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Ratafia Cakes

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

This is the 18th-century idea of dessert. Light, sweet and palate clearing, dessert represented the end of the meal. Often, desserts took the form of fruits and nuts. Additionally, sweetmeats such as marmalades and jellies could also be offered.

18th Century

Take one Pound and a half of Sweet Almonds, and half a Pound of Bitter Almonds, beat them as fine as possible with the Whites of two Eggs, then beat the Whites of five Eggs to a strong Froth, shake in lightly two Pounds and a half of fine Loaf Sugar beat and sifted very fine, drop them in little Drops the size of a Nutmeg, on Paper, and bake them in a slack oven.

— Nott, John, “Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary 1726” Art 138.

21st Century


  • 2 ½ cups blanched almonds
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 ½ cups sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground, making sure that almonds do not start to release oil. You want a meal, not a paste.
  3. In a mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until incorporated.
  4. With a rubber spatula, slowly fold the ground almonds into the egg white mixture.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a ½ teaspoon measure, place the almond mixture in little balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing your drops 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake at 250 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set. Mixture will have lost its sheen and be dry to the touch. Allow to cool completely before removing from paper with spatula.
  7. Yield: 18 ¼ dozen one-inch drops. This recipe is very easy to cut down.

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