1860s La Crosse Tea Cakes

Posted by Scott on June 20, 2017

(written by Hannah L. Weber, Archives staff)

La Crosse was incorporated as a city in 1856 with a population of almost 2,000 persons. By the post Civil War era of the late 1860s, La Crosse was a burgeoning city on the edge of the West. With a steadily growing population, La Crosse offered many of the comforts of life back East including a bustling social scene of luncheons, teas, parties, and other social events. To prepare for such company, it was customary to prepare light refreshments. Today, that would most likely be solved by a quick run to the store to purchase some snacks and drinks. However in 1860s La Crosse, one wouldn’t necessarily find such instant gratification from the store, thus requiring something to be prepared from scratch. To get a glimpse of what would go into preparing a basic snack for visitors, we can look at a La Crosse resident’s handwritten cookbook from the 1860s. Transcribed below is a recipe for tea cakes. 


Sample recipes from a La Crosse resident’s 1860s cookbook. MISC MSS 022

Tea Cakes

Braid well together a quarter pound butter, a quarter pound of sugar. Then mix in a full half pound flour. Beat an egg in a tablespoonful of cold water, and then mix it with the above. If two sorts of cake be required, divide the paste into equal portions. To one, add two ounces of currants and a very small quantity of ground ginger with 8 drops of essence of lemon. To the other, put ground ginger as before and a teaspoonful of caraway seed. Drop them in lumps on buttered pans and bake a quarter of an hour in a brisk oven. 

To learn more about daily life in La Crosse during the 19th century, check out the digitized materials on the ‘People and Life’ page on La Crosse History Unbound, or plan a visit to the La Crosse Public Library Archives.