Old-Fashioned Spice Cake Recipe

Spice Cake

Can a dessert be a comfort food? If so, Spice Cake is one of my favorite comfort foods.

I found a Spice Cake recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook, and just had to give it a try. It was perfect, and brought back memories of luscious Spice Cakes at long-forgotten family reunions and church pot lucks.

This easy-to-make cake has a perfect spicy blend of  cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Brown sugar is the only sugar used in this recipe, which gives this cake a lovely caramel note.

If I had one complaint about this recipe, it’s that it did not make quite enough batter to use my “go-to” 9-inch X 13-inch oblong cake pan. Instead I used a 9-inch square pan, and that worked well. Hmm. . . now that I think about it, perhaps the smaller cake  is an advantage rather than a negative.  It was just the right size for my husband and me.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Old-Fashioned Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup raisin or chopped dates (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°  F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Combine all ingredients (except for the raisins or dates) into a large mixing bowl. Blend until well blended. If desired, stir in the raisins or dates. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost if desired. Good with a maple-flavored frosting.

And, here’s the original hundred-year-old recipe:

Spice Cake Recipe b
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

Hundred-Year-Old Rice Creole Recipe

Creole Rice

Food is expensive. Sometimes I’m shocked by how much I spend when making a recipe, so I was absolutely thrilled to see a page of recipes in the January, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal for dishes that could be made for 10 cents.

Source: Ladies Home Journal ,1916

I tried not to get my hopes up too much, but the magazine promised that the recipes were not only inexpensive, but also nutritious and appetizing. I decided to try Rice Creole.

I was not disappointed. The Rice Creole was simple to prepare, and absolutely delicious. This is a lovely rice-pilaf type dish with a mild onion flavor.  And, diced tomatoes with bits of green pepper and parsley interspersed in the rice create a colorful dish that is a perfect accompaniment to fish, meat, or other entrees.

Bottom line – Rice Creole is wonderful with a surprisingly modern look and taste.  I plan to serve it in the very near future when I have friends over – and I fully expect they will to be amazed when I tell them it’s a hundred-year-old dish.

Here’s the recipes updated for modern cooks:

Rice Creole

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup rice

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1 cup onions, finely diced

2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) green pepper, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon parsley flakes (or use 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley)

1 1-lb. can diced tomatoes, drained

Cook rice following the directions on the package. In the meantime, melt bacon drippings in a skillet, then add onions and green pepper; sauté until tender. Stir in salt, parsley, and tomatoes, and heat until it begins to simmer. Stir in the cooked rice; heat until hot.

Since Rice Creole is supposed to be an inexpensive recipe, I decided to cost it out:  1 cup rice ($0.50), 1 onion ($0.50), 1/4 green pepper ($0.32), 1 can tomatoes ($1.29), salt/parsley/bacon drippings ($0.05) for a total of $2.66. It’s a little more than the 10 cents of days gone by, but considering that a dollar in 1916 is worth $22 today, it’s still an inexpensive dish.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)

When I made this dish I used 1 teaspoon of salt (instead of the 2 teaspoons called for in the old recipe), and it turned out perfectly.

The old recipe calls for strained tomatoes. It’s unclear whether this means that the drained tomatoes or the strained liquid should be used in the recipe. I interpreted it to mean that drained tomatoes were combined with the other ingredients.

Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Separating Egg Whites from Yolks

Separating egg 2

Old recipes call for separating egg whites from yolks much more frequently than modern recipes. For example, a few days ago I needed to separate four eggs to make the hundred-year-old Lemon Meringue Pie recipe that I recently posted. The yolks went into the lemon custard filling and the whites into the meringue.

Old cake recipes also often call for separating the eggs and beating the whites before adding them to the batter to get a lighter, fluffier cake. . . and so do some old omelette recipes. . . . My list could so on and on.

Here are directions in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook for separating eggs:

Separating Whites from Yolks

Break the egg over a bowl, turn the small end down, and pull the shell apart, slipping the yolk from one half of the shell to the other once or twice, so that the white will drop into the bowl. If any of the yolk is mixed with the white, the white will not beat well on account of the fat present.

The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics by Emma E. Pirie (1915)

Hundred-year-old Lemon Cream (Lemon Meringue) Pie Recipe

lemon cream pie c

There’s nothing quite as delicious as some of the classic pies.  I found a hundred-year old recipe for Lemon Creme Pie – more commonly known as Lemon Meringue Pie – in a small promotional cookbook published by the Calumet Baking Powder Company. The accompanying picture brought back memories of delectable pies made by my grandmother and great aunts at family gatherings – and I immediately knew that I needed to try it.

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

The lemon juice and grated lemon peel combine beautifully with the other ingredients to create a refreshingly tart pie covered with billows of light, slightly sweet meringue. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Lemon Cream Pie (Lemon Meringue Pie

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: medium
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1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

4 eggs, separated

approximately 1/2 cup lemon juice + 1 tablespoon lemon juice  (juice from 2-3 lemons, depending upon size)

grated lemon peel from 2 lemons

1 1/2 cups hot water

1 9-inch baked pie shell

1/4 cup  powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine sugar and flour in a mixing bowl, then stir in egg yolks. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice, grated lemon, and water; beat until smooth. Put mixture into a saucepan; bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat and continue cooking for 1 minute or until it thickens.  Put filling into the pie shell.

To prepare the meringue, put the egg whites into a mixing bowl. Beat until stiff peaks form, then beat in the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spoon the meringue onto the top of  the pie, and then swirl. Bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the meringue is a light brown.

Here’s the original recipe:

lemon cream pie recipe
Source: Reliable Recipes, published by Calumet Baking Powder Co. (1912)

Hundred-Year-Old Fried Asparagus Recipe

Fried AsparagusI’ve eaten Fried Asparagus several times in the past year as an appetizer. I was surprised when I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old church cookbook for Fried Asparagus. It apparently has been around for a long time.

The crisp lightly-browned breading on the asparagus creates an enchanting appetizer or side dish.

The original recipe says, “This is nice and easy to prepare.” I concur. This is a fun and easy recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Asparagus

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pound asparagus

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

shortening or oil

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile wash and trim the asparagus spears,  then blanch them by  adding to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente. Remove the asparagus from the water and immediately put the spears in ice water to stop the cooking.

Prepare a batter by combining the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat until combined. Roll the blanched asparagus in the breading batter.

Heat 1/2 inch of shortening or oil in a large frying pan. Carefully place the breaded asparagus spears in the pan in a single layer. Depending upon pan size, the spears may need to be cooked in several batches. Fry for about a minute or until the bottom side of the asparagus is lightly browned, then gently turn and fry until the other side is browned. Remove from pan and drain the asparagus on paper towels. Serve immediately.

And, here is the original recipe:

Fried Asparagus Recipe 2
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, compiled and published by the Willing Workers of the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

The original recipe is lacking in details. It tells the cook to dip the asparagus in batter, but fails to tell them how to prepare the batter. Apparently the recipe author assumed that every cook already knew how to prepare batter. Since I didn’t know how off the top of my head, I decided to adapt an old recipe that I’d previously used to make fritters to make a batter that would work with the asparagus.