When Baking a Cake, How Hot Should the Oven Be?


Sometimes when I make a cake it rises very unevenly. A hundred-year-old cookbook gave me a clue about what might cause the problem:

A moderate oven will give the best results for nearly all cakes.

If the batter rises in a cone in the center you are using too hot an oven, and a crust has formed before the mixture has had time to rise; or too much flour has been used.

Mrs. DeGraf’s Cook Book (1922)

1922 Decorating Tip: Avoid White Kitchens

Woman in kitchen
Source: Eddy Engineering Co. advertisement (Cement City Cook Book publsihed by First Baptist Church, Alpena. Michign (1922)

Decorating styles seem like they are constantly changing and evolving. Here is some 1922 advice for how to decorate your kitchen:

We come to realize what a big part color has to play in the attractiveness of the kitchen. Anyone who has both practical and theoretical knowledge of color, as well as of kitchens, knows that the pure white kitchen is a long way from perfection in either looks or cleanliness. The whiteness, no matter how clean it really is, takes on, after a time, a darkening and stained appearance, as though it got tired of being dazzling, with nothing for contrast. So if we want a kitchen to look as clean as it should be, let us give it contrasts of both color and tone. This will need to be done with the advice of someone who really know the technical properties of color combinations, but most of us can make a pretty satisfactory effect, if we use our eyes and copy the tones in nature, which seem to give a particularly clean and clear-cut impression – the beach against blue water, for instance, or a wet tree trunk against green leaves. Is it sensible to try to bring nature into the kitchen? Why not if it is to make life in the kitchen more worth living?

American Cookery (March, 1922)

1922 Advice for Where to Serve the First Course of a Dinner

dining room table
Source: Ladies Home Journal (September, 1915)

Here’s some hundred-year-old advice for where to serve the first course of a dinner:

Before answering this question specifically let us first say that there is no special course which is invariably the “first course of a dinner.” The first course may be shell fish; it may be soup; it may be the chief meat dish –according to the number of courses served and formality of the dinner. But whatever may be the first course, there is only one place where it should be eaten, and this is at the dining-room table in the dining-room.

During recent years, however, the custom has arisen of serving a small portion of some sapid and well-relished food, whose function of to stimulate appetite, as a beginning to the dinner. This beginning is not thought of as one of the courses, it is too unsubstantial, and the frilly little morsels used for this purpose are listed under the headings: “Some Beginnings,” “Appetizers,” “avani-diners,” or other similar phrase. A salpicon, which, correctly, is a very small portion, no more than a good tablespoonful, is an example of such a beginning. So is a canape. So used to be the original cocktail. At a gentlemen’s dinner it used to be customary to have canapes and coctails passed in the library soon after the guests assembled. Canapes were, then the crisp and crusty morels which could be eaten from the fingers; and cocktails were composed of ingredients now under legal ban.

At present our cocktails are of two kinds: the semi-solid kind, calling for the use of a fork, such as the oyster cocktail, which is really one of the courses, since it is only a new fashion of serving the shellfish. The place to eat this is in the dining-room. The other kind of cocktail is made of fruit juice or a mixture of fruit juices, etc., and this, according to a late fashion, is brought to the drawing-room, or wherever the guests are assembled–and now that guests are not expected to arrive on the stroke of the minute-hand, it helps the pleasant passing of a period of waiting for some belated one, to sip the cocktail during the quarter of an hour allowed after the time named for the dinner.

American Cookery (March, 1922)


Nutrition and Growth in Children: 1922 Book Review

Title page: Nutrition and Growth in Children
Source: Nutrition and Growth in Children (1922)

The June/July, 1922 issue of American Cookery magazine had a book review for a book called Nutrition and Growth in Children by William R.P. Emerson that piqued my interest, so I googled it. I was please to discover that the book is available online:

Nutrition and Growth in Children

Here’s the hundred-year-old book review that was in American Cookery:

One-third of all the children in the United States are underweight or under-nourished or malnourished. This condition is limited to no locality, and to no social class. It is as prevalent in the North, as in the South, in the country as in the city, in the homes of the rich as in the slums. It is a condition baneful of the well-being of our children and dangerous to the health of our future men and women. Malnutrition in children is now recognized as the greatest single problem affecting our national health. 

Dr. Emerson, nationally known as a pioneer in nutrition work, and the first to lay proper emphasis on the other important factors because besides diet, here offers to parents, teachers, social workers, and physicians the results of his rich and successful experience. In simple, practical terms he describes the causes of malnutrition in growing children and shows how the condition may be detected. He describes fully the methods of cure, which involve problems of physical defects, fatigue, home control and health habit, as well as diet and good habits. Finally, he outlines a complete and practical nutrition program for the home, the school, and the community. 

This is a thoroughly practical and scientific treatment of a subject of far reaching importance. 

American Cookery (June/July, 1922)

Here is part of the book’s preface:

Preface: Nutrition and Growth in Children
Source: Nutrition and Growth in Children (1922)

And, here is a chart in the book showing why one girl’s growth was off-track for a short time:

Growth Chart
Source: Nutrition and Growth in Children (1922)

A Place for the Dishpan

large old-fashioned kitchen sink
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta Greer

The 1922 edition of Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries has a chapter titled “Kitchen Discoveries.” One of the Discoveries was a suggestion for storing the dishpan:

A Place for the Dishpan

To save reaching under the drainboard to get my dishpan from a nail, which is the usual place for putting it, I have had a shelf built under the drainboard just low enough to take the dishpan. There I keep the dishpan, rinsing pan, and drainer where they may be reached without any effort. 

K.S.C., Mass.

This tip left me scratching my head. I couldn’t quite picture how dishpans, rinsing pans, and drainers were stored a hundred years ago. Clearly the typical kitchen sink back then was different from modern ones. And, I’m guessing that many of us don’t regularly use dishpans, rinsing pans, and drainers, which makes it even harder to understand the tip (or the need for it).

Then I remembered a post that I did several years ago where I included a picture of a sink. I found that picture, and though not exactly the same set-up described in the Discovery tip, I think that I have a better understanding of what the author described.

Belle De Graf and Her Cookbook

Belle De Graf
Source: Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book (1922)

Each year I buy several cookbooks off eBay for whatever year is currently exactly a hundred years ago. This year one of the 1922 books I bought was Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book. One of the front pages has a photo of the author, Belle De Graf. The photo is glued into the book, and beneath it is the printed signature of the author. The opposite page contained information about her.

Description Belle De Graf
Source: Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book (1922)

Intrigued, I googled Belle De Graf, and a bio of her popped up on a site called Lovely Antique Ladies.  She lived in San Francisco, and married at 18. A few years later her husband went to prison at San Quentin for seven years for grand larceny. The 1900 census lists her as a widow – even though she had a husband in prison. It doesn’t sound like they ever really got back together, and by 1916 she was teaching cooking classes for the Sperry Flour Company. In the 1920 census she is listed as the Director of Domestic Science at Sperry Flour.

It’s fascinating how Belle De Graf  was so resilient and somehow managed to navigate her way through a difficult situation to become a successful cookbook author and Director of Domestic Science.