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By the end of her reign, Queen Victoria had become such a living legend that it was easy to forget the stout, squinting fussbudget underneath the crown. The mother of nine had transformed into the Mother of the Empire, more mythological than mortal.

This public image of a woman who had risen—nine children notwithstanding—above the base human desire for pleasure, is wildly at odds with the reality of Victoria the woman.

Portrait of Young Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, c. 1840. Museum Colchester and Ipswich, Colchester, UK.

As a child and a young woman, she had been quite a romantic–fond of music and dancing, and so enchanted by the swoony storylines of opera and ballet that she often dressed her dolls as her favorite performers.

Wooden doll dressed by Princess Victoria as the ballerina Marie Taglioni, costumed for the role of Louise in Kenilworth (1831). Photo: the Royal Collection Trust.

She also liked to eat. She liked to eat a lot. And quickly. The pace at which she inhaled her food was remarked upon by observers at almost every stage of her life–even in her last years when her appetite was said to have decreased.

Which brings us back, of course, to Mr. Francatelli and his cookbook.

The recipe line-up is anything but uniformly stodgy. Yes, as we have seen in the previous two installments of this trilogy, there was a lot of rather unexciting stuff gussied up with fancy dress (a nice metaphor, come to think of it, for the mature Victoria).

There’s plenty of fun, though, some of it alcoholic. Queen Victoria didn’t mind a drink or two, and I’m not talking about tea with lemon. Francatelli devotes one small but potent section to American drinks (the Mint Julep, the Cock-Tail, the Brandy-Smash, the Locomotive) with this being my favorite. It’s the only recipe I’ll present untested and exactly as originally written.


Half a pint of strong ale, a wineglass of brandy, a few drops of essence of cloves, four lumps of sugar; make hot, drink slowly––and make haste into bed.

Make haste, indeed. Before you hit the floor.

In the MDK Shop
A pile of the bounciest yarn we know would soften the impact. Winterburn Aran is a blend of 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% ecru Masham, and 25% dark brown Masham. Thanks for your Shop purchases. They support all the sweetness and light here at MDK.

And there’s plenty to appeal to the Queen’s famous sweet tooth. There was no way I was going to end without diving into Francatelli’s plentiful recipes for desserts and puddings (he uses both words, by the way). I looked into the ices (very tempting) and at the cakes and pastries. A cornucopia made of nougat? Why the hell not.

I pondered whether this might be the time to go tall, perhaps with something gelatinous.


But then I found Francatelli’s recipes–on adjoining pages, no less–for Victoria Biscuits and Albert Biscuits. The royal couple, nestled together forever on the Cookie Tray of Eternity.

Albert Biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour one 9 x 12 inch baking pan.

Mix together:

5 oz  sugar

4 oz very finely chopped or ground almonds

6 egg yolks, beaten

for 20 minutes.

No joke, Francatelli specifies this be done for twenty minutes. If you have a docile kitchen maid with great biceps, make her do it. Otherwise, use a hand or stand mixer to bring the ingredients nicely together, which should take a lot less than twenty minutes.

Whisk vigorously until they just begin to foam:

7 egg whites

Mix together:

3 oz flour

1 oz candied orange peel, sliced into little bits

Grated rind (zest) of one lemon

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

Pinch of salt

Combine these batters well, then pour into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before slicing into small squares or rectangles. Serve on a nice plate, decorated with extra bits of candied peel.

Like so.

Victoria Biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour small metal cookie molds (I used a madeleine pan, for lack of any other cookie molds in the kitchen) or a metal baking sheet.


3 oz unsalted butter at room temperature

until it is light and fluffy.

Mix into the butter, in this order:

8 oz sugar

6 oz flour

3 oz ground almonds

rind (zest) of two lemons, grated

3.5 oz of kirsch (kirschwasser, cherry brandy)

Spoon the batter into buttered and floured molds, or roll into little balls using about a heaping teaspoon for each biscuit.

Bake until lightly colored–about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Once cool, spread each biscuit with a bit of:

orange marmalade (the best you can afford)

Francatelli the goes on to dip the biscuits into sugar syrup to glaze them. I will be honest with you: I didn’t. I love sugar, but this recipe begins with half a pound of sugar. Try the glaze if you like, but apologize in advance to your dentist.

The Verdicts

The Albert Biscuits were a success with everyone who tasted them–including me.

The Albert Biscuits.

As you might guess from the list of ingredients, they have a rich and spicy taste not unlike gingerbread. The texture is moist and pleasantly cakey, akin to a typical American banana bread, but will become rubbery if you whip the egg whites too much. (I beat the hell out of them in one test batch, as though I were making meringue. I thought it would create a lighter, higher bake. Instead, they bounced when they hit the floor.)

Now, the Victoria Biscuits?

The Victoria Biscuits.

Rule freaking Britannia, these are fabulous. Sugar heavy? Yes. But all that sugar means that in the oven on a metal pan, the entire bottom of each biscuit crystallizes and goes crunchy while the middle stays tender.

And then you have the fresh lemon flavor from the zest, and the swoony overtones of the kirsch, and the rapture of the marmalade.

And you hear the Lost Chord, and see flights of William Morris angels across an azure sky, and eat another Victoria biscuit, and fireworks go off over Windsor Castle, and you eat another biscuit, and the chorus of Peers from Iolanthe enters from stage left singing “Loudly Let the Trumpet Bray,” and you cease to give a damn whether you will have to let out your corset strings tomorrow morning, and Dame Clara Butt is singing “Land of Hope and Glory,” and you grab the whole damned silver tray and head for your boudoir after telling the butler in no uncertain terms that Madam Is Not At Home to Anyone for the remainder of the afternoon.

They’re that good. In fact now that I’ve written this, I’m going to go make some more.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • Note to Self: Make Victoria Biscuits this weekend.

  • Note to self: get Husband to make Victoria Biscuits this weekend. I’m busy knitting my Bangoutasweater.

    • Yes!!!!

    • Hugs to you! I personally am doing Valentine banana bread for us AFTER I bang out more Main Squeeze! And hopefully complete and wet block this weekend!

  • Mercy. Franklin, I gained three pounds just reading the description.

  • I’ll have what he’s having.

  • The best food review I have ever read. Victoria Biscuits are on my baking list for the weekend. Thank you Franklin for your wit and wisdom.

  • I am on my way to the store, as I seem to be out of kirschwasser.

    • I hate when that happens!

  • Well, I guess I have to go and get both cherry brandy and regular brandy (a wineglass full?!). I did get a spectacular marmalade gift set from Jamboree Jams but those are tiny bottles, so add marmalade to the shopping list. These cookies sound decadent.

    Can’t wait to see you at Yarnover in April, Franklin! I’ve been a fan since your early panopticon days.

  • OMG! I am on those Victoria Biscuits asap!

  • I’ll have what he’s having!

    • (*snorting my afternoon coffee* )
      My sentiments, exactly!

  • Funny, informative, and delicious-sounding! A Franklin trifecta!

  • Oh, and a historical note on that “wineglass of brandy.” This 2017 article from The Guardian says that “wineglasses are seven times larger than they used to be.” So while it’s definitely a hefty slug, it’s not as much as we think of today!

  • Sounds perfect for My next Thursday Knit Night.

  • I was going to bake some Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies this afternoon. Not anymore! I have all the ingredients for Vickie’s cookies…even the cherry brandy. Great review.

  • I knew that her bloomers were a size 50” when she passed and that she adored her Albert. But, thank you for filling in the rest of the information and the recipes !

    • “filling in”? Surely you pun…

  • Love your valentine post about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I am a cookie monster and can’t wait to make those cookies.

  • OMG I love the way Franklin writes and these recipes are fabulous. Madam will definitely NOT BE AT HOME TO ANYONE this afternoon

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