Virtual Traditions of the Season at the Paul Revere House Recipes

By: Nina Zannieri

These recipes come by popular request out of our recent virtual holiday program, made possible by the generous support from and sponsorship by the Paul Revere Chapter, NSDAR. These recipes have been adapted for modern ingredients and ovens by food historian and chef, Don Daly. For many years Don researched 17th and 18th century recipes and then prepared them for our holiday programs. We are indebted to Don for his scholarship and expertise in the kitchen – thank you Don!

Below you will find a few of our favorites that you can try at home this holiday season- let us know how they turn out if you do!

Mulled Cider

Fresh apple cider heated with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, oranges, and lemons.

  • Put the cider in a large pan.
  • Mix in a stick or two of cinnamon, a bunch of cloves (10-12), 5 or 6 shakes of allspice, and several slices of orange and lemon.
  • Heat until warm through and simmering, try not to boil.
  • Use a strainer or large slotted spoon to remove the largest pieces of fruit and cinnamon before serving.


A treat of Scottish origin, there are a number of early recipes for shortbread. Some of the earliest versions call for oatmeal to be added to the flour for the dough, while others suggest almonds, citron, or candied lemon peel. This simple version is from an 1801 Edinburgh agricultural magazine and includes a chocolate glaze.

  • Cream together 3 sticks of softened butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add ½ tsp. vanilla.
  • Combine 3½ cups flour and ¼ tsp. salt.
  • While beating on low, add the flour and salt until just mixed, dough will appear crumbly.
  • Turn it out onto a floured board and form the dough into a ball.
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll out on a floured pastry board until dough is ½ inch thick.
  • Use a cookie cutter to make designs, or cut dough into 1-inch wide strips and then cut the strips into 3-inch lengths.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
  • To make a chocolate glaze, melt chocolate chips, adding some milk to them. Stir together and while warm drizzle the chocolate over the shortbread.

Shrewsbury or Seed Cakes

Whether they were filled with benne (sesame), caraway, poppy, or another type of seed, these cakes could be served when entertaining friends. Recipe adapted from an original by John Farley.

  • Mix one cup of sugar in ¾ cup of well-creamed butter, add three slightly beaten eggs, and ¼ cup brandy, sherry or Madeira, and two cups of flour.
  • Roll dough out on a floured pastry board, sprinkle dough with seeds (benne seeds, caraway, or poppy), gather dough together and roll out again.
  • Cut into shapes and bake slowly in a 350-degree oven until slightly brown.

Circlet or Almond Cardamom Cakes

Small drop cakes filled with almonds, currants and flavored with cardamom, made from a 14th- century recipe.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream together one cup of butter and 2/3 cup of brown sugar. Beat together until light and pale.
  • Add one egg to the butter and sugar.
  • In another bowl place 2 ½ cups flour, stir in ½ tsp. grated lemon peel, ¾ tsp. crushed cardamom and 1 cup currants.
  • Beat the dry mixture into the butter.
  • Chill dough for at least one hour.
  • With well-floured fingers, shape dough into small balls about 1 inch in diameter, place on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake 7-10 minutes until golden. Cool on wire racks.

Ginger Cakes

Cakes in the 18th century were similar to modern cookies. Ginger cakes contain candied orange peel, lemon peel, ginger, and molasses.

  • Combine 1 cup unbleached flour, ½ cup sugar, 2 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. dried lemon peel, and ½ tsp. salt.
  • Cream ½ cup butter and ¼ cup molasses in a separate bowl and add to flour mixture.
  • Add 2 tsp. dried orange peel.
  • Blend the mixture into a grainy dough.
  • Wrap in foil and chill for 2 hours.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Form dough in to 1 -inch wide flat cakes and bake for 15 minutes.

Cider Cake

In the 17th and 18th centuries, cakes were heavy and often contained spices, nuts and fruits. *Special note* Best done in a 9×13 pan, with butter and flour lining the inside.

  • Cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar.
  • Add four beaten eggs.
  • Sift together and add 3¼ cups flour, one tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. nutmeg, and ½ tsp. cinnamon.
  • Stir in 1 cup cider.
  • Dredge 1 cup raisins in ½ cup flour and add to mixture.
  • Pre-heat oven, bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Cookbooks with period recipes are available in the Revere House online shop:

Pleasure of the Taste by the Partnership for Historic Bostons

Revolutionary Recipes by Patricia Mitchell

Colonial Christmas Recipes by Patricia Mitchell