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Recipe: To make Ratafia Biscuits (aka, Ratafia Cakes)

Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com

Every couple of years this blog skips off on a little tangent, and I publish a recipe.  Back in 2022 I transcribed Roach’s famous 40 Orange Cake from Our Flag Means Death, and in previous years I’ve shared recipes for vegetarian ‘Kate Sheppard’s’ pie, and a gluten-free Plum Cake. I also share lots of posts with links to recipes which people tell me they have used.

Today’s recipe is my most-requested recipe ever: ratafia biscuits.  It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it’s gluten and dairy free, so it fits a lot of dietary requirements.  Plus, it’s historical!  Ratafia biscuits were all the rage in the 18th and early 19th century, and are perfect for your fancy historical tea party.

Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com


Ratafia biscuits are made with almond flour and egg whites, and are an ancestor to modern macarons.  Eliza Smith’s influential 1727 cookbook The Compleat Housewife includes a recipe ‘To Make Ratafia Bisket’, and they are included in other 18th century recipe books.  I used a slightly more recent recipe as my starting point: 1789’s The Complete Confectioner, by Frederick Nutt.  It goes as follows:

Take half a pound of sweet almonds, and half a pound of bitter almonds, and pound them in a mortar very fine, with whites of eggs; put three pounds of powdered sugar, mix it well with the whites of eggs, to the proper thickness into a bason; put two or three sheets of paper on the plate you bake on; take your knife, and the spaddle made of wood, and drop them on the paper, let them be round, and about the size of a large nutmeg; put them in the oven, which must be quick, let them have a fine brown, and all alike, but be careful they are not burnt at bottom, else they will not come off the paper when baked; let them be cold before you take them off

Frederick Nutt was a confectioner once apprenticed at the famous The Pot and Pineapple confectionary shop on Berkeley Square.  While my recipe isn’t quite the same as his, there must be some of the magic of that noted shop in it, as the reviews from the many friends I have tested these on say they are so good that a nightingale will indeed sing as you eat them!

Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com

Ratafia Biscuit Ingredients

  • 250 grams almond flour
  • 200 grams powdered/icing/confectioners sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (3-5 drops)
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water or rosewater

18th century ratafia recipes used bitter almonds, which contain cyanide.  Since poisoning your guests is generally considered bad manners (although, it is, admittedly, sometimes tempting… (insert Morticia Addams sipping tea gif here)), modern recipes use almond extract as a flavouring.

To Make Ratafia Biscuits

  1. Preheat oven to 160c/320f
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  3. Sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar.
  4. Beat the egg whites just until soft peaks begin to form.  Add the almond essence and orange blossom water, and beat to soft peaks.Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com
  5. Fold the egg white mixture into the almond flour and sugar mixture, blending the mix together until you have a smooth paste.Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com (you may find that ‘folding’ is a bit of a euphemism, as it’s impossible to get them well mixed without a bit o, but of blending that’s more like beating than folding, but don’t worry, they will still puff and have a lovely texture)

    Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com

  6. Using a spoon and clean, damp hands, shape the dough into balls ‘the size of a large nutmeg’ – or about 1 1/4”/3cm across, and arrange on your baking sheets.Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the biscuits are just touched with golden brown.Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com
  8. Let cool on a baking rack, and then store in an airtight container.  If, that is, you can keep them from being gobbled up as soon as they are cool!

Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com

Serve with tea on your finest china, while dressed in your most elegant hostess gown.

Or have them with a mug of anything while wearing pyjamas with your feet up on the couch.  I don’t judge and they are delicious either way!

Making Ratafia Biscuits thedreamstress.com



  1. Marjo Wheat says

    On pi day anything round will do to celebrate! After all it’s all about ratio of round things, isn’t it

  2. Johanna says

    In Sweden we can’t be quite as afraid of bitter almonds as in many other countries, since you can buy them in the supermarket (but in very small packages) and we still have recipes that cal for a few bitter almonds in them.

  3. Alice says


    Thanks for another recipe. Haha, I enjoy reading your blog regardless of any tangents you jump to! These ratafia biscuits will certainly surprise friends who thought I couldn’t bake anything historical that’s diary/gluten free. 🙂 Now I just need to wait for a nightingale to sing while the biscuits are devoured!

  4. These sound very similar to another (modern) recipe I have for lemon cookies. I will try these with almond extract as that sounds lovely!

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