18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Monday, June 23, 1913: Nothing much doing.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Since Grandma didn’t 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, ingredients, and stoves.
The post included a lovely picture of Walnut Chocolate Cake from Lowney’s Cookbook (1907)—but I didn’t actually make the cake.
Somehow every time I flipped through the Lowney’s Cookbook that picture kept pulling me back. It felt like I’d wimped out—and that I still had some unfinished business with that recipe.
So I finally gave in—took a deep breath and made a stab at interpreting the Walnut Chocolate Cake recipe for modern cooks. Here are the results of my efforts:
Walnut Chocolate Cake
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped (+ whole walnuts to decorate top of cake)
Chocolate buttercream frosting
Vanilla buttercream frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 X 8 inch cake pans. If desired, line with waxed paper to make it easier to get the cakes out of the pans.
Combine all ingredients except walnuts and icings, and beat with electric mixer until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (reserve remaining walnuts).
Evenly divide the batter between the two pans. Bake until done (approximately 30 minutes).
Remove cakes from pans while still warm (approximately 15 minutes after removing from oven). After the cakes are cooled put one cake on a plate and thinly spread with chocolate frosting. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of chopped walnuts on top of the chocolate frosting.
Top with the second cake layer. Ice with the vanilla frosting. Decorate with whole walnuts.
The bottom line: The cake was heavier than the typical modern cake—but delicious, and well worth the effort of trying to interpret the old recipe.