16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Wednesday, December 20, 1911: Pa went to Sunbury this morning and I had all the barn work to do at noon and this evening, but I managed to get through with it at last. Picked out some walnuts for Xmas candy and then Mater had to go and swipe some to stick in some cakes for Jimmie. Maybe they’ll all be gone where they’re wanted.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
This year my husband and I have enjoyed eating foods mentioned in the diary that we hadn’t eaten in years.
We picked the last of the black walnuts that we gathered last fall out of their shells last week-end. It’s the first year that we’ve gathered them since we were children. Next year we’ll need to collect more.
I used the nuts to make a black walnut cake. The cake brought back warm memories of my childhood when I ate black walnut cake at reunions and church dinners. At those gatherings, elderly woman proudly brought black walnut (and hickory nut) cakes that they’d lovingly made using nuts that they’d gathered, hulled, cracked, and picked the nut meats out of.
Black Walnut Cake
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup black walnuts (chopped)
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Butter icing (optional)
Additional finely chopped black walnuts (optional)
Cream the butter with powdered sugar and cold water. Add egg yolks, cinnamon, flour, and baking powder; beat until combined. Stir in the walnuts. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Put batter into a well-greased loaf pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.