Mocha Layer Cake (Sour Cream Cake with Mocha Filling)

The early 1900’s were the heyday of decadent layer cakes with wonderful fillings, so when I recently needed to make a birthday cake, I immediately knew that I wanted to make a hundred-year-old cake recipe. Then I had the hard (but fun) job of deciding which old recipe to make. Should I make a white cake with a rich caramel filling?  . . .or a chocolate cake with a whipped cream filling?  . . .  or a white cake with a chocolate filling?  . . . or a cake with a fruit filling? , . . or . . . ?

I finally selected a delightful recipe for Mocha Layer Cake. This really is a recipe for a Sour Cream Cake with a delightful Mocha Filling; and, as I interpreted it, a White Frosting to top everything off.

The Sour Cream Cake not as airy as many modern cakes, but it had a wonderful flavor and consistency, and was tender and rich. The hints of coffee and chocolate in the Mocha Filling were nuanced and mild  in the assembled cake.

Here’s the original recipes:

Source: Tried and True Cook Book Published by the The Willing Workers, The Minneapolis [MN] Incarnation Parish (1910)
Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

And, here are the recipes updated for modern cooks:

Mocha Layer Cake (Sour Cream Cake with Mocha Filling

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Sour Cream Cake

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; line with waxed paper or parchment paper, then grease again and lightly flour. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the cake pans, dividing evenly between the two pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

Mocha Filling

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons strong coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.; beat until smooth.

White Frosting

3 cups confectioners sugar

2 teaspoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2+ tablespoons cream

Combine all ingredients; Beat until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency. Slowly add more cream if too thick. (I used a total of about 4 tablespoons of cream.)

To assemble cake:

Put one cake layer upside down (so that the top surface is flat) on serving plate; spread with the Mocha Filling. Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Ice cake with white frosting.

Poppy Luncheon Table

A hundred years ago luncheons with friends often had beautiful tablescapes designed by the hostess.  Here’s a suggestion for how to create a beautiful table featuring poppies:

The poppy luncheon offers splendid possibilities for the massing of a single color, or two or three shades. Scarlet and white, or pink and white blooms blend wonderfully.

American Cookery (November 1916)

Source: American Cookery (November, 1916)

Poppies are so fleeting – and only last a few hours once cut, but my poppies are blooming, so this is the perfect time for a poppy luncheon.

Unfortunately, I failed to get organized enough to invite friends over, Not to be deterred,  I cut a poppy and popped it into a bud vase, got the good china out – and had a delightful poppy luncheon for one.

Southern Golden Fleece (Cream Cheese and Eggs) Recipe

Scrambled eggs are always good, but sometimes when I make them for the fourth time in less than a month, they begin to seem boring – so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe with a “new” twist and an intriguing name to boot.  Southern Golden Fleece is made with cream cheese and eggs, and is silky and rich.

It surprised me that Southern Golden Fleece is made using just one dish, and cooked in the oven.  Apparently the recipe author did not want to end up with a stack of dirty dishes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1915)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Southern Golden Fleece (Cream Cheese and Eggs)

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup whipping cream

5 eggs

salt and cayenne (red) pepper

Preheat oven to 375° F. Put cream cheese and cream in a large casserole dish. (A 2-quart dish works well and leaves lots of space for stirring and beating).  Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until the cream cheese is soft; remove from oven and blend using a fork.  Break the eggs on top of the cheese mixture, and stir until combined. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper. Put lid on dish and return to the oven. Bake until the egg whites begin to set (5-8 minutes); then beat for 2 minutes. Cover and return to oven and cook until the eggs are set (3-5 additional minutes). Remove from oven, and put in serving dish. Serve immediately.

Creamed Radishes

I have a plethora of radishes – most slightly past their prime. The recent hot weather has made them grow quickly, and they are rapidly becoming large and bitter. So when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Creamed Radishes that began with the following sentence, “For this radishes which are a little larger than those desired to eat may be used,” I knew that it was a recipe that I had to try.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Creamed Radishes turned out. They were soft and easy to cut when my fork, and the cream sauce nicely balanced the cooked radishes’ mild tangy zing.

That said, I was surprised and disappointed that radishes lose their lovely red color when boiled. The cooked radishes were pale pink – and a few were so faded that they were almost beige.

I’ve already made this recipe twice, so Creamed Radishes definitely are a vegetable that my husband and l enjoy. Perhaps the reason this dish is not popular is because of its homely color, but if you can get past the color, it is definitely worth a try.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1918)

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

Creamed Radishes

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 bunches of radishes (about 2 cup after the  leaves and roots are cut off)


1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup milk

Wash the radishes and cut off the leaves and root, but do not pare off the red skin. Put radishes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 25 minutes), then drain.

In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour. Gradually, add the milk while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Gently stir in the cooked radishes. Remove from heat and serve.

Mixing Method Definitions

“Cutting In” Flour

Cookbooks are chock full of different words that describe how recipe ingredients are mixed together. Ever wonder how  “stirring differs from beating? . . or how “creaming” differs from “rubbing”?  Well, I found the answers in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:

Methods of mixing are important, where several ingredients are combined. We seek for a way that will give the most complete mingling of all the substances with smoothness and lightness, at the same time saving time and strength.

Sifting, or putting materials through a fine mesh, is used to lighten flour that has been packed down, to remove coarse portions, or to mix thoroughly several dry ingredients.

Stirring is done with a spoon, and is a round and round motion, used for mixing a liquid and a dry ingredient.

Rubbing is used for combining a dry ingredient with a semi-solid substance like butter.

Creaming is a term used for the rubbing of butter until it becomes soft and creamy. A spoon should be used, not the hand.

“Cutting in” with a knife is used for combining butter with flour for biscuits and pastry where the butter should not be softened.

Beating with a spoon, or beater of the spoon type, is free over and over motion, the spoon being lifted from the mixture for the backward stroke. This is used for increasing the smoothness of the mixture after the first stirring, and for beating in air. It needs a strong free motion of the forearm. Beating is also accomplished by the rotary motion of a mechanical beater like the Dover.

Cutting and folding is the delicate process of mixing lightly beaten egg with a liquid or semi-liquid without losing out the air. The spoon is cut in, sidewise, a rotary motion carries it down and up again, and it folds in the beaten egg as it goes.

Kneading is an option used with dough, and is a combination of a rocking and pressing motion, accomplished by the hands. A good result can be obtained by some bread machines, and this is the cleaner method.

Rolling out is just what the term denotes, a rolling of a thick piece of dough by means of a cylindrical wooden “pin” to the thickness proper for cookies and crusts. Dry bread is also rolled to break it into fine crumbs.

Pounding and grindingare usually accomplished for us now in factories in breaking of spices and coffee. It is better to have a coffee mill at home.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)

Old-fashioned Strawberry Bavarian Cream

Now that the weather is getting hot – and strawberries are in season – I wanted to find a recipe for a tasty and refreshing strawberry dessert.  I searched through my hundred-year-old cookbooks, and I think I found the perfect recipe. Strawberry Bavarian Cream is creamy and cool, and it made a beautiful presentation.

This recipe was in a 1905 church cookbook from Berwick, Pennsylvania published by “The Ladies of Directory No. 2 of the Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”  I’m very curious how the cooks who made this recipe in the early 20th century chilled this dessert. Most won’t have had a refrigerator; perhaps they refrigerated the Strawberry Bavarian Cream in an ice box chilled with a block of ice, or maybe this recipe was often made during the winter months using strawberries that had been canned the previous summer.

Regardless of how cooks in 1905 kept the Strawberry Bavarian Cream cold, this silky, delectable dessert is a winner. I know that I’ll make it again in the near future.

Here’s the original recipes:

Source: Berwick (PA) Cook Book No. 2, The Ladies of Directory No.2 of the Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1905)

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

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 1-ounce envelopes of unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup cold water

1 cup boiling water

1 quart fresh strawberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

Place the cold water in a bowl; then sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let sit for one-half hour.

In the meantime, slice strawberries into a bowl; add sugar and stir to combine. (Reserve several berries to garnish the molded dessert.) Let sit for at least 5 minutes or until the sliced berries begin to become juicy. Then thoroughly mash the sliced berries until no large pieces remain. (I used a potato masher to mash.)

Add boiling water to the gelatin mixture; stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the mashed strawberries. Chill just until the mixture is no longer warm.

In the meantime, beat the whipping cream until it is light and stiff peaks form. Then fold it into the strawberry and gelatin mixture. Pour into a 7-8 cup mold and chill until firm (at least 4 hours). (I used a 6-cup mold and had a little of the mixture left over after the mold was filled, which I put into a small bowl.)

To serve: Quickly dip the mold in hot water, then unmold unto serving plate.

Note: This recipe may also be made using 1/2 pint frozen or canned strawberries. If frozen or canned strawberries are used as a substitute for the fresh berries, do not add the 1 cup of sugar.