Victoria, the PBS Masterpiece drama series about the young queen, features a chef named Francatelli. In fact, Charles Elmé Francatelli was employed by Victoria, and he was one of the era’s most famous chefs.
Francatelli lasted for less than two years in the royal household. Some say that was because the royal couple preferred plain food to his sophisticated French cuisine. More important, Francatelli did not take kindly to being told that he was spending too much on the ingredients he insisted on, and he argued with the person in charge of the royal budget. Vociferously. At one point, the police were called. Francatelli moved on.
Still, he continued to have a successful career, working at exclusive London clubs and writing several highly regarded cookbooks. In them, he named several dishes after his former employers – “Salmon, à la Victoria,” “Victoria Biscuits,” “Iced Pudding, à la Prince Albert,” and more. He also referred to himself as “Late maître-d’hotel to her Majesty the Queen.” A royal connection, however brief, was a valuable asset.
Francatelli was famed for his elaborate French food. He was trained by the famed Carême, after all. But it’s his ice creams and ice cream cones that I find fascinating. Francatelli made and wrote about fanciful, elegant ice cream cones in his mid-nineteenth century cookbooks. That was long before the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis so often associated with ice cream cones.
They weren’t called ice cream cones in Francatelli’s time though, since they weren’t always filled with ice cream. They were called cones, cornets, cornucopias, gauffres.
In his 1852 book, A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Francatelli had recipes for cones served several different ways. He served some cones sans ice cream and simply sprinkled them with sugar. For his “Iced Pudding, à la Prince Albert,” he filled tiny cones with liqueur-flavored whipped cream and placed them around molded ice creams.
For his “Iced Pudding, à la Chesterfield,” he molded pineapple ice cream into a pyramid and topped it with candied angelica cut to look like a “kind of drooping feather”. Around the base of the pyramid, he arranged tiny cones filled with more pineapple ice cream and topped each one with a strawberry.
I don’t know whether Francatelli served any of his ice cream cones to Queen Victoria, but I am sure that if he had she would have loved them.