The first baking fail of 2013: The things I do for my novel

In my continuing effort to be historically accurate, I did some research on desserts popular in the 1860s. You know, for basically one sentence in my novel. I stumbled upon a cookbook from 1861, The Book of Household Management. “Well, perfect!” I said. “Manuscript takes place in 1862.”

One of the tastier sounding dishes was a feisty little number called Geneva Wafers. I don’t know what a Geneva Wafer is, but the recipe sounded easy enough. So, I wrote my scene and extolled the awesomeness of The Geneva Wafer. And, not content to stop there, I decided to try making them.

Cream eggs and butter? Sure thing, I can do that. I first tried to be true to the time period and use a wooden spoon, but quickly abandoned this method for my stand mixer. Then I added butter, flour, and sugar. Then I got a little concerned.


It just looks gross. But, whatever. Lets take it to the pan. There was no clear definition in the recipe as to how one puts them on the pan. Judging by the consistency of what can only loosely be described as “batter,” I had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well. But here we go. Butter is damn expensive, so if I was going fail, I was going to fail epically.


They look like sad little pancakes.

The recipe also neglected to give any guess as to the quantity of heat one should apply. Or a length of time they should be baked. I’m willing to bet this is where things went horrifically wrong, because after five minutes, the sad little pancakes spread over the entire pan and took on this flaccid, cooked egg consistency.


This is not wafer like. This is not “pretty and ornamental” as the recipe described, nor “nice and easily made.”

But my God.

They were delicious. I could not stop eating them.

They tasted kind of like a sugar cookie. But, you know, flat and flaccid.

The recipe had said once they “puffed” up, you should put a hard piece of bread or wood in the middle, so they’ll form the right shape. You then fill this (and I’m picturing lady fingers here, so bear with me) tube with whipped cream and preserves. I didn’t have whipped cream or preserves. What I did have, though, was buttercream frosting.


This is my best guess.

From a super fast Google search, I think they should have been crispier. Which, yeah, would have made them more wafer like I guess. If I make them again, I’m thinking I need to make the oven hotter. Maybe use a mini muffin tin to hold them in place? I have no idea.

But my taste buds rejoiced. Consistency: awful. Presentation: horrific. Taste: phenomenal. No, my Geneva Wafers will win no prizes. They would be unrecognizable to the Victorians. But they were tasty. Darn tasty. I can with confidence say the main character in “Manuscript” is correct in saying they are her favorite confection.

My favorite confection this week is chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Just thought you should know.



  1. I’m betting a higher heat for a shorter period of time. And if you’re going to make a tube, you do it right after they come out of the oven and are flexible. Bet they were ultra yummy.

  2. Bwa ha ha ha ha. I swear I’m not laughing at you, but totally and absolutely with you. I too do some cooking and baking for my novels and have definitely had some tasty catastrophes, and I’m working with modern recipes! So glad to have someone to commiserate with. 😉

    1. I’m actually willing to make them again, even if they turn out the same. I think the hotter oven will do the trick. If I had this much trouble making them, I can’t imagine trying to make them in the 1860s!

  3. Heather: I saw this blog post a couple of days ago and tracked down the recipe and made them. From your pictures, it sure looks like you forgot the flour or else did not have the proportions right. I blogged my attempt over at the Risky Regencies with some pictures and if you go there, you’ll see my batter is significantly different from yours.

    I wanted to stop by and thank you for the inspiration because they are really delicious. You should definitely make them again!

    1. Thank you so much!! I stuck to the recipe exactly as it was in the Book of Home Management. I think that was part of the problem: I think the amount of flour was wrong. I also didn’t get a decent “cream” of the butter, since I was trying to be all authentic and use a wooden spoon! Your outcome looked delicious and I’m excited to give them another try!

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