In the Kitchen: Gold & Silver Cake (1934)

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been dying to try Gold and Silver Cake from one of my vintage recipe pamphlets, so I decided to make it as my birthday cake. The pamphlet in question, The Latest Cake Secrets, was pushing Swansdown cake flour and Baker’s coconut. I confess, I used Softasilk flour (more about the coconut below).

The cake itself is pretty simple, just a basic white cake. The flour does get sifted *four* times, once before measuring and then 3 times with salt and baking powder. This is added to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Flavor with some almond and orange extracts. Then fold in some stiffly beaten egg whites. Use a really big bowl. This recipe makes a lot of batter and you want room to gently incorporate the egg whites.

Now, it gets interesting. Take 1/3 of the batter and pour it into a cake pan. Then add beaten egg yolks to the remaining batter and divide it between 2 more pans. Thus you should (in theory) have a white layer and 2 yellow layers. Hence gold and silver.

This was the first time I baked a layer cake and used cake bands, which were totally successful. A cake band is a strip of cloth that is soaked in cold water and wrapped around the outside of the cake pan. It keeps the outside from cooking faster than the middle which is what makes the cake rise up in the center. While my layers weren’t perfectly flat, they were close enough that I didn’t feel the need to level them.

The color difference wasn’t as great as I might have hoped. Perhaps more egg yolks are needed.

The cake is then stacked gold-silver-gold with orange filling between the layers. The filling is made with sugar, water, orange juice, lemon juice, whole eggs, and cake flour cooked in a double boiler. Once it thickened, it’s finished with butter and orange zest. I didn’t love how it turned out. The flour lumped a lot and gave the filling a sort of floury flavor. I’d feared this might be the case, but I was determined to stick to the recipe as writ. Obviously the pamphlet was trying to put cake flour in as much as they could, but I’d use cornstarch next time. Also, the cake called for a double recipe of filling, which was way too much.

Then the cake gets frosted with a classic seven minute frosting. Cook (again in a double boiler) sugar, orange and lemon juices, and egg whites, beating constantly, for at least 7 minutes or until it’s thick and spreadable. Add some orange zest once it comes off the heat.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with a mixture of shredded coconut and orange zest. You want to do this right after the cake is frosted and the frosting is still gooey. The frosting dries to a crispy sugar shell and the topping would just slide off if you tried to add it at that point. The topping recipe called for Baker’s Southern Style Coconut, which they don’t make any more. It came in a can and was billed as being moist, like fresh coconut. I figured basic flaked coconut from the baking aisle was probably about the same thing. Packaging technology has moved on…

It was pretty successful for a first attempt. At least my guests liked it. I’m not giving you the recipe like I usually do, since I’m not satisfied with it and want to make some changes before I release it into the wild.

This was the cake:

M2

Published in: on 21 February 2017 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Here it is, Friday again. Time for your tip.

A variety of decorative elements, not just rhinestones, will add depth and texture to your costumes.

Try a mix of beading, ribbon work, appliqués, fabric painting, &c. to add interest to any costume piece.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 17 February 2017 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Support Art

Dear Constant Reader,

Two of my favorite artists have launched new projects!

Marrus is sharing her art and her creative process through Patreon. For only a couple of bucks a month you can see her new artworks before they’re released to the public and learn how she created them. And let me tell you, the mind of Marrus is a very interesting place indeed. With this support she’ll be able to spend more time in her studio bringing the pictures in her head to life.

Rae Bradbury-Enslin has designed a line of beautiful and affordable mermaid tails that’s she’s making available through Kickstarter. She’s developed a hybrid between a fabric tail and a silicone one and the results are gorgeous.

This all makes me think about my own projects and creative process. There are so many things I want to do and to share with you, my Constant Reader, but I just don’t have the time (that is, the time to take away from earning a living) to do them all. Or to do them on the scale I want. I’ve been putting things out here in the great wide world for more than 5 years now, but there’s only so much I can do as one woman with a computer and a mediocre camera*.

Would you be willing to pay a little for better content? There are things I’m not willing to share with the entire world, for free, but I might just share with you in a more private venue. Also, I’ve got two more books in the works and I just haven’t been able to devote the time needed to finish them.

What is it that you want to see from me? More reviews? Photos? Videos? Costuming tutorials? Historic cooking? More personal stories? Tell me and I will do my best (within reason) to indulge you, Constant Reader.

M2 * For example, my little book never would have happened without a huge amount of work from Scratch. I absolutely could not have done it by myself.

Published in: on 16 February 2017 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! The Expo starts today, which means I’ve been in a whirlwind of preparations and stress (and snow shoveling, can’t forget that). But despite all that I would not deprive you of your tip.

Take progress photos as you work on a big project.

It’s great way to see how far you’ve come when working on a costume or a prop or whatever it is. Also, if you want to replicate the project or need to fix something, you have a record of what you did. And you can give your adoring fans a sneak peak along the way.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 10 February 2017 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Taking a Break

Dear Constant Reader,

For the past week or so I’ve been taking a break from Facebook. You might be puzzled since you were sure you’ve seen me there. Kind of. I’ve been cross-posting from Instagram and popping on briefly to link to my writings here. But I haven’t been creating any content and I haven’t been reading anything.

I’ve been finding Facebook to be a place where ugliness and unpleasantness fly and magnify. I try to avoid things that will make me unhappy and frequently what I see on Facebook makes me unhappy. Maybe I take things too personally — it’s a flaw in my character. I hate confrontation (I know some who revel in it) and right now I’m feeling particularly fragile and vulnerable to negativity.

My absence is not a condemnation of you, my dearest Constant Readers, but something I need to do for my own well-being.

Yes, I miss keeping up with my friends (and “friends”), but if we are actually friends, we’ll stay in touch in other ways. Yes, I know this will probably hurt my personal brand as I’m making myself less visible to the almighty algorithm. However, I’m finding myself much more productive now that I don’t have that easy time-sink of “I’m bored; what’s happening on Facebook?” and I’m feeling a little better about the world.

Maybe I’ll see you there again, maybe not, but you can always find me here, especially on Fridays.

M2

Published in: on 7 February 2017 at 1:38 pm  Comments (2)  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Look at that! It’s Friday again. Time for your tip:

When working with balloons, make sure your nails are smooth, without chips or breaks.

If you do a balloon act, it’s not a bad idea to keep an emery board with your balloon supplies.
Filing down jagged tips will help save you from unscheduled popping.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 3 February 2017 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Dreams May Come

Dear Constant Reader,

Last night I slept fitfully, due to an injury, and I had one of those dreams. You know, when you have to take a test that you know nothing about or you have to make a presentation but you forgot your pants.

In this dream I was performing in Dita’s show (that’s how you know it was a dream). I was going to be performing my new peacock fan act (that’s a real thing — see it on Valentine’s Day). Things started a little rocky because I had forgotten my lovely Glorious Pasties, and frantically rummaged around the dressing rooms until I found an acceptable pair.

I was waiting backstage, dressed in rehearsal clothes — leggings, t-shirt, and fleecy socks — when I realized intermission was over. No one had given us a 5 minute warning or a “places” call. My music was starting and my backup dancers were on-stage doing their thing.

I remember frantically tearing off my socks, but realizing putting on my shoes would take too long. I ran into another room and began searching for my fans. Someone thought it would be cute to hand me two large *cans* (of peaches I think). I finally found my fans and rushed out onto stage where my backup dancers had been improvising and had the audience roaring with laughter. Somehow I got through the rest of the act in bare feet and rehearsal clothes (I can’t remember if I was in makeup or not) with the audience laughing the whole time.

I guess the burlesque equivalent of the dream of being naked in public is being on stage with clothes on.

M2

Published in: on 1 February 2017 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Metal garter clips work better than plastic ones.

It’s worth it to invest in a higher quality garter belt with metal clips. Metal clips are easier to fasten and unfasten, they stay clipped to your stockings more securely, and they last longer. You can also buy separate clips, on straps or not, if you want to replace the ones you have.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 27 January 2017 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: Always Something Doing

Dear Constant Reader,

Another book review from the archives! I originally wrote this review years ago on another platform. I should get back to my current books to review, but this was low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

Always Something Doing: Boston’s Infamous Scollay Square by David Kruh (1999).

Boston has a reputation (rightly so) for being full of Puritans and blue-noses. And, right in the heart of the city was a hotbed of low past-times and pursuits. Always Something Doing (the motto of the Old Howard) is a history of Scollay Square from its very beginnings to the 20th century. Although the square as a location existed before the American Revolution, it didn’t get its famous name until 1838. The Charlestown trolley line that stopped in front of the Scollay’s Building had been using that as the unofficial name of the area.

Although Scollay Square is remembered for seedy entertainment (think of it as the Times Square of Boston), it was a respectable and ritzy area until the mid-19th century when the Brahmans fled for the newly created Back Bay and the Square became more commercial and affordable for the majority of Bostonians, including the influx of Irish immigrants. Besides being a major shopping district, it was full of restaurants and entertainment, including the famed Howard Atheneum. Despite hosting the first American performance of Giselle and other highbrow performances, by the end of the Civil War the Old Howard was presenting more popular entertainment at lower ticket prices.

By the 1920’s Scollay Square was well known as a haven for burlesque. Many of the biggest names, including Ann Corio and Georgia Sothern, played the Old Howard and Sally Keith, tassel twirling queen, was a standard at the Crawford House. Boston had such a great history of burlesque and I’m proud to be a part of that now.

But there’s more than just burlesque to Scollay Square. The book is full of vintage photographs and anecdotes from those who remember the Square well. I was particularly amused by the poor sailor who woke up after a drunken night in the Square to discover a pink elephant tattooed on his butt. Boston has never had another haven for sailors since the Square was demolished.

Scollay Square fell pray to urban renewal when it and the entire West End of Boston were razed in the early 1960’s to make way for the new City Hall and other government buildings. This plan had the side effect of creating the much deplored Combat Zone.

It’s clear the author’s sympathies are with the long-gone lively, sleazy neighborhood of cheap eats, burlesque theatres, tattoo parlors, and photo studios, than with the stark, soulless Government Center that replaced it

M2

Published in: on 26 January 2017 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday. Here’s your tip:

You are allowed to take up space.

Women are often told both subtly and overtly to minimize ourselves, not to take up too much space, not too be too loud or too shrill. You can see the influence in some women’s posture — holding their limbs close to their bodies, hunching, slouching, slumping, contracting, trying to be small, to be invisible.

You can be big. You may be big. Take up your fair share of space.

As performers, especially as burlesque performers, we have an obligation to be expansive. Use the whole stage. Make your facial expressions big so they read in the back row. Make your gestures broad so there is no doubt about your intention. If you sing or speak, be loud and clear so you will be heard and understood. Let your emotions be seen by the entire audience.

Be splashy, be flashy, be whatever you want, but claim your space and use it. Bring your heart forward and stop hunching. Stand tall and proud without slouching.

It’s your space. Take it. Use it. Revel in it.

I’ll see many of you tomorrow.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 20 January 2017 at 2:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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