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Colonial Cooking: Fairy Butter

By Heather Lodge

The hearth was the heart of a colonial home. It provided people with warmth, light, and most importantly, food. Almost everything a colonial family ate would have been prepared on the hearth. In this mini-series, I am going to show you how I make some of my hearth cooking staples.

Please note that not all fireplaces, even in colonial buildings, are equipped to be a cooking hearth. I am also a professional with years of training.  Please do not try this in a fireplace at home.

Today’s recipe is on that can be replicated on a stovetop. If you would like to give it a try on the stove, please make sure that a responsible adult is present at all times.

Today’s Recipe: Fairy Butter

Fairy butter is an elevated butter that was popular in the 1700s. You could compare it to buttercream frosting today, but it’s a little less sweet and much more floral.

Why is it called fairy butter?

  • It could be just a whimsical name, not unlike many others at that time
  • It could be because fairy butter is light and delicate, just like a fairy
  • It could be named for the bright yellow, fairy butter mushrooms that grow on trees
    (More commonly known as witch’s butter in the U.S.)

The mushrooms do have an uncanny resemblance to our bright yellow treat!

I first came across fairy butter in a Scottish cookbook from the 1770s. Since then, I’ve found it in various cookbooks from both sides of the Atlantic. First Lady Dolley Madison appears to have particularly liked this recipe, serving it often at White House teas.

As you can see, the recipe is short and simple. No two recipes for this have the same proportions, but none tend to deviate greatly either. I can easily see how fairy butter became a popular item: the recipe is incredibly simple! Sweet, creamy, and slightly floral, fairy butter turns any piece of bread into a cake with only a fraction of the work!


Step 1

Hard boil three eggs

Step 2

Peel the eggs and remove the yolks. Place them in a bowl

Step 3

Add to the bowl:

  • Four ounces of sugar
  • Six ounces of butter
  • Two spoonfuls of rose or orange flower water

    Flower water is an acquired taste for people who have not grown up with it.
    You may wish to start with half the amount of flower water, especially for children.

Step 3

Mix with a spoon, fork, or blender until smooth.

Scoop the fairy butter onto a plate, and you’re done!

Serve with bread and tea.

By Heather Lodge

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