Book cover of 'Fancy Ices'
© Nina Mangalanayagam

Fancy Ices, Mrs AB Marshall, 1894, Marshall’s School of Cookery and Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co

What Escoffier was to French cooking, Mrs Marshall was to ice cream. Though a celebrated cook, cookery-school owner and kitchen-equipment entrepreneur, ices were her speciality. She wrote four books, including two domestic cookery manuals, but it was in her first publication, Book of Ices (1885), and its sequel, Fancy Ices (1894), that her originality shone through.

The daughter of a clerk, Marshall was born in 1855 in Essex. The introduction to her first cookery book claims that her recipes are “the result of practical training and lessons, through several years, from leading English and Continental authorities”.

Marshall married Alfred William in 1878. Together they had four children and built a culinary empire. In 1883 the couple opened Marshall’s School of Cookery in a five-storey building in central London. The enterprise included a kitchen shop, a cook-recruiting agency, a catering-staff hiring service and a kitchen-equipment loaning business.

Fancy Ices was written for “those who already have the smaller volume, and who have constantly asked for a fuller treatise on more elaborate styles of service”. Enter the Princess Gooseberry Cream, Redalia Pineapple Ice and detailed illustrations of ice-cream swans, cornet pyramids filled with sorbet and frozen soufflé towers veiled with spun sugar.

These recipes were intended for special occasions – “ball suppers, luncheons and dinners”. Until the 1820s, when the first shipment of Norwegian ice arrived in Britain, ice and ice creams were an extravagant luxury only enjoyed by the wealthy. By 1860, with the American and Nordic ice trades well established, Londoners consumed 60,000 tons of ice every year. Iced recipes became a culinary fashion, providing the aspiring classes with a vehicle to impress their guests.

Fancy Ices contains 223 pages of recipes, each one true to its title – fancy. Take the Albani Bomb, made by adding cherry pulp, strawberries and St Julien claret to a 10-egg custard. The mixture is placed in a mould containing a pipe lined with “Noyeau cream”, frozen in an “ice cave” and served filled with a compote of cherries and pineapple mixed with Maraschino liqueur and sliced blanched almonds. Who could fail to be impressed?

In a chapter on “individual ices”, drawings depict trays of intricate ices or frozen soufflés, each created by a complicated combination of ingredients and decorations. “Adele ices”, for example, are made with gingerbread ice cream flavoured with pineapple essence, frozen in walnut-shaped moulds. Once removed from the moulds, these are sprinkled with chopped nuts and placed in a pastry case shaped like a walnut half. Today’s fancy cupcakes look amateurish by comparison.

The recipes in Fancy Ices not only require luxurious ingredients and careful preparation, they also necessitate special machinery. At the back of Fancy Ices there are 30 pages of adverts, primarily for Mrs Marshall’s products and services. Included is a dizzying selection of ice-related culinary hardware: ice breakers, ice prickers, ice “spaddles” and moulds including ducks, pineapples and asparagus.

Larger items include Mrs Marshall’s patented ice-cream maker, the Patent Freezer. This hand-cranked machine comprised a shallow, turning drum and a stationary paddle. According to the advert, it made “smooth and delicious” ices in three minutes, a claim verified by contemporary ice-cream historians who have had the opportunity to use one.

That Mrs Marshall’s device stands the test of time is not surprising – she was forward-thinking in matters practical and political. Her contributions to The Table, the magazine she co-founded, reveal her to be a supporter of women’s rights, an early predictor of refrigerated lorries and an astute social commentator. “If aristocrats treated cooks as well as their horses there would be no ‘servant problem,’” she wrote.

Mrs Marshall died in 1905 following a fall from a horse but her various enterprises carried on for decades. Marshall’s became a limited company in 1921 and Marshall’s School of Cookery operated until the second world war.

Though famous in her time, she is only now remembered by a select group of food historians and ice-cream buffs. Just like one of her glorious ice creations at the end of a ball supper, Mrs Marshall melted into obscurity.

Polly Russell is a curator at the British Library; ‘Fancy Ices’ by permission from the British Library collection


Diplomat Biscuits

(Biscuits à la Diplomate)

Put in a whipping tin six raw yolks of eggs, two ounces of caster sugar, two whites of eggs, a few drops of vanilla essence, and a few drops of Marshall’s Carmine; whip this over boiling water until the mixture is warm, then remove it from the fire and whip it till cold and thick; add to it a small teacupful of stiffly-whipped cream, one and a half ounces of macaroon biscuit crumbs that have been rubbed through a wire sieve and mixed with a tablespoonful of brandy and a quarter of an ounce of crystallised pineapple that has been cut up into the smallest possible dice pieces; pour the mixture into little fancy paper-cases, place them on the bottom of the charged ice cave, and let them freeze for about two hours; then take up and sprinkle over each a few blanched and very finely-shredded pistachio nuts; dish up and serve for dinner or dessert.

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