Invitation To A Funeral

Dracula author Bram Stoker died 103 years ago on May 20th. Twice a year, on Bram’s birthday and death day, I think about the author and his infamous vampire creation Count Dracula; two of the greatest influences on my life. This deathiversary got me thinking about death and cookies, two other great influences on my life 🙂

Stoker lived most of his life in the Victorian era. One of the most obvious themes in the novel Dracula is the exploration of the strict and repressive Victorian attitudes toward sexuality. But Dracula is also an exploration of Victorian attitudes to death and mourning. After all, Queen Victoria is as famous for her strict codes of morality as for her role as the “widow of Windsor”.

After the death of her beloved husband, Queen Victoria wore nothing but black for the rest of her life. Mourning jewellery became fashionable, and jewellery containing the hair of dead loved ones was popular. Queen Victoria particularly favoured jewellery made from Whitby jet for her mourning dress. Is it a coincidence that Dracula first lands in Whitby when he travels to England or is it a nod to the Victorian Queen’s favourite mourning gemstone? I don’t know. What I do know is that during Queen Victoria’s reign, mourning became an art in itself. And that brings us to cookies!

Funeral cookies have a long history and are part of the customs related to eating food for the dead. Funeral cookies were essentially edible offerings that were handed out at funerals. They could be eaten at the funeral to honour the dead, eaten as snacks on the way home from the funeral or given as treats to those who couldn’t attend the funeral. They could also be kept as mementoes of the day.

In Victorian times, homemade cookies were replaced by bakeries who offered made to order products on short notice. The evolution of printing technology allowed bakers the opportunity to package cookies in creative ways. Cookies could be wrapped in ornate wrappings containing printed information such as the funeral notice for the deceased, biblical quotes or poems. The Funeral cookies could then be used as funeral invitations with all the funeral details printed on the wrapper. If you were particularly peckish, you could even snack on them on the way to the funeral!

I loved the quaint idea of a cookie wrapped in a funeral invitation so much that I decided to make my own version of traditional funeral cookies. My version is a shortbread style cookie flavoured with caraway seeds, which are a traditional spice in old-style cookies. I have added rosemary as it symbolises remembrance and is therefore associated with remembering and honouring the dead. I have also used a cookie stamp to give them an ornate appearance.

Funeral Cookies

IMG_5082 copyc

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
180g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely
extra cornflour for dusting biscuit stamp

Instructions
Mix together the flour, cornflour, salt and caraway seeds.
In a separate bowl cream together the butter, icing sugar and rosemary until smooth.
Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Roll dough mixture into balls.
Press into biscuit stamp lightly dusted with cornflour.
Place on prepared trays.
Continue until all mixture is used.
Place trays in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 150C / 300F
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to cool briefly before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

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8 comments

  1. That is all very interesting. It myst be where the custom of having cookies at viewings comes from. Pardon me while I head off to the kitchen to try these delicious sounding cookies! They are beautiful with the stamp as well as yummy sounding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve only been to one viewing that I can remember and there were no cookies. But the feast at the graveside later made up for it!
      I hope you like the cookies – they are very buttery and crumbly, even before you bake them 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Vicky, although I think these are the perfect fall-to-winter cookie, and, therefore, perfect for your changing season, I went out and purchased what I needed to make them tonight. Please wish me luck. You have returned me to my former state of finding joy in cooking, especially baking. A joy that I had allowed to be taken from me. Thank you. Oh and I finally have a laptop again. Candy ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so happy you are regaining your love of baking!!
      If you are not using a stamp and the pastry gets too hard to handle you can roll it into a sausage shape between plastic wrap, refrigerate until cold, then slice.
      Let me know how you go and if you have any trouble 🙂
      So glad you have your laptop back!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The cookies look delicious and I love the black ribbon around them very nice touch.
    I have been to a couple of viewings and there hasn’t been any food but like yourself some of the feasts at the graveside have been amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Zedna, thanks for the question. The amount of cookies it makes and the size of the balls of dough depends on the size of the cookie mould you use. The one I used was about 2 inches or 5.5 centimetres across and about 0.5 inches or 1 centimetre deep. I’m sorry but I can’t remember how many it made. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make them again soon and I can update the recipe.
      I hope this helps, let me know if I can be of further help 🙂

      Like

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