Chocolate Cake Recipes A Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, August 13, 1911: Went to Sunday school this afternoon. I guess that picnic is to be realized after all, if it isn’t I’ll certainly be very disappointed.

Source: Lowney's Cook Book (1907)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma and her friend Carrie have been planning a picnic all week. They came up with the idea while taking a walk the previous Sunday.

Was Grandma thinking about which foods to make for the picnic? Perhaps she flipped through a cookbook or two and looked at the pictures for ideas.

Here are two cake recipes from an old cook book:

Walnut Chocolate Cake

¼ cup Lowney’s Always Ready Chocolate Powder

½ cup butter

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup milk

1 cup walnut meats

1 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter; add sugar, yolks of eggs well beaten and flour in which baking powder has been sifted, milk, and chocolate which has been moistened with hot water; beat well and add walnut meats. Bake in buttered jelly cake pans about twenty minutes.

Spread one cake with one half cup of Lowney’s Sweet Chocolate Powder moistened with one fourth cup boiling water and flavored with one teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle with broken walnuts, cover with other cake, and ice with White Frosting.

Lowney’s Cook Book (1907)

Chocolate Sponge Cake

¼ cup Lowney’s Always Ready Chocolate Powder

yolks of 3 eggs

¼ cup sugar

whites of 3 eggs

2 tablespoons hot water

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup pastry flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat yolks until lemon-colored and thick; add sugar and continue beating. Mix chocolate with water, add to sugar mixture; cut and fold in flour, salt and beaten whites. Flavor and bake in buttered pan in a moderate oven three quarters of an hour.

Lowney’s Cook Book (1907)

I enjoy reading old recipes—though I’m often befuddled about exactly how they need to be adjusted for modern use. One suggestion in the Lowneys’ Cook Book for making cakes says:

Attend to fire, making sure, if it is a coal fire, that there is sufficient coal to last through the baking.

Hmm—Is that the same thing as a 350 degree oven?

The cook book was published by Lowney’s–a company that sold baking chocolate and cocoa. (I guess that brand name advertising and PR has been around for a long time.)  The supermarket sells Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa. Would that work as a substitute for Lowneys’ Always Ready Chocolate Powder?

I suppose the beating the yolks means either using a hand beater or stirring them rapidly by hand.

The Chocolate Sponge Cake recipe calls for very little flour—actually it seems like very small amounts for several ingredients. It must make a really small cake—or maybe there are typos in the cook book.

Whew, I’m getting a head-ache trying to interpret these recipes for modern cooking. I guess I’ll just assume that these cakes tasted awesome and not try to make them.

6 Responses

  1. Maybe we are just used to making sheet cakes larger than our heads.
    I recall a time (in Africa of course) when your daughter and I made several cake mixes and wound up with a cake only 7-8 inches wide, and rather shallow. I remember I mentioned it to my dad, who spends quite a bit of time in Europe, and he said that was the norm everywhere he had been.

    • Interesting–Maybe cakes in the US were more similar in size to cakes elsewhere many years ago. It probably would be a cooking disaster, but your comment really makes me want to try to figure out how to adapt one of these old recipes to see what the cake is like.

      Note to self: Remember to do this on the next time there is a rainy Saturday.

  2. [...] Chocolate Cake Recipes a Hundred Years Ago [...]

  3. There are so many cake recipes to choose from but i always want those cake recipes with chocolate chip cookies in it.

  4. […] write much a hundred years ago today I’m going to go back to a post I did almost two years ago on August 13, 1911. That post was about the difficulty of interpreting old cake recipes using modern techniques, […]

  5. Walnut meat! I like that. Walnuts are very meaty.

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