipe to the Richmond Day Nursery Association's cookery book.

Not long ago my mother-in-law showed me a book of recipes published in 1924. It had been printed to benefit the Richmond Day Nursery, a school in Richmond, Indiana, where both sides of my husband’s family have lived for generations. The book belonged to his great-grandmother Muriel Bartel Rohe, and the yellowing pages are filled with favourite dishes of the local gentry, including several submitted by great-grand-aunts and distant cousins. The organizers of the cookery book also reached out to First Lady Grace Coolidge. Mrs. Coolidge—famously painted that same year by Howard Chandler Christy in peerless red velvet, her favourite colour, with the family’s white collie Rob Roy at her feet—graciously complied with a dessert called Coffee Soufflé. Its origin is unknown, though it may have come courtesy of Elizabeth Jaffray, the Coolidges’ housekeeper. Grace Coolidge was a witty, stylish woman who loved dancing, was a big baseball fan, and taught deaf children in her youth, but the First Lady considered herself hopeless in the kitchen.

Grace Coolidge and her collie Rob Roy, as painted in 1924 by Howard Chandler Christy.

Of course I was intrigued. Coffee and soufflé are two words that quicken my heart, and I’ve always had a fascination with Mrs. Coolidge, largely because of the glamour of the Christy painting, arguably the most elegant First Lady portrait to hang on the walls of the White House. So I tried the dessert out on friends with whom we dine nearly every week-end, and though we all agreed Mrs. Coolidge’s dessert is more a mousse than a soufflé, they pronounced it delicious. I, however, was somewhat disappointed in the result. It just seemed a bit too spongy for me, due to the gelatin required. The coffee flavour was subtle, though, and pleasing, and we provided some contrast to the coffee and whipped cream by sprinkling it with shavings of dark chocolate.


SOURCE: Cook Book (Richmond, Indiana: The Richmond Day Nursery Assocation, 1924)


1-1/2 cups coffee

1 tablespoon gelatin

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

Yolks of 3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

Whites of 3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

A bar of dark chocolate


Heat the coffee, milk, gelatin, and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a double boiler.

The first four ingredients being heated, as directed. We don't own a double boiler so I simply nestled a fondue pot inside a copper sauce pan.

Add the egg yolks, which have been slightly beaten, the salt, and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently; this will take some time, and it will eventually have the consistency of motor oil (it’s the only way I can describe the texture).

The whipped egg whites as folded into the coffee mixture.

Remove the coffee mixture from the heat. Beat the egg whites and the vanilla until stiff. Gently fold the whites into the coffee mixture. When thoroughly combined, pour into a mold, chill until firm, serve with whipped cream, and garnish with dark-chocolate shavings (see below).

An individual serving of Grace Coolidge's Coffee Soufflé, plated in a vintage Johnston Brothers bowl. It really needed a sprig of mint to brighten it up, but we hadn't any in the house.