Hundred-Year-Old Ways to Tell Whether a Cake is Done

cake-in-pan-b

I’m often surprised how little has changed over the past hundred-years.  I recently was browsing through a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, and came across a section on how to tell whether a cake was done. As I read,  I’m mentally noting the similarities between then and now – cake springs back when lightly touched, toothpick comes out clean. And, then suddenly the text thrusts me into a whole different world of how to test whether a cake is done. . . .

Tests to Determine Whether a Cake is Done

Experienced cake-makers have various tests to determine when a cake is done. One touches the top lightly with her finger, and if the dent made springs back quickly she knows the cake is done. If the dent remains, she knows the cake batter is still too soft.

Another housewife depends entirely upon a broom-splint or one of the modern toothpicks. She thrusts one of these into the center of the cake, and if it is the least bit sticky when it is taken out she knows that the cake needs more baking. A box of toothpicks is rather a necessary part of kitchen equipment – not to be used as the name indicates, but for testing cakes and similar uses. It is much more sanitary to use a toothpick than a broom splint, unless a wisp-broom is kept expressly for this purpose.

How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie A. Long (1914)

Old-fashioned Cream of Onion Soup Recipe

cream of onion soup

There’s starting to be a nip in the air; a few trees are turning lovely hues of red and yellow, and the days are getting shorter. Autumn is here – and I had a sudden urge to make soup.

I found a lovely  hundred-year-old recipe for Cream of Onion Soup. The soup was rich and creamy with flecks of onions. The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of pepper which gave the Cream of Onion Soup a delightful peppery undertone.

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), March, 1916
Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), March, 1916

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cream of Onion Soup

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Time: 40 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
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5 onions, sliced (approximately 3 cups)

1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup butter

4 cups water

4 sprigs parsley

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 cups milk

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup cream

Melt 1/4 cup butter in large saucepan, add sliced onions and saute until the onions are soft and semi-transparent (but not browned).  Add water and parsley, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven, using medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter; then stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add the milk while stirring constantly; then add the pureed onion mixture.

In a small mixing bowl, beat egg yolks; add cream and stir to blend. Add a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of onion mixture and  stir quickly to prevent the egg from coagulating. Then stir the egg and cream mixture into the onion mixture in the dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and then serve.

Hundred-Year-Old Advice for Getting Multiple Foods Ready to Serve at the Same Time

Image source: Reliable Recipes (published by Calumet Baking Powder Co., 1912)
Image source: Reliable Recipes (published by Calumet Baking Powder Co., 1912)

When cooking a meal do you struggle to get all the dishes ready to serve at the same time? Here’s some hundred-year-old advice that might help:

A menu being decided upon, it needs an accurate sense of time, forethought, and promptness, to have a number of dishes ready at the same time, or in proper sequence if several courses are served. Such questions as the following must be answered:

  1. What steps in preparation can be taken ahead of times, as washing, paring, cutting, etc.?
  2. What dishes take the longest to cook?
  3. Which must be served the moment they are done?
  4. Which can be kept hot for some time without injury?
  5. Which can be finished and cooled perhaps several hours before?
  6. What is the order of serving?

The fact is obvious that in preparing a meal you cannot finish the dishes one at a time, but that steps individual to each dish must be interwoven with each other, and the cook must have them all “on her mind,” and is often doing half a dozen things at once.

The woman at home will devise many ways of easing and shortening the labor just before the meal is served, avoiding haste, and anxiety in this way. A dessert can be prepared and be cooking as breakfast dishes are washed, and at the time left overs are put away they can be arranged ready for serving, as in the case of poultry or meat to be served cold.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1913)

Hundred-Year-Old Walnut Brownies Recipe

brownies

Old-fashioned Brownies with Walnuts are an ultimate comfort dessert, and I found a delightful recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook. They were moist and  chewy. The top of the Brownies was less crusty than many modern brownies – but the Brownies were wonderful. And, my husband and I devoured the entire pan  within 24 hours.

This recipe was in one of my favorite hundred-year-old cookbooks, Lowney’s Cookbook. It is a general cookbook (though it was published by a chocolate manufacturer), and I tend to think of it as being an old-time equivalent of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Lowney's Cook Book (1912)
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

This recipe was one of the signature recipes in the old cookbook. Of course Lowney’s  Premium Chocolate is long gone, so I substituted unsweetened baking chocolate. I was also surprised that the recipe didn’t call for baking powder or baking soda – but the recipe turned out just fine without it.  I baked the brownies at 350° F. and it took longer than 15 minutes for them bake.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Walnut Brownies

  • Servings: 36 brownies
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter in a mixing bowl; stir in sugar and chocolate. Add eggs, flour, and salt, and stir until combined.; then stir in walnuts. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan.  Bake for  approximately 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cut into 36 squares.

 

Hundred-Year-Old Oatmeal Muffins Recipe

oatmeal-muffins

A hundred-year-old small promotional cookbook published by the Calumet Baking Powder Company has lots of intriguing recipes. I decided to try the Oatmeal Muffins recipe.

The muffins were easy to make, and lovely  – though I must admit that I was a little disappointed. I couldn’t really tell that they contained any oatmeal. Instead the seemed very similar to muffins made using only all-purpose flour. The bottom line – if you are looking for a nice basic muffin, you’ll like this recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Reliable Recipes (Published by Calumet Baking Powder Co., 1912)
Source: Reliable Recipes (Published by Calumet Baking Powder Co., 1912)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Oatmeal Muffins

  • Servings: approximately 24 regular-sized muffins
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup water

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1 1/2 cups milk

3 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease muffin pans (or use paper liners).

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan, then stir in oatmeal. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in milk..

In the meantime in a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add oatmeal mixture, egg, and butter; then stir just enough to combine. Spoon batter into muffin cups; fill each cup about 3/4ths full. Place in oven. Bake approximately 25 minutes or until lightly browned and the muffins spring back when lightly touched.

Hundred-Year-Old Silver (25th) Wedding Anniversary Tablescape

Source: Ladies Home Journal (November, 1911)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (November, 1911)

Milestone wedding anniversaries are a cause for celebration both now and a hundred year ago. Here’s an old-time suggestion for a lovely silver (25th) wedding anniversary tablescape:

Inverted in a fern dish of the same metal a silver vase forms the fountain, the falling water being strands of silver tinsel. Feathery moss, violets, and lilies-of-the-valley are arranged in the top of the fountain; also border the “pool” which is a mirror. The silver dishes contain bonbons in violet, white, and pistachio.

Ladies Home Journal (November, 1911)