SPINNING SUGAR, REFINING AMERICA: CONSUMERS AND CREATORS OF DESSERT IN THE LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
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Dessert presentations in America shifted in the eighteenth century from simple desserts with few ingredients to elaborate confections of sugar. As a luxurious end to the meal, dessert increasingly reflected class and race. After the Revolution, as dessert presentations modeled on those of European aristocracy became popular, the elite turned to confectioners to create towering displays of dessert. The scarcity of skilled confectioners pushed elites to recruit and train confectioners, including those they enslaved. The genteel movement towards refinement and the consumer revolution fueled middle-class aspirations to emulate elite dessert displays, leading them to purchase specialized material goods like serving pieces and recipe books. They also continued to use simple recipes but elevated dessert as a measure of refinement. The use of enslaved labor to produce some of these confections indicates the extent to which post-revolutionary hierarchies embedded slavery, even as enslaved confectioners had potentially more room to negotiate.