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.


Frozen Canned Apricots

I select most of the hundred-year-old recipes that I post on this blog because they genuinely sound like something I might enjoy. But, occasionally I chose a recipe because it seems so odd. This is one of these times.

The March, 1920 issue of American Cookery featured Frozen Canned Apricots – which is basically canned apricots frozen in the can. After they are frozen, they are removed from the can, and placed on a plate in the middle of a circle of marshmallow cream.

In 1920, there were few photos in magazines, but the editors of American Cookery were so enthralled with this recipe that they included not only the recipe, but also a photo.

Frozen Canned Apricots on Plate
Source: American Cookery (March, 1920)

The Frozen Canned Apricots were surprisingly tasty. My daughter said, “This is better than most of the recipes you make.” I decided that it was best not to probe too deeply into what that meant, but I think that it was praise.

There was a downside to the recipe. I didn’t really like the way it looked on the plate. If I made this recipe again, I think that I would just put the canned apricots and syrup in a freezer box,  freeze – and then scoop the frozen mixture into bowls with a little marshmallow cream topping.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Frozen Canned Apricots
Source: American Cookery (March, 1920)

The old recipe called for freezing the contents of the can using ice and salt (somewhat similarly to how ice cream is made). A hundred-years-ago, most cooks probably didn’t have freezers, but since I have one, I decided to just open a can of apricots, cover it with plastic wrap, and freeze it in the freezer. This worked fine.

The old recipe called for a pint (2 cups) of marshmallow cream. When I made the recipe, that seemed like too much, so I only used approximately 1 cup.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Frozen Canned Apricots

  • Servings: 2 - 3
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 can apricots (15-16 oz.)

approximately 1 cup marshmallow cream

Remove lid from can of apricots. Cover with plastic wrap, then secure the wrap with a rubber band. Put in freezer until frozen. (I froze it overnight.) About an hour before serving, remove from freezer, and let sit at room temperature. When ready to serve, make a circle of marshmallow cream (approximately 7-8 inches in diameter) on a plate. Slide the frozen apricots out of the can, and then place the frozen apricots in the middle of the marshmallow cream. Serve immediately.


Old-fashioned Creole Eggs

Creole Eggs and Toast

I recently found a hundred-year-old recipe for Creole Eggs, which are shirred (baked) eggs topped with tomato, green pepper, and onion. Shirred eggs are surprisingly easy to make. And, when topped with the tomato mixture, they are absolutely delightful.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Creole Eggs
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

I found this recipe confusing – though the eggs turned out well. It is an odd mixture of very specific directions – “2 tablespoonfuls green pepper”; “Garnish each dish with a tablespoonful of the tomato mixture.” And, very general directions – “one to two eggs per individual” with no clue how many individuals the recipe was supposed to serve. If only 1 tablespoon of the tomato mixture was put on top of the eggs in each ramekin, it seems like this recipe would make enough tomato mixture for a lot of eggs. In the end, I decided that another option would be to just make fewer servings and use more of the tomato mixture per serving (2+ tablespoons).

It also was not clear how big “two large tomatoes” were supposed to be – though the comment that 1/2 can of tomatoes (a 1 pound can?) could be substituted for the fresh tomatoes made me think that it was calling for about a cup of canned tomatoes. The statement that just the “solids” from a can of tomatoes were supposed to be used, also made me think that the recipe was calling for about 1/2 cup of canned tomatoes after they were strained. And, that if fresh tomatoes are used (which is what I used), that there should be about 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes.

I used clear glass ramekins, and didn’t grease them or “dust” with breadcrumbs, because I was concerned that the photo would not look very nice with the breadcrumbs around the edge of the ramekin. I didn’t have any problems with the egg sticking excessively to the edge of the ramekins, so don’t think that it is necessary to grease and dust them. I also reduced the salt from 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon, since the original amount called for seemed like a lot.

Bottom line – This recipe appears to be an attempt to provide exact measurements for a recipe that actually is very flexible. It’s not important to have exact amounts of onion, green, pepper, or tomatoes – just make an amount that seems appropriate for the desired number of servings.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Creole Eggs

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 – 8 eggs (1 – 2 eggs per serving)

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons onion, chopped

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tomatoes, diced (about 1/2 cup) or 1 cup of canned tomatoes, strained (measure before straining) – I used fresh tomatoes.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and green pepper; cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked; stir occasionally while cooking. Stir in salt.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 400° F. Break 1 – 2 eggs into each of four ramekins. Place in a shallow pan that contains about 1 inch of hot water. Put in oven and bake until the white is set, and yolk is the desired firmness. (About 10-15 minutes.) Remove from oven and remove the ramekins from the pan with water.

Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the cooked eggs (about 2 tablespoons per ramekin), and immediately serve the eggs.


Chocolate Animals (Chocolate Animal Crackers)

Chocolate-covered animal crackers on plateWhen were animal crackers invented? Until I saw a recipe for Chocolate Animals (Chocolate Animal Crackers) in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I’d never given it any thought.

I knew that animal crackers have been around for a long time (or in other words, since I was a child), but I would have guessed that they were invented mid-century. However, the recipe in the 1920 cookbook suggests that they have been around much longer.

This led me to check what it said in Wikipedia. I was surprised to discover that animal crackers have been around since the late 1800’s. It also said:

Animal biscuit crackers were made and distributed under the National Biscuit Company banner. In 1902, animal crackers officially became known as “Barnum’s Animals” and evoked the familiar circus theme of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Later in 1902, the now-familiar box was designed for the Christmas season with the innovative idea of attaching a string to hang from the Christmas tree.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Chocolate Animals
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

I used a small (2.125 ounce box) of animal crackers when I made this recipe, so I only needed a little chocolate. If I’d made more Chocolate Animal Crackers I would have need to use more. chocolate.

The old recipe describes a process for making tempered chocolate. This is necessary to get a smooth, glossy coating – or chocolate melting wafers or chocolate candy coating can be used. I generally try to be true to old recipes – but ended up deciding that making a small batch of a fun recipe was the time to make an exception – so I went with the melting chocolate waters.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Chocolate Animals (Chocolate Animal Crackers)

animal crackers

chocolate melting wafers / chocolate coating

Put a piece of waxed paper on a plate. Set aside.

Using the microwave or low heat on the stove, melt enough chocolate to coat the animal crackers. (If a small 2.125 ounce box of crackers is used, melt about 1/2 cup of chocolate.) Dip the animal crackers in the melted chocolate, and then place on the waxed paper-covered plate.

Let the chocolate thoroughly cool and harden before serving. (I put the plate of chocolate-covered crackers in the refrigerator for a few minutes to quickly harden the chocolate.)


Old-fashioned Tomato Fritters

3 tomato fritters on plateThe tomatoes are rapidly ripening in the garden (and I’m getting close to having excess tomatoes, if such a thing is possible), so I looked for a hundred-year-old tomato recipe. And, I think that found a winner. Old-fashioned Tomato Fritters make a tasty appetizer or side dish.  The fritters are crispy and take only a few minutes to make.

Here’s the original recipe:

tomato fritter recipe
Source: American Cookery (March, 1920)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Tomato Fritters

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 egg

1/2 cup water or meat/vegetable stock (I used water.)

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

2 – 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (or use 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes)

1 tablespoons grated cheese (I used Parmesan cheese.)

Shortening or cooking oil

Put flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, egg, and water or stock in a mixing bowl; beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in parsley and tomatoes. Add grated cheese and continue stirring until combined.

Melt shortening or cooking oil in a skillet. Using a tablespoon, drop mixture by spoonfuls into the hot shortening or oil. Fry until lightly browned; flip and cook other side. Drain on paper towels.

If desired, serve with a tomato sauce dip.


Old-fashioned Pineapple Bavarian Cream

Molded Pineapply Bavarian Cream on Plate

During these hot August days, I love light, refreshing desserts. And, I found a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe that fits the bill. Pineapple Bavarian Cream is delicious, and has just the right balance of sweetness and tartness,

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Pineapple Bavarian Cream
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer

When I made the recipe, I used a little less water than called for in the original recipe because, when I make molded gelatin-based desserts, I tend to have problems with the mixture not getting firm enough.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Pineapple Bavarian Cream

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Note: This recipe makes about 3 cups. I doubled this recipe when I made it because I wanted to use a 6-cup mold.

1 packet (0.25 ounce) of unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1 small can (8 ounce) can of crushed pineapple


1/2 cup sugar

dash salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup whipping cream

Place the cold water in a small bowl; then sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let the gelatin absorb the water and soften for a few minutes.

In the meantime, drain the juice from the pineapple. Place the juice in a measuring cup, and add enough water to make it 1 cup. Place the pineapple juice and water mixture in a saucepan, and heat to boiling using medium high heat. Reduce heat to low. Add the softened gelatin, and stir until dissolved. Add the sugar and salt and continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then stir in the lemon juice.  Chill until the mixture just begins to thicken.

In the meantime, put the whipping cream in a bowl, and beat until soft peaks form.

Once the gelatin mixture has begun to thicken, stir in the crushed pineapple and then fold the whipped cream into the mixture.

Spoon into a 3-4 cup mold (or spoon into individual serving dishes or cups), and chill until firm (at least 4 hours).

To serve (if molded): Quickly dip the mold in hot water, then unmold onto serving plate.


Hundred-year-old Recipe for Boiled Corn (Corn on the Cob)

corn on the cob on plate

I see some very basic recipes (I tend to call them non-recipes) for simple foods in both modern and hundred-year-old cookbooks. Apparently both in 2020 and 1920 some cooks had simple questions – like how do you cook corn on the cob?

In 1920 corn on the cob was referred to boiled corn. And, here are directions for making it:

Recipe for boiled corn
Source: The New Royal Cook Book (1920)

When I made the recipe I skipped the suggestion to put the Boiled Corn on a napkin. Somehow it just didn’t seem necessary – and it seemed like the napkin might get soaked from any water that dripped off the corn.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Boiled Corn (Corn on the Cob)

  • Difficulty: easy
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Husk corn and remove all silk. Fill large pot 2/3’s full with water. Bring water to a boil using high heat. Place husked corn in the boiling water, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the corn from the water.