One-Hundred-Year-Old Marble Cake

Hello, again History Lovers,

In the post Cooking For Cash, we met Mrs. Alta Dunn, a farm woman from the 1920s who did catering to supplement her family’s farm income. She even included the “rule” or recipe she uses for baking cakes. Curious about her recipe I decided to give it a try.

For a two-layer cake, frosted, I charge $1.25; the same cake baked in a loaf and frosted brings $1. The rule for these cakes if white or marble cake is desired, is: 1 cup sugar, ½ cup butter, 1 cup sweet milk, 2 cups flour, flavoring, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 4 egg whites stiffly beaten. If baked in layers, I scant the flour a trifle. For marble cake, I take one-third of the batter for the white part; and add coloring to another third, and chocolate or mixed spices to the remainder. If chocolate or gold cake is desired, I use the same rule, substituting 2 whole eggs or 4 yolks for the beaten whites. This makes a delicious, tender cake if carefully mixed and baked.

I use a cream and powdered sugar frosting either white, pink, maple, or chocolate. Any fruit juice may be substituted for cream, beating until frosting is the right consistency to spread.

–Mrs. Alta Dunn, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women

I mixed the ingredients as listed above, colored, and flavored the batter as described for Marble Cake. I referenced cake recipes from Ida Bailey Allen’s cookbook Cooking Menus Service 1924 for the time and temperature for baking a similar cake–350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. It turned out perfectly as the photos below will show. From the same cookbook, I found a recipe for icing made with fruit juice as Mrs. Dunn describes. I replaced the grape juice with maraschino cherry juice. The result was a bit sweet but I used it in between the two layers of cake.

To frost the sides and top of the cake, I used a modern, decadent Chocolate Cream Cheese frosting recipe that I found on the internet. It worked well to tie together the flavors, colors, and layers. I think the bitterness of the chocolate kept the cake from being too sweet. Everyone that I served the cake to enjoyed it including myself.

All in all, it was a fun experiment that helps me better appreciate our hard-working foremothers as it took about three hours to create a $1.25 cake. Below is a slideshow demonstrating the recipe for a one-hundred-year-old Marble Cake.

Enjoy!

~FWM

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