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.
A post from two weeks ago featured the cottage industry of Mrs. Alta Dunn, Cooking For Cash. Mrs. Dunn’s catering business supplied a friend and businesswoman with a weekly order of home-baked bread, desserts, one-dish meals, and dressed meats. She also filled orders from other folks from time to time. The article spoke quite a bit about her baking and even included one of her cake recipes. Curious about how Mrs. Dunn’s recipe compared to other recipes of that time, I did some research in Ida Bailey Allen’s Cooking Menus Service cookbook of 1924. Below I have posted Ms. Allen’s technical advice for cake baking. The ingredients are not so different from today’s however all the mixing and whipping would have been done by hand. Mrs. Dunn was from a rural area in the west and she likely did her baking in a wood and/or coal oven.
COOKING MENUS SERVICE–Cakes by Ida Bailey Allen
“It is not the materials alone, nor is it the manipulation alone which makes good cake, but a careful combination of the two. Every cookbook gives many cake recipes, but if these are analyzed it will be seen that the cakes themselves are closely related and belong to one of two families—(a) the sponge-cake family, (b) the butter-cake family. If one can make a good sponge cake and a good butter cake the entire field of cake making lies ahead, for the difference between one cake and another is more that of a slight change in consistency, flavoring, or filling and frosting than any basic variation in the actual cake batter itself.”
Making a Cake
“The proper order of procedure in making any cake is as follows:
Read the recipe carefully.
Prepare the pans.
Assemble the ingredients.
Assemble the utensils.
Prepare the oven.
Measure the ingredients and make the cake.
It is quite essential that these steps be followed in the order given, each being relatively important to the next. Reading the recipe gives the worker an intelligent grasp of what is to be done and how, and as some cakes might be spoiled if kept waiting before baking, it is obvious that the next point in order is the preparation of the cake pan: the reasons for the remaining steps are self-explanatory.”
Mixing a Butter-Cake Batter
“The mixing should be done sitting down. Measure the shortening; if it is very hard, the mixing bowl should first have been warmed with hot water, but the fat itself should not be melted. The shortening should then be creamed or beaten until soft, preferably with a flat wooden spoon; the sugar is then worked into it, flavoring added, and then the egg yolks or the whole egg, well beaten, according to the recipe.
Sift the flour, measure, and put back in the sifter with the salt and baking powder. Measure the liquid in the cup used for the fat. Put a little of the flour into the cake mixture, stir in some of the liquid, and proceed in this way until all are in. The direction in which you stir makes no difference. Then fold in the egg whites, whipped until stiff, with an over-and-over motion, if they are to be added last. They should be beaten until the mixture will remain in the bowl inverted.
The cake should then be put in the pan, the mixture being made higher at the edges and corners to ensure even rising. It is then ready to be baked.”
Mixing a Sponge-Cake Batter
“In sponge cakes in which no shortening is employed an entirely different method of manipulation is required. For some sponge cakes the egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until light, the flavoring added, the flour and salt well sifted, gently folded in and the whites of the eggs, which have been beaten until stiff and dry, folded carefully into the cake batter last of all. Or in some instances, the whole eggs, yolk and whites together, are beaten with the sugar. The first method gives a cake that is lighter than that made by the second but the cake will dry out more quickly.
An egg-beater of the whisk type is preferable to one of rotary or Dover style due to the fact that with the whisk more air is incorporated into the mixture, making it lighter and fluffier in texture. A large bowl should be used in the making of the sponge cake to allow plenty of room for long sweeping strokes of the beater. A very delicious and firm smooth sponge cake is sometimes made by cooking the sugar with a little water until it threads—230 degrees F.—then pouring this over the thoroughly beaten yolks and eggs, adding the flour and the whites of eggs beaten until stiff.”
Preparing the Cake Pans
“Ordinary layer-cake pans should be oiled, a brush being used for this purpose, every crevice and corner receiving its share of the oil. If this is thoroughly done there should be no difficulty in removing the cake after baking. A smooth surface texture is secured by dusting the pan thickly with flour after oiling, then tapping it sharply on the table to remove any loose particles of flour, or fine granulated sugar may be used instead of the flour, the loose particles being removed in the same manner.
Cakes containing a large amount of sugar or molasses will burn more readily than the less sweet varieties. To avoid this, line the pan with waxed or oiled paper.”
Filling the Pans
“Have the cake pans less than two-thirds filled with batter. For layer and loaf cakes spread evenly over the surface of the pan, pressing it well into the corners, and have the batter a little thicker around the sides of the pan than in the center. As the tendency of cake batter is to rise more in the center than at the sides this procedure will ensure a smooth, even surface after baking.”
Baking a Cake
“The first rule to be remembered in cake baking, as indeed in all other baking, is that infinitely more food is spoiled by the use of too much heat than by too little. Large cakes require a slower oven than small ones. Gentle slow baking results in lighter cake, a delicately browned surface, and smooth fine grain. Always place cakes in the lower part of the oven at first so that the under-heat may help them to rise to their fullest height before browning. If put on the upper shelf the heat thrown down forms a crust that prevents proper rising.
The time of baking may be divided into three periods of equal length. During the first the oven should be only moderately hot to allow the cake to rise, during the second the heat may be increased to form a crust and brown the surface and during the third and last it should again be reduced to thoroughly cook the cake to the center.
To find out whether a cake is done, insert a metal or straw tester gently in the center of the cake, leave it a second, then withdraw. If it comes away perfectly clean the cake is sufficiently baked, but if it is at all sticky continue the baking for a few minutes longer.
When done, the cake shrinks from the sides of the pan and springs back if lightly touched. It gives forth no steaming or crackling sound.”
Cake Baking Hints
“Cake should never be moved in the oven until it has reached its fullest height.
If cake appears to be browning too rapidly reduce the heat and cover the cake with a sheet of paper.
If cake habitually bakes too quickly on the bottom, set the pan containing it in another pan, which may, if desired, be partly filled with sand, the being a non-conductor of heat.
The oven may be cooled quickly, if necessary, by putting a pan of cold water into it.
The cake which cracks open during the baking indicates either that too much flour has been used in it or that it has been baked in too quick an oven and is therefore browned before it rises to its fullest height.
A coarse-textured cake denotes the use of too much baking powder or of insufficient beating.
A cake which falls after baking indicates too little flour, too much shortening, or that it was removed from the oven before being thoroughly cooked.
A wire cooling rack or tray will be found very useful for cooling cakes, cookies, and biscuits, and indeed all baked products. Being slightly raised on wire feet it allows a current of air to pass all around whatever is placed on it, so that there is no soggy under-surface caused by collected moisture. A very good substitute is a wire oven shelf rested on four cups or muffin pans.”
“The terms “icing” and “frosting” are practically synonymous and may be used interchangeably. Frostings or icings may be either cooked or uncooked, made with water, milk, or fruit juice as the liquid, but always have either sugar, syrup, or honey as the main sweet ingredient.”
The above article was originally published in Cooking Menus Service 1924 by Ida Bailey Allen, Doubleday, Duran & Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
The Whole Loaf
Once upon a time
There was a woman
She longed to paint, to make fine music.
But her life was cast in other lines.
Disappointment embittered her soul.
“Shall I live forever in a dream of what I cannot be?” she said.
“Because my time must be given to homely tasks and the care of children, shall I never express beauty?”
She visited a gallery.
She saw a picture—a perfect thing.
Fruit arranged in a basket, and some garden flowers.
And nearby another—a quaint bowl of milk—a loaf of bread and a blue-eyed child.
“I have fruit, and a basket covered with dust,” she said.
It was time to feed the Littlest Child.
He was blue-eyed.
There was a handsome loaf.
On the top shelf was a quaint bowl.
She put it before him—filled with milk.
The scales fell from her eyes—
She had the Whole Loaf.
Hello, again History Lovers!
In today’s post, we are once again Cooking With Ida. The information below comes from two of Ida’s books Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922 and Cooking Menus Service 1924 in which she walks the home baker through the requiredsteps in making yeast bread. The yeast that our foremothers would have used in their baking was either compressed cakes of yeast or the granulated version called Active Dry Yeast (ADY). The granulated variety is available today and our mothers and grandmothers may still be using it however, modern home bakers generally opt for a newer faster rising version of ADY–Instant or Rapid-Rise. (King Author Flour recommends Rapid-Rise Yeast for use in bread machines and SAF Instant Yeast for hand-made bread and baked goods).
By the way, the charming poem The Whole Loaf at the top of this post was printed at the beginning of the chapter on Yeast Breads in Cooking Menus Service. Sadly there is no credit given to the poet. Although there are a number of poems included in this cookbook I am quite certain that Ida was not the poet as none of her other cookbooks include poetry.
Yeast Bread Making 1920s
“The exact science of bread making is a chemical one, consisting of the proper blending of flour, liquid, salt, and yeast into a dough which is raised by the growth in it of the yeast fungi. During that raising the action of the yeast converts part of the starch into a form of sugar and the yeast cells, feeding on this, activates fermentation; and as the dough is fermented and raised, thousands of little cells or pockets are formed in it. During the baking, however, the fermentation is stopped by the heat, the result being the light, porous bread with which we are familiar.”
Proper Kind of Ingredients
“What are the necessary ingredients for making bread? Flour, salt, liquid, and yeast. These four we must have; some variations are possible. The flour may be of more than one variety, but some wheat flour we must have for good bread. The liquid may be plain water, the water in which potatoes have been cooked, or milk, or two of these in combination. The yeast may be compressed or dry yeast according to convenience. Other ingredients may be potatoes, shortening, and a little sugar or syrup.”
Methods for Making Bread
“There are two methods of bread making—(a) the sponge method, and (b) the straight dough method.”
The Sponge Method
At first glance, one might mistake the Sponge Method for the “proofing” process in which the viability of yeast is tested by mixing yeast with a little water and a pinch of sugar and allowing it to “proof” for several minutes to see if the mixture becomes active. A 1920s home cook may well have proofed her yeast before beginning to mix her bread sponge if she had concerns about the freshness of the yeast. The preparation of the sponge required mixing yeast, salt, sugar, and some of the flour into the liquid resulting in a thick batter. The batter was then set away in a warm draft-free place to rise for an hour or longer. At that point, the remaining flour was kneaded into the sponge and the dough was set away again to rise. The advantage of this method was that it required less yeast thereby making a less yeasty-tasting loaf as well as making a fluffier loaf of bread. The drawback was that the dough required two rises before shaping and a third after shaping and prior to baking resulting in a longer bread-making process. Ida continues:
“By the sponge method, a thick batter is made, using all the required liquid, yeast, salt, and enough flour to give the batter the desired consistency—it should be about the thickness of a muffin mixture. A very little sugar or sugar solution may be added to hasten the process of rising. A smaller amount of yeast may be used in bread made by the sponge method than when the straight dough is employed, as yeast rises more rapidly in a semi-liquid mixture than in one which is firm.
After the sponge has become light, that is, after the yeast has become thoroughly “active” and the mixture is filled with consequent gaseous bubbles, the remainder of the flour is added and the mixture kneaded to an elastic dough, either by hand or in a bread mixer, from which point it is treated the same as for a straight dough.”
The recipe below is an example of a bread recipe using the Sponge Method. Interestingly White Bread recipes took precedence in Ida’s book Cooking Menus Service 1924 probably due to the fact that white bakery bread was all the rage so home bakers desired white bread as well.
“A straight dough is one in which the ingredients are all blended at one time, kneaded, and the dough set aside to rise. By using a larger amount of yeast, bread may be quickly made by the straight-dough method, or it may be allowed to rise for a longer period and less yeast is used. The ingredients after blending must be kneaded until smooth and elastic, then set aside to rise as in the case of bread made by the sponge method.
Whereas the methods of making bread by both dry and compressed yeast are practically identical, the process when making it with dry yeast is facilitated if a soft sponge is first made, so that the little yeast plants may have all possible assistance in their growth. It is also advisable to make such a sponge when preparing coffee cake or rolls, or whenever a fine-textured result is desired, or when rich ingredients are being used, no matter what kind of yeast is chosen (Be aware that this is outdated informationand is no longer necessary with the ADY we use today). Success in bread making consists of the use of a reliable recipe; care in keeping the rising dough at a temperature of not less the 70 degrees F., nor more than 95 degrees F.; shielding the dough from draughts and the proper baking”.
The Necessary Equipment
In all of her cookbooks, Ida was a proponent for anything that would help make a housewife’s work easier and more efficient so it was no surprise that she would promote the acquisition and use of a piece of equipment called a bread mixer (photos below). I’m not sure cranking a handle was any better than kneading bread by hand. It would certainly not have been as therapeutic.More from Ida:
The use of a bread mixer facilitates bread making, obviating kneading by hand and actually saving a fourth of the flour. As these mixers may be obtained in both small and large sizes, they are practical for use in every family.”
I came across a recipe for Raisin Cake in a narrow column of advertisements in the October 1926 issue of The Farmer’s Wife magazine. The recipe was sponsored by the Crescent Manufacturing Company of Seattle, Washington, makers of the wildly successful imitation maple flavoring branded Mapleine. Growing up my mother always made homemade pancake syrup using Mapleine which was the product’s most widely known “back of the box” recipe. I was interested in trying Mapleine in a different application so I tried the recipe printed in the advertisement. The cake was amazing!
½ cup shortening
1-1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs well beaten
1 cup seedless raisins
1/3 cup walnuts
1 cup hot applesauce, strained
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp Mapleine
Sift flour, spices, and soda. Cream shortening beat in sugar, eggs, chopped raisins, and nuts. Add flour alternately with the applesauce. Bake in greased layer pans in a moderate oven.
¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp cold water
1 egg white
½ tsp Mapleine
Put sugar, water, and unbeaten egg white in a double boiler, place over boiling water and beat with an egg beater for six minutes. Remove from fire; add Mapleine. Beat until thick enough to spread.
My Take on the Recipe
I followed the recipe as written except for using butter instead of shortening and I added a half teaspoon of salt. I even heated up my home-canned applesauce – a curiosity of this recipe (more about that later). I also substituted pecans for the walnuts. I baked the cake in nine-inch round pans and set my oven at a moderate temperature of 350 degrees.
Once cooled, I began preparing the Mapleine Icing–which failed. I’m not sure why but it never became a fluffy frosting consistency. It stayed at a runny sugary stage. Perhaps it was because I used an electric mixer instead of the prescribed egg beater. Ha! So, I decided to try a different icing recipe all together—Coconut Pecan Frosting (recipe below)—a mid-century recipe that I typically use for Oatmeal Raisin Cake. It was a match made in heaven!
Now a word about hot applesauce—Why? Perhaps it was thought that the cake would rise higher or have a lighter texture if the applesauce was warm. Or maybe the cake would bake faster because it was warm when it went in the oven. I don’t know for sure, but with some research, I found only one other recipe that called for hot applesauce (below). Most vintage recipes just called for applesauce.
Going in the “Tried and True” Recipe File
In the end, I ended up with a moist moderately-dense raisin cake that was very flavorful. The cake recipe for Mapleine Raisin Cake is going into my “tried and true” dessert recipe file alongside the Coconut Pecan Frosting recipe because I will be making it again soon! Below I have created a printable recipe for both cake and frosting. I have included the salt measurement that I used as it balances the flavor of the batter. –Enjoy!
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