Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Egg Cake

While searching for something new and different to bake, I started pulling all of my cookbooks off the shelf, including The 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, the first edition of Fannie Farmer’s classic cookbook. I’ve often skimmed through it because the recipes are fascinating as well as a fascinating look at life over a century ago. I’ve never made any of the recipes, but they are fun to look at. Take for instance the recipe for Mock Turtle Soup. There are no turtles in it. Instead, the first ingredient is “1 calf’s head”, not something one usually sees in the market today.

One recipe did catch my eye. It was entitled "One Egg Cake". Could this possibly be the long lost birthday cake recipe that I have spent decades looking for? It is significantly different from the Betty Crocker Dinette Cake recipe that I have been baking. Betty uses shortening, Fannie uses butter. Betty uses vanilla, Fannie doesn’t. I’ve never made a cake without vanilla, have you? Just for fun, I decided to try the recipe.

If you think baking is an art today, back in Fannie’s day it was practically alchemy. Just getting the temperature correct in the oven was a challenge. There were no gas or electric stoves then. Stoves used coal. Oven thermometers were unreliable in those days. Fannie’s advice on achieving and maintaining the correct oven temperature for baking? "…experience alone has proved the most reliable teacher." My oven is a modern gas one so I turned to Betty for the correct 350°F temperature.

I would be curious to see a selection of pans from Fannie’s era. Nowhere does she discuss cake pans or their sizes. For the One Egg Cake recipe, she specifies a shallow pan. The amounts of the ingredients were similar to the Dinette Cake recipe, so I used my usual square 8x8x2 pan.

There are no instructions in the recipe for beating the batter. That is covered in the introduction to the chapter on cakes along with buttering and filling the pan, and removing the cake from the pan. I followed Betty’s instructions for the Dinette Cake recipe. I have no desire to beat cake batter by hand. I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer.

The batter came together beautifully and the cake baked perfectly. Unfortunately, this was not the long lost recipe. But it was a delicious butter cake and a fun trip through culinary history.

Verdict: Not bad, but I won’t be making this again.

One Egg Cake
(source: The 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book)

¼ cup of butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup of milk
1 ½ cups flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder.

Cream the butter, add sugar gradually, and egg well beaten. Mix and sift flour and baking powder, add alternately with milk to first mixture. Bake thirty minutes in a shallow pan. Spread with Chocolate Frosting.

Recycle: milk jug

Compost: egg shell

1 comment:

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