I recently came across a recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Emily’s White Cake, and decided to give it a try. I was intrigued by the recipe’s name. Who was Emily? – The recipe’s author? . . her daughter? . . . a neighbor who shared the recipe? . . .
I also wondered: Are recipes that are named after someone more likely to be good than more generically named ones? . . . or vice versa?
To make the frosting, I used a recipe in the same cookbook.
Here are the original recipes:
The old recipe referred to moderate heat and high heat (and probably assumed that the cook was using a wood or coal stove). Many cakes are baked at 350° F, so I just used that temperature. It took a little longer to bake the cake than indicated in the old recipe.
The old cake recipe called for 3 tablespoons of baking powder – which seemed like a lot. I wondered if it was a typo – and really supposed to be 3 teaspoons. But in the end, I went with what the recipe said and used 3 tablespoons. The frosted cake tasted fine – though I think that it might have been better if I’d used less baking powder. (I ate a few cake crumbs, and they may have been a bit bitter, but it was not noticeable once the cake was frosted.)
[9/14/20 Note: Based on the research and comments of readers about other sources for this recipe – e.g., old Crisco advertisement that contained the recipe, other editions of the cookbook – I’ve determined that 3 tablespoons of baking powder was a typo and that it should be 3 teaspoons. I now include this information in the updated recipe.]
I doubled the recipe for Confectioner’s Chocolate Frosting to make enough to ice the cake layers. When I made the Confectioner’s Chocolate Frosting, the consistency and spreadability seemed a bit off, so I added 3 tablespoons of melted butter. This greatly improved the texture of the frosting, so when I updated the recipe I included butter as an ingredient.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Emily's White Cake with Confectioner's Chocolate Frosting
Emily’s White Cake
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons baking powder (I used 3 tablespoons which is what the old recipe called for, but other sources for this recipe state that 3 teaspoons should be used. The larger amount worked, but if I made the recipe again I’d use 3 teaspoons of baking powder. See note in blog post for details.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
3 egg (whites only)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans.
Put egg whites in a medium mixing bowl; beat until stiff. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add flour, baking powder, salt, water, flour, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool, then assemble layers and frost.
Confectioner’s Chocolate Frosting
2 squares chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons butter melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons boiling water (more water may be needed)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
Put the melted chocolate and butter in sauce pan, add the granulated sugar and water. Heat using medium heat, while stirring until smooth. Remove from heat add the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar. Stir until smooth. Add additional water, if needed.