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One of the largest historic residences in Europe
Mannheim Baroque Palace
Advertising motif for the 2018 annual theme. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Lothar Bertrams

Treats from the court confectionerSweet delicaciesfor the royal table

In the 18th century, a banquet consisted of three courses, each of which would have offered many dishes. The first two courses were prepared by the kitchen, while the dessert course was served by the court confectioner. The latter also created table decorations made of sugar.

Teahouse made by the Frankenthal factory, Mannheim Baroque Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

The successor to table decorations made of sugar: porcelain figurines.

Sweet magnificence

For the royal table, the court confectioner made ornate decorations out of sugar—sometimes monumental structures with exquisite motifs. The pieces were made of colored sugar and tragacanth, a thickener made of plant sap. The imposing sugar structures were created by heating sugar to a certain temperature, at which point it can be drawn and blown like glass. These works of art became affordable due to the raw sugar imports that began in the 16th century. 

Schwetzingen Palace, ice cellar in the upper waterworks. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Sandra Moritz

The ice cellar of Schwetzingen Palace.

For dessert: ice cream and fruit sorbet

In the 18th century, the court confectioner served ice cream or fruit sorbet as a delicious dessert. The ice needed for such desserts was sawed out of frozen lakes in winter and brought to the palace ice cellars, such as the one in Schwetzingen Palace. To make such delicious delicacies, metal or glass containers were surrounded with ice. The ingredients were placed in these vessels and stirred until ice crystals began to form on the rim of the containers. 

Drawing of a ripe pineapple by Maria Sibylla Merian, 1705. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Drawing of a pineapple from 1705.

Pineapples in porcelain bowls

At the end of the banquet, the court society would go into another room to enjoy a final delicacy: it was a special treat in the 18th century to serve guests fresh pineapples. The pineapples were grown in the orangery by the court gardener. Growing pineapples was a symbol of status, because building and operating greenhouses was expensive. Estimates indicate that, in the 18th century, it would take three years for the first fruit to be ripe. 

Detail from the painting "The Tea Drinkers" in Rastatt Favorite Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Shared enjoyment!

The grand finale: a cup of coffee

At the end, fine ladies and gentlemen would have coffee. The historical preparation was very similar to how we would do it today. The roasted and ground coffee was placed in a pot and brewed with boiling water. However, the way it was consumed would no longer be considered polite. The coffee was poured in a cup, mixed with milk and sugar, and then poured into the saucer so that the coffee grounds remained in the cup.