What Were Cupcakes Like in the 1700s?

Amelia Simmons invented the cupcake. And if that wasn’t enough for the history books, when she first published her cookbook in 1796, she cemented herself as the author of what is now recognized as the first American cookbook.

American Cookery, or, to …

Amelia Simmons invented the cupcake. And if that wasn’t enough for the history books, when she first published her cookbook in 1796, she cemented herself as the author of what is now recognized as the first American cookbook.

American Cookery, or, to give its full title: American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake. Adapted to This Country, and All Grades of Life (catchy, right?), is considered by food historians to be the first cookbook published in the U.S. by an American. The book included 119 recipes, marrying the traditions of British cooking at the time with new American ingredients, like "pompkin" (pumpkin), "cramberry-sauce" (cranberry sauce), and molasses in place of British treacle; it was also one of the first books (yet another pioneering moment for Simmons) to introduce the use of "pearlash," a precursor to the baking soda most home cooks keep in their pantry. Before American Cookery, the only cookbooks available in the U.S. were British. In the introduction to a 1996 edition of American Cookery, food historian Karen Hess characterizes the book as inherently American, citing "the bringing together of certain native American products and English culinary traditions." (And really, what could be more American than a cupcake?)

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