A recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Feather Cake piqued my interest. Was the cake really as light as a feather?
The short answer: No. The longer answer: This cake might not be as light as a feather, but it’s still delightful.
Feather Cake is a spice cake with nuanced tones of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It has a lovely texture – though it was not a particularly light cake. The cake was easy to make, and the recipe made a small 8 -inch square cake that is perfect for a small family.
Here’s the original recipe:
Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar. This recipe calls for both baking soda and cream of tartar (rather than just using baking powder) – which suggests that even though this recipe appeared in a 1919 cookbook that its origins might be much earlier.
1/2 cup raisins (optional) (I didn’t use raisins when I made this recipe.)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Put all ingredients (except for the raisins) in a mixing bowl. Beat until well blended. If desired, stir in the raisins. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost if desired.
People often say to me, “You make all those hundred-year-old recipes . . . Don’t you ever have cooking disasters?”
And, I usually reply, “I seldom have a disaster. Most recipes turn out fine, but I make them only once; some are very good and I make them a couple of times; and, a few I absolutely love and they have become part of my regular cooking repertoire.”
But, I do occasionally have cooking disasters. This is one of those times.
I found a recipe for Runkel’s Fudge Roll in an advertisement for Runkel’s Cocoa in a hundred-year-old issue of Good Housekeeping, and thought to myself, “I bet this will be a good recipe. Usually recipes in advertisements were carefully tested.”
Wrong – The fudge filling hardened very quickly, and was difficult to spread; AND, the cake base broke into pieces when I tried to roll it.
The one good thing about this recipe is that it was very tasty – even though it didn’t look very nice.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Put butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl, and stir together. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat until smooth. Put batter on a 15x10x1 -inch baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Make sure that the batter goes to the edges and corners of the pan, and that it is spread evenly. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and turn upside down on a piece of parchment paper that has been covered with sugar. Peel off the parchment paper that was used when baking. Immediately spread with the fudge filling, and roll as for a jelly roll.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter using medium low heat in a saucepan, add cocoa and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, salt, and milk. Increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Immediately remove from heat, and add vanilla. Beat until smooth, and spread on cake base. Note: This icing hardens quickly. Immediately spread as soon as it reaches a spreadable consistency.
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:
And, here are the recipes updated for modern cooks:
Mocha Layer Cake (Sour Cream Cake with Mocha Filling
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.
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.
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.
Visiting with old friends is always special. For the last 15 or 20 years, my husband and I get together a couple times a year with my daughter’s former girl scout leader and her husband to play pinochle. There are shared memories, family updates, and just plain good times.
It recently was my turn to host the gathering, and I wanted to make a special dessert – but something not too heavy. And, of course, my other criteria was that it had to be made using a hundred-year-old recipe. When browsing through an old cookbook, I came across a recipe for a citrus sponge cake called Sunshine Cake that peaked my interest, so I decided to give it a try.
The cake turned out wonderfully and did not disappoint. It was light, tender, and tasted divine. The recipe calls for both orange juice and lemon juice so it has a nicely balanced citrus flavor. The cake requires beating egg whites until stiff peaks form but it is worth the effort.
The trick to getting a really light cake is to cool it upside down. The cake can be inverted on a cooling rack when it is removed from the oven. In the old days, cakes often were inverted on an empty glass 1-quart soda-pop bottle to cool.
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.
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.
19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Saturday, September 12, 1914: Made a cake today. It looked like having been made by a green-horn.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Hmm. . . what kind of cake did Grandma make? It’s getting to be apple season—maybe Grandma made an Apple Upside-down Skillet Cake. It can be a little tricky to successfully get it out of the pan in one piece—so if care is not used it can end up looking like it was made by a “green-horn.”
Apple Upside-down Skillet Cake
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cups sliced apples
In a mixing bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder, 2/3 cup sugar, shortening, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Beat until there is a smooth batter. Set aside.
Stir 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Add water and butter, and then pour into a 10-inch skillet with an oven-proof handle. Cook on the stove top using medium heat. Stir constantly until sauce boils and becomes clear. Turn off heat. Add the apple slices, and spread evenly in the skillet.
Pour the batter into skillet over the apple slices.
Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the center of cake is springy when lightly pressed with finger tips. Cool in skillet for about ten minutes; then turn out onto a serving plate.