Old-fashioned Ribbon Cake

Slice of Ribbon Cake

Spice cakes are a favorite around our house, so when a birthday rolled around I got the usual request for a spice cake. I wanted to honor the request – yet at the same time, do something different – so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Ribbon Cake, which is a three-layer cake. There are yellow cake layers on the top and bottom with a spice cake layer in the middle.

The spice cake layer contained two dried fruits- chopped raisins and chopped figs. I’ve often eaten spice cakes with raisins. This is the first time I’ve ever had one that also contained figs, and they were a wonderful addition. When eating the cake, I couldn’t distinguish between the chopped figs and the chopped raisins – but together they added a richer and more nuanced flavor and texture than if just raisins had been used.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Ribbon Cake

The old recipe doesn’t say to beat the egg white before adding to the cake batter, but I did since I couldn’t figure out why else the recipe would have called for separating the eggs. Adding beaten egg whites results in a lighter cake.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Ribbon Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs separated

1 cup milk

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon mace

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon molasses

1/3 cup raisins, chopped

1/3 cup dried figs, chopped

apple jelly

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans; line with waxed paper or parchment paper, then grease again and lightly flour.

Put egg whites into a mixing bowl, and beat until peaks form. Set aside.

Put butter, sugar, egg yolks, milk, flour, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Beat until well-mixed. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour the 2/3’s of the batter into two cake pans (1/3 in each pan).

Add the cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and molasses to the remaining batter. Gently stir until thoroughly combined, then gently stir in the raisins and figs. Put in the third cake pan.

Bake the three layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

Trim cake layers if needed to make even, then put a yellow cake layer on a plate. Spread with apple jelly, and then put the spice cake layer on top of it. Spread with apple jelly, and then place the remaining yellow cake layer on top.

If desired, frost cake. (I frosted the cake with buttercream icing that was flavored with maple extract.)

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Old-fashioned Coffee Cake

piece of coffee cake on plate

Coffee cake is a wonderful sweet treat to have with coffee (or without), so I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Coffee Cake. The cake turned out well. It was moist and tender with a nice cinnamon and sugar topping.

Here’s the original recipe:

Coffee Cake Recipe
Source: The New Dr. Price Cook Book (1921)

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

Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 7 - 9
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Cake

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons shortening, melted

1 cup milk

Topping Mixture

3 teaspoons flour + additional, if needed

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar + additional, if needed

3 tablespoons shortening

Preheat oven to 375° F. Put all of the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat to combine. Put batter in a greased and floured 9-inch square cake pan.

In a separate bowl, place the flour cinnamon, and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the shortening, and mix together until the texture is crumbly. It may helpful to use your hands to get the shortening mixed in.  (When I made the recipe I added more flour and sugar than called for in the original recipe, to make it more crumbly).

Spread the topping mixture over the top of the cake. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Hurry-Up Cake Recipe

 

piece of cake on plateYesterday was hectic, and I hadn’t even selected a recipe to make for this post by mid-afternoon – let alone made it. So when I flipped through a hundred-year-old church cookbook, and saw a recipe for Hurry-Up Cake, I immediately knew that it was just the recipe I needed.

Hurry-up Cake is a moist and tender spice cake – and it’s easy to make (of course). It contains a delightful mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. It’s the perfect cake to make when you’re in a hurry – or when you’re not.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Hurry-Up Cake
Source: Ladies’ Union Cook Book by the Ladies of the West Concord Union Church (Concord Junction, Massachusetts, 1921)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Hurry-Up Cake

  • Servings: 8 -10
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/3 cups brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat for 3 minutes. Put in a greased and floured 8-inch square pan. Bake until a wooden pick comes out clean (approximately 45 minutes). Frost if desired.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

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
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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
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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
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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
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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.