PENNY LICKS: Sue Perkins and the ‘Deceptive Glass’ for Victorian Ice Cream
First and last images: ‘Deceptive Glass’ (c.1820-80), V&A; ‘Ice Glass’ (c. 1850-1900), V&A.
Second: children liking penny ice cream from a street vendor, date unknown;
Third: Sue Perkins tasting an original-style ice cream cone, GBBO (series 5, episode 2).
The Great British Bake-Off went back in time during their ‘Biscuit Week’ to learn about the Victorian invention of the ice cream cone. Before the biscuit cone (many of which were rolled so hot that they were more tubes than cones), nineteenth-century ice cream and gelato eaters took their scoops in penny licks, small glass cups provided by street vendors with the exact amount of glace for a penny. According to the V&A,
Extensive glass table services became increasingly popular towards the end of the 19th century, especially after press-moulded glass was introduced. This sturdy piece is blown and then further shaped by hand, with wheel-cut flat panels. It was probably made for use in a public café. [x]
But, as GBBO co-host and Super-sizer Sue Perkins remarked, ‘A penny lick off the street doesn’t sound like the most hygienic thing in the world.’ Indeed, as Sue went on to learn, the threat of cholera and other communicable diseases led to the outlawing of penny licks in 1899. Hence: the ice cream cone, an import devised by Italian-immigrant Antonio Valvona who patented his creation in Manchester in the 1890s.
With the advent of the cone by the early 20th century, gelato and ice cream fans could get, as Sue summed up, ‘All the fun, none of the typhoid.’