DESSERTS should add a little topography to your table,'' says Barbara Wheaton, culinary historian and authority on food of the Victorian period. ``Most of our food is served in flat containers and except for the occasional roast, it doesn't add much interest to the dining table.
``A tower of ice cream makes a happy ending to a meal, especially if it's ice cream decorated with fresh raspberries or candied rosettes or mounds of whipped cream,'' she says. In Victorian days, spun sugar was a favorite decoration. But that was a lot of work, and today's dessertmakers tend to garnish in simpler ways with fruits, nuts, and candies.
While packing chocolate ice cream into a bombe-shaped mold that's already been lined with chocolate cake, Mrs. Wheaton adds that she will later fill the center with Wild Strawberry or maybe Butter Pecan ice cream to finish this colorful dessert.
Mrs. Wheaton demonstrated the procedure for making ice cream desserts to newspaper food editors at a luncheon in the Mark Twain carriage house. The occasion was the introduction of nine flavors of ice cream, a new line for Pepperidge Farm, a company known for its bakery products.
Mrs. Wheaton talked about Victorian desserts and menus, including those served in Victorian days at the home of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
She explained that the Victorians, with their predilection for highly ornamental embellishment and design, set a style that has lasted long since Queen Victoria's reign, which ended in 190l. Today's revival of Victoriana includes food along with flowers, fashion, architecture, and furniture.
The handsome dining room of the Mark Twain House is an authentic example of the Victorian penchant for extravagant details. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the room often was the scene of splendid and lively dinners hosted by Samuel Clemens and his wife, Livy.
According to the memoirs of their maid Katy Leary, ice cream was a favorite dessert. ``We always had our ice cream put up in wonderful shapes, like flowers or cherubs, little angels -- all different kinds and different shapes and flavors and colors,'' she wrote.
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