I baked the latest in the cookie extravaganza yesterday evening. This exercise is limited by time, funds, and our willingness to consume the results, constrained as we are by our tendencies toward moderation — so really, not at all extravagant as the word extravaganza implies.
Queen’s cakes hail from England, and are light yet rich, mildly sweet, almost biscuity, and more like little tea cakes than cookies. The recipe calls for baking them in miniature muffin tins. In The Joy of Cookies, Sharon Tyler Herbst describes these thusly: “A delicious paradox, they’re crisp on the outside and tender inside,” and that is spot on. Sour cream, finely chopped maraschino cherries (left thumb is still stained red), butter, sugar and currants. What’s not to like? The only alteration I made to the recipe was to add about a tablespoon of cream to improve workability. Without it, the dough was a little too stiff.
When it came time for their photo shoot, the square white plate and the odd little round plate that came with a basket of crackers and cheese both seemed woefully inadequate for the occasion, to say nothing of our everyday stoneware which also serves as our fancy occasion stoneware (we are rather simple people here). Nor did I wish to photograph them in a nest of waxed paper using a cellphone. No, this particular cookie earns the word “delicacy,” and seems to require a finer setting and a little more staging. So I hunted through the china cabinet (I use that term loosely, with tongue-in-cheek even — you should see what passes for china cabinet-worthiness in my house) and spotted my one little piece of Limoges.
I have a few china scraps from my grandmother Smith, and this teacup is one of which I am particularly fond. I don’t know if it was one piece in a long lost or divided collection, or if it is the only piece of Limoges she ever had. It’s a rather fine little teacup, regardless, and normally it’s the home of a hummingbird nest, an eaglet’s feather, and a feather each from a blue jay, a downy woodpecker and a cardinal. That is normal, yes?
Back to the cookies: I quickly displaced those items (pictured here in another bit of china from the hodgepodge), cleaned out the cup, put the freshly baked tea biscuits in it, put it on top of the lacquered finish of the piano, and voilà! Queen’s cakes à Limoges. Mmmm.