Emily’s White Cake with Confectioner’s Chocolate Frosting

slice of cake on plate
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

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:

cake recipe
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill
Frosting Recipe
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

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

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

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.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Old-fashioned Maple Nut Cake

 

Slice of Maple Nut Cake on PlateOld-fashioned nut cakes bring back warm memories of family gatherings many years ago. There always seemed to be at least one nut cake – and often more – at family reunions. They were made by great aunts or other miscellaneous relatives. (I often was unsure of the relationship.) So when I saw a recipe for Maple Nut Cake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the Royal Baking Powder Company, I decided to give it a try.

The cake is made in a loaf pan. The old recipe recommended using chopped pecans in the cake, so I went with that nut. The cake is iced with Maple Icing. It turned out wonderfully, and tasted just like those old-time cakes of memory.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Maple Nut Cake
Source: New Royal Cook Book (1920), published by the Royal Baking Powder Company

And, here are the original Maple Icing recipes. (The cookbook contained two icing options.):

Two Recipes for Maple Icing
Source: New Royal Cooking Book (1920) by Royal Baking Powder Company

I interpreted a “moderate oven” to be 350° F. However, the cake was not even close to being fully baked after 45 minutes, so I continued baking until a pick inserted in the center came out clean, which was about 1 hour and 10 minutes after I put the cake in the oven.

I made the first Maple Icing recipe. I softened the butter, and did not bother to heat the milk.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Maple Nut Cake

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Maple Nut Cake

2 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped nuts – preferably pecans

additional chopped nuts for top of cake

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites stiff peaks form.

In a separate mixing bowl put the flour, shortening, brown sugar, egg yolks, vanilla,  baking powder, and salt;  beat until combined. Then stir in the nuts, and gently fold the whipped egg whites into the mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour 10 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost top with Maple Icing. (If desired, the cake can be removed from the pan. A slightly thinner icing can be made, and the icing can then be drizzled over the cake and allowed to run down the sides.).  While the icing is still soft, sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Maple Icing

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

approximately 2 tablespoons milk

Put confectioners’ sugar, butter, and maple flavoring in a bowl. Add milk and beat until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add additional milk.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

 

"Modern" Pound Cake Recipe

sliced pound cake on plate

Old-time pound cake recipes often called one pound each of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. However, a 1920 promotional cookbook for Snowdrift shortening contained a recipe for “Modern” Pound Cake that called for Snowdrift instead of butter; and didn’t call for equal proportions of the other ingredients.

Recipe for Modern Pound Cake
Source: A New Snowdrift Cook Book (1920)

The recipe may not be a traditional pound cake recipe – though the use of shortening doesn’t exactly seem modern either – but, in any case, “Modern” Pound Cake turned out wonderfully. The cake is moist and rich, with a  hint of lemon.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Modern Pound Cake

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup shortening

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°  F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.  Put sugar and shortening in a mixing bowl; beat until combined. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and lemon extracts, milk, baking powder, salt, and (if desired) mace; beat until combined. Add flour and beat until well blended.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Old-fashioned Feather Cake

square piece of feather cake

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:

recipe for feather cake
Source: The Old Reliable Farm and Home Cook Book (1919)

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.

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Feather Cake

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

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.

Runkel’s Fudge Roll

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.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1919)

Runkel's Fudge Roll

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

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.

Fudge Filling

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.

Mocha Layer Cake (Sour Cream Cake with Mocha Filling)

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:

Source: Tried and True Cook Book Published by the The Willing Workers, The Minneapolis [MN] Incarnation Parish (1910)
Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

And, here are the recipes updated for modern cooks:

Mocha Layer Cake (Sour Cream Cake with Mocha Filling

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Sour Cream Cake

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

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.

Mocha Filling

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.

White Frosting

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.

Old-fashioned Sunshine Cake with Orange Frosting

Sunshine cake slice

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.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Sunshine Cake with Orange Frosting

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Cake

6 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

5 egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; then add the cream of tartar and salt while continuing to beat until there are stiff peaks.

In a separate bowl combine the sugar, flour, egg yolks, orange juice, and lemon juice. Beat until combined, then gently fold the whipped egg whites into the mixture.

Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased angel food cake  pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and the top springs back when lightly touched.

Invert pan until cool (at least 1 hour). Remove cake from pan and place on serving plate, then drizzle with a thin orange frosting (glaze).

Orange Frosting (Glaze)

2 cups  powdered sugar

approximately 2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Combine powdered sugar and orange juice in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. If the mixture to too thick add additional orange juice; then stir in the grated orange rind.

Note: The frosting should be quite thin (and more of a glaze) when used on this cake. A thicker version of it would be lovely on heavier cakes.

Here are the original recipes:

sunshine cake recipe
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

 

orange frosting (1)
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, compiled and published by the Willing Workers of the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)