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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Sweets to the Regency Sweet by Jenna Jaxon

For Valentine’s Day, I thought a post on Regency sweets might be appropriate, as sweets are the most popular love offering in our day and age. They were also quite popular in the early 1800s.

Sweetmeats (meaning “sweet food’) were immensely popular in the Regency period, and one of the few gifts a gentleman could, without fear of reproach, give to a lady to whom he was not betrothed. Apparently the theory was that as candy was perishable, it left no obligation on the lady to accept the gentleman’s advances.

Regency sweets came in a variety of shapes and flavors, as do ours today.

Chocolate—A great favorite of the Regency period. Whether it was consumed as drinking chocolate, or eaten as small tabs of bittersweet chocolate covered in nonpareils, chocolate was enjoyed all through the era.

Licorice—originally used as a medicine, licorice was improved upon by the addition of sugar, then sold in bags of lozenges as a candy. It was also used in Pontefract Cakes, where a disc of licorice was sweetened and stamped with a castle.

Marzipan—this sweet treat began in the late Middle Ages in England and was made from ground almonds, sugar, and rose water. It could
be molded to look like anything at all—food, fruit, nuts, people, castles. The results were often spectacular.

Lemon drops—made by simply boiling citric acid with sugar, allowing to cool, and fill “drop” molds.

Barley sugar candy—one of the oldest candies made, barley sugar candy is created by boiling barley water and sugar until it has thickened. Originally created by French nuns.

Sugar plums—weren’t necessarily plums at all, but could be any combination of dried fruit layered with thick sugar until a hard shell formed.

Turkish Delight—another confection based on a gel of starch and sugar. Usually chopped dates, pistachios, and hazelnuts are bound by the gel and often cut into squares and dusted with powdered sugar.

Peppermint sticks—yep, just like the ones we have now as a cane at Christmas. Peppermint oil and sugar boiled together. It’s origin is German!

In addition to these candies, of course, are all manner of sweet cakes, pies, mysterious things like flummery, and ices (ice cream).
If you’re interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day a la the Regency period, try your hand at creating some of these delicious, interesting, or downright awful sounding confections!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


References:
Carlyle, Christie. “Regency Era Sweets,” Facebook Post, October 11, 2017.
Hilden, L. A. “Sweets and Confections of the Regency Era,” Blog post, August 9, 2014.
Jane Austen Centre. “Visions of Sugar Plums,” Blog post, December 10, 2013.
Lambert, Tim. A Brief History of Sweets, 2019.
“Victorian Era Courtship Rules and Marriage Facts.” Victorian-era.org

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