Dost thou think, because
thou art virtuous, there shall
be no more cakes and ale?
— “Twelfth Night”
William Shakespeare was baptized on 26 April, 1564, so it’s possible that he was born on the 23rd of April. Since he died on 23 April, 1616, celebrating both his birth and his death on the same date has a certain appeal.
Shakespeare probably ate “Shrewsbury cakes“, large biscuits (cookies) made famous in Shropshire. They are basically sugar cookies, sometimes with added cinnamon, nutmeg, and citron or rosewater.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white (or caster) sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp rosewater (optional) (note: commercially available rosewater is much more potent today. Start with just a few drops – a little bit goes a long way!)
Combine butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until just blended. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
Sift together dry ingredients. Gradually added to creamed mixture, stirring well after each addition. Cover and chill for one hour.
Divide dough in half, keeping half chilled until ready for use. Roll to 1/8″ thickness on a well-floured surface, and cut with a large round cutter. (Or cut into squares). Traditional cookies are scored in a diamond pattern.
Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cool on rack.
There is not much known about Shakespeare, outside of his works, but there is much speculation on every aspect of his life. What inspired him? Was he a real person? Did someone else write under his name? If he left his wife his “second best bed” upon his death, who got the best bed? How did a man of such humble beginnings become William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, and arguably the greatest dramatist of all time?
We may never know the answers to these questions. Instead of pondering them, grab a book from this list of fictional prequels, sequels, re-imaginings, and homages to the Bard. Be sure to grab a couple of Shrewsbury cakes to enjoy while you read!