Marie Antoinette, the French queen during the Revolution, may not have actually uttered the words, but the phrase has gone down in history as a famous saying from a royal personage. “Let them eat cake!” was actually “Let them eat brioche!” Brioche, a French pastry, is extremely enriched bread with more egg and butter content than you might have thought possible. But we stray from our cake quest.
The concept of cake dates to ancient Egyptians who advanced baking skills to an art. Those early cakes were sweetened with honey and included nuts and/or dried fruits. “Cake” is derived from an Old Norse word “kaka” and can be traced back to the 13th century.
What we recognize as cake today started in the mid-17th century when European bakers took advantage of new technologies — ovens, food molds, etc. — and refined ingredients such as granulated sugar. Most bakers probably used a metal or wooden hoop placed on a flat baking sheet as the mold for a cake.
It took until the mid-19th century for cakes to look like our cakes. Refined ingredients again dictated the change: refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast. An 1894 cookbook, The Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book, included a layer cake recipe.
While it seems strange to us, chocolate wasn’t originally included in a cake’s ingredient list. It was, at first, a drink that accompanied a piece of cake; then it became part of the icing on the cake. Finally in the 19th century, chocolate became a full-fledged cake ingredient, at least in some instances. It wasn’t until the 20th century that chocolate became a widespread popular cake ingredient. Can you imagine it taking so long for chocolate cake to become the norm?
If you have a minute, send along your favorite cake recipes, and we’ll print a few in a future issue of the magazine. Email them to email@example.com with “Cake” included in the subject line.
Whatever your favorite cake may be, savor every bite.
Roland Altenburg, Midland, Oregon, remembers a sour cream chocolate cake that his aunt used to bake back in the 1950s for the threshing crew. He says it was so rich and moist that she often did not frost it. The ingredients, as he recalls, included fresh cream that had been soured.
Most experts discourage using whole milk that has gone sour; instead, they suggest adding 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes before adding it to the batter. Some suggest letting the milk come to room temperature before adding the vinegar.
Dorothy Higbee, Canton, Missouri, sends a recipe that sounds like it may be what Roland is looking for. She says, “I would like to share the following as it was one of my late husband’s grandmother’s recipes. If I don’t have any sour cream, I add vinegar to half-and-half and let it stand for a little while before adding.”
• Andrea Pope, Spurger, Texas, hopes other readers have traditional recipes they would share, particularly Mexican food. She loves food that doesn’t come from a box.
• Mary Barclay of Cleveland, Texas, and her family prefer eating self-produced or locally sourced foods. She uses few grains, instead using nut flours, and she uses honey instead of sugar. Does anyone have whole-food (nothing processed) recipes to share?• Jeanie Vaughn, Hiram, Georgia, is looking for a recipe or the name of the sauce that was used on the Sloppy Joe sandwiches back in the 1960s at her North Carolina school lunchroom. She’s not sure on the name, and she thinks the sandwich was made with pulled pork, not ground beef. The sauce was not sweet or vinegary, and it didn’t taste like ketchup. “The sauce was so good I can almost taste it,” she says.
• Caryl Detwiler, Bullhead City, Arizona, remembers a prune whip she thought was delicious as a child in the late 1940s. It wasn’t sweet, but a cross between meringue and today’s whipped toppings, and it contained chopped pieces of prunes. The whip, because of the prunes, took on a slight tan or brownish tint.
• Marlene Woolston, St. Joseph, Missouri, would like a recipe for candied jalapeños, as she has only heard of the treat but never tried it. Candied jalapeños are also known as Cowboy Candy, a trademark treat from WHH Ranch in Shepherd, Texas.
• Mrs. John Buller, Collinsville, Oklahoma, hopes someone will share a recipe for sweet potato butter or sweet potato jam.
• Kay Gurley, Greenway, Arkansas, is trying to find the recipe for a gingerbread/spice cake that was served in the 1950s and ‘60s at schools in the Greenway school district.
• Sheila Jones, Foster City, Michigan, used to have a recipe for ice box cookies made with navy beans. It was included on a calendar of employee recipes from USF Trucking, a company in Holland, Michigan. She would appreciate a copy.
If you’ve been looking for a long-lost recipe, or can provide one, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Recipe Box, c/o GRITand CAPPER’s, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Email is our preferred method of communication, and requests and submissions will be more likely to be answered in a timely fashion if sent electronically. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number on any correspondence. Recipes cannot be returned; we will forward the first 10 recipes to the person who made the original request, and then file the rest for possible online or print publication. Addresses are not printed to allow us the opportunity to publish recipes before sending them on to the requesting party.
Associate Editor Jean Teller, a self-professed chocoholic, is ready for that sour cream chocolate cake — anytime!
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