Every July the Flynn House ladies celebrate “A Victorian Birthday Party” commemorating Katherine Flynn’s 8th birthday. Martin and Ellen Flynn’s eldest daughter Katherine was born in 1867 and would have turned eight in the summer of 1875. Since childhood illness and death were still serious problems in the 1870s, Victorian families often cherished each birthday as a reason for rejoicing. A wealthy family like the Flynns would have had the means to celebrate birthdays quite lavishly. At our birthday party, we highlight some of the activities that party goers might have enjoyed.
Since Victorian children were not expected to bring a gift for the birthday child, our guests are invited to sign a birthday book wishing Katherine a happy birthday and writing her a special note or drawing a picture.
The birthday child often gave her guests a favor to thank them for attending the party. These favors might be a package of candies, paper fans, hair ribbons for the young ladies, bookmarks, or other small mementoes.
The children might have played a variety of outside party games. Croquet, Graces, walking on stilts, Shuttlecock and Battledore, Drop the Handkerchief, and Hoops and Sticks are just some of the games the children might have tried.
There might also have been an opportunity to play inside with the birthday child’s toys. We encouraged our guests to play dolls and paper dolls in Katherine’s room and to play with the blocks in the boys’ room.
Of course, refreshments would have been served to the party guests. We offered samples of raspberry and lemon cake, as well as ice cold lemonade.
The cake was adapted from a white cake recipe found in the Buckeye Cookery of 1877. Because so many guests requested the recipe, I have included it at the end of this blog entry.
The cake we prepared for display inside the house is also based on the same recipe. However, we made a three-layer cake of chocolate and raspberry with a chocolate filling and white frosting.
1 cup of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsps of baking powder
1 cup milk
5 egg whites, beaten to a froth
Cream butter and sugar, alternately add flour and milk until well blended. Stir in baking powder. Add whatever flavoring desired. (2 teaspoons lemon extract, or 2 teaspoons raspberry extract, or 2 squares of melted unsweetened chocolate). Stir in egg whites.
Divide into two 8 inch cake pans, lined with paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cake will begin to pull away from sides of pan when done. Cook and frost as desired.
Adapted from Buckeye Cookery, 1877
Submitted by Judy Jabaay, Flynn Supervisor