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.



Percentage of U.S. Household Expenditures Spent on Food, 1919 and 2019

Chart showing household expenditures on food in 1919 and 2019 by income level. Regardless of income, people spent a higher percentage of their income on food in 1919 than they did in 2019.

It seems like food is expensive today, but we actually spend a much lower percentage of our total household expenditures on food now than what our ancestors did a hundred years ago. For example, a typical medium income family in 1919 in the United States spent 30% of total expenditures on food, while today a medium income family spends only 14% on food.

Here is additional information about the data that I used to prepare this chart:

1919 – The 1919 data are from a table in a 1919 book by Mrs. Christine Frederick titled Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home. It was published by the American School of Home Economics (Chicago). See the table below for the 1919 data. The table had information for six income levels. I used the lowest and highest income levels in the table in the book as the “low income” and “high income” respectively when preparing the chart at the top of this post. In the original table, the 3rd and 4th income levels (the middle levels), each spent 30% of their household income on food, so I used 30% as the middle level for 1919. The author of the book says that the expenditure information was collected and compiled “through an extensive survey made through a periodical (p. 284).”

Source: Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (author: Mrs. Christine Frederick), 1919

2019 – Data are not yet available for 2019 household expenditures. The most recent year available is 2017, so I assumed that expenditures were similar in 2019 to what they had been in 2017. The data are from the Statistica site. The 2019 household expenditure data were presented by quintiles. Here are the food expenditure data for each quintile:

  • 1st quintile: 15.6%
  • 2nd quintile: 14.4%
  • 3rd quintile: 14.0%
  • 4th quintile: 13.0%
  • 5th quintile: 11.2%

For the comparison chart, low income was considered to equal the 1st quintile, medium income equaled the 3rd quintile, and high income equaled the 5th quintile.