In the Kitchen: A Novelty in Cakes (1920)

Dear Constant Reader,

The novelty for this cake is that it’s made with graham cracker crumbs instead of flour. The recipe comes from the pamphlet 100 Delicious Walnut Recipes by the California Walnut Growers Association, probably published in 1920. I’ve also found a similar recipe for the cake (but not the frosting) in a Utah newspaper from 1915.

We had a box of graham crackers left over from making s’mores at the Mini Expo cook out and I wanted to make something for our Sunday Social after Cover Girls. This fit the bill nicely.

A couple of notes:

Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge early and let them come up to room temperature. It will be easier to cream the butter and to beat the egg whites stiff when they’re not so cold.

Toast the nuts first. Toasted nuts always taste better. Also, get as much of the skin off the walnuts as possible — it can be bitter. Obviously the Walnut Growers want you to use walnuts, but the cake is probably just as good with other nuts or no nuts at all.

Most vintage recipes call for squares of unsweetened chocolate, which was an ounce. These days chocolate usually comes in bars with 4 squares to the ounce, but double-check and use a scale if you’re in doubt.

One of the challenges was figuring out how many graham crackers to use. The recipe calls for “26 graham crackers”. Is one cracker one of the rectangular cracker quarters? The square half crackers, like for s’mores? Or an entire unbroken cracker sheet? The right answer seems to be 26 square crackers aka 13 full cracker sheets.

Here’s how you make the cake:

Crush graham crackers to fine crumbs. I like to use a rolling pin, but it’s faster and more uniform if you use a food processor. Separate eggs and beat whites to stiff peaks. Mix sugar & baking powder, then cream with butter. Mix together egg yolks, milk, vanilla, cracker crumbs, and nuts. Fold in beaten egg whites. Pour batter into buttered pans. The original recipe says just to “bake in loaf or layers”. A little research lead me from this vague instruction to the appropriate size and shape of pans and the temperature and time. Let cool before frosting. See recipe below for specifics.

To make the frosting, cream butter and powdered sugar. Add melted unsweetened chocolate. Add enough cold coffee to make the frosting spreadable. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t usually have left-over coffee hanging about. I use instant espresso powder for intense flavor and make a single cup. I used about 1/4 cup of cold espresso, but the amount will depend on what consistency you like your frosting and a bit on how humid it is. Finally, mix in ground walnuts. Frost the cake(s). If you used round cake pans, level the layers before frosting and stacking (or use cake bands so you don’t have to).

It went over really well. Someone tasting the cake said the cake and the frosting have the right balance of sweet. Everyone loves the mocha frosting.

Graham Cracker Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
26 graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix sugar and baking powder. Cream with butter. Add egg yolks, milk, graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and vanilla. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold in. Bake in greased pans: two 9″-round pans or two loaf pans or a 13×9″ rectangular pan for 30 minutes at 350F. Let cook and frost with Mocha Nut Frosting.

Mocha Nut Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup cold strong coffee
1/2 cup ground toasted nuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate. Add enough coffee to make a spreadable consistency. Stir in ground nuts.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

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Published in: on 9 October 2017 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Walnut Tea Cake

Dear Constant Reader,

For the last several years at The Expo I’ve been hosting a tea party on Sunday afternoon. I love it, except for the fact that the hotel has to do the catering. I decided it was time to throw a party at Stately Babydoll Manor where I could make all the goodies.


And so I did. We had:
4 kinds of tea: peach oolong, green, rooibos, and blooming
served with sugar cubes and molded flavored sugars (thanks, RuffleCon!), milk (regular or cashew), lemon.
3 sandwiches: pear-blue cheese-walnut, classic cucumber, tomato with basil
2 breads: vegan English muffins, sour cherry scones
served with sour cherry jam and butter
3 pastries: walnut tea cake, lemon cookies with fondant & piped icing, vegan chocolate mini-cupcakes with chocolate glaze

When I posted a picture of the walnut cake on Facebook, I was asked how it was, but I baked it Thursday and I didn’t taste it until Saturday. The answer, quite good. It’s a little plain, but moist, nutty, and just a little sweet. Goes very nicely with a cup of tea (and I assume coffee, but I never touch the stuff).

The recipe came from Ida Allen Bailey’s book Luscious Luncheons and Tasty Teas which was probably published sometime between 1920 and 1930. Mrs. Bailey was a prolific cookbook author and sort of the Martha Stewart of her day. The book is one of four gorgeous volumes* that were designed to hang, calendar style, on the wall. There are menus for each week of the year with a corresponding recipe or two.

Here’s the recipe for those who asked:

Nut Tea Cake
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (I toasted them)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Cream butter & sugar, work in nuts, salt, egg, add milk. Sift together flour and baking powder, beat and transfer to medium-sized oiled dripping pan (I used a 9×9 glass baking pan). Sift 1/3 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon over. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

M2
*Delicious Dinners, Satisfying Salads, and Dainty Desserts. I’m on a quest for the two I don’t own.

Published in: on 13 June 2016 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen with Mina: Frozen Fruit Salad (1929)

Dear Constant Reader,

In the 1920s having a home freezer showed you were awfully up-to-date *and* well-to-do. So, frozen foods became a fad to show off when entertaining. Now, I don’t mean something frozen that you’d heat up before serving. These are dishes that were served frozen. And not just ice cream — I’m talking about frozen salads. Frozen chicken salad and frozen tomato salad were pretty popular. I even saw a recipe that directed the busy cook to simply freeze a can of tomato juice and then slice off thin rounds (which were presumable served on lettuce and garnished with a dollop of mayo).

Betty gave me a charming little volume called Salads and Sandwiches, which was published by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in 1929. It’s chockfull of dainty little dishes just right for a ladies’ tea party. And one of them was Frozen Fruit Salad. I just had to make it.

Frozen fruit salads were very popular in the ’20s but persisted well into the 1950s. I made a half recipe (1 quart), just in case it turned out awful, and brought it to a party, since even a half recipe makes more than the denizens of Stately Babydoll Manor want.

First you need to make fruit salad dressing, which is equal parts pineapple, peach, or pear juice and orange juice (I used pineapple-orange juice because it was in the fridge and mighty convenient), some lemon juice, a little sugar, and a beaten egg, all cooked in a double boiler. You’re supposed to give it “a few turns with a rotary egg beater”, but lacking that piece of kitchen equipment, I used a whisk.

While the dressing is cooling, chop up some nut meats (I used a mix of toasted walnuts, pecans, and almonds), dates (I used medjool dates and they kind of mushed into a paste when I chopped them), maraschino cherries, and pineapple (canned, of course!). Whip some cream.

Then beat cream cheese and mix in the dressing. Again, the whisk was the right tool. Then fold in the fruit and then the cream.

Spoon it into a mold. I don’t actually have any decorative molds (Really? Why do I not have any fancy molds?), so I used a metal mixing bowl. Then you’re supposed to seal the mold with adhesive tape or a strip of cloth soaked in paraffin and pack it in ice and salt for 4 hours. I just covered the bowl tightly and stuck it in the freezer.

You’re suppose to unmold it, cut into 6 slices, and serve on lettuce leaves with a little whipped cream garnish. I unmolded it (with a little difficulty, being in someone else’s kitchen) and put it out as-is for the guests to admire and cut themselves more modest portions. (Note the classy Halloween-themed plate.)

It was sweet and creamy and I wouldn’t call this a salad in the least. The Woman’s Institute does say that some fruit salads can be served as both salad course and dessert. And this certainly falls into that category. I was told it tasted “pink”, “ice cream-ish”, and “1950’s”. Almost all was eaten, so I’d call that a success.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 cup pineapple, peach, or pear juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten slightly
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped pineapple chunks
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries

Combine juices. Add sugar. Add egg. Cook in a double boiler until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and beat briefly. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Whip cream until stiff. Add fruit juice mixture to cream cheese. Fold in fruit and nuts, then fold in whipped cream.

Spoon into 1-quart metal mold. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

To unmold, remove wrap & foil, dip mold briefly in hot water, then place serving platter on top and invert everything.

Garnish and serve.

Note: Add 1/2 cup chopped kumquats, 2 Tablespoons chopped preserved ginger, and use almonds for the nuts and you’ll have Oriental Frozen Fruit Salad.

M2

Published in: on 23 October 2013 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen with Mina

Dear Constant Reader,

I did a little cooking yesterday, and, among other items, made a classic fruit salad. This one, although popular in the 1950’s, has its origins in the 1920’s. The salad is quite whimsical in its design, which was typical of ladies’ “dainty” luncheon dishes.

Take your ingredients: lettuce leaves, canned pineapple rings, bananas, maraschino cherries, and mayonnaise. There was a bit of a tropical fruit craze in the ’20’s, probably promoted by Dole, which was the main importer of pineapple (canned, of course) and bananas from Hawaii to the mainland. Maraschino cherries (the neon red kind) are also a product of the 1920’s.

The assembly of this salad is key. You need to properly present all the ingredients or the impact is lost. A toothpick or two can help with the architecture. Don’t forget that this was commonly served at ladies’ luncheons, so you want to make sure the shape is instantly recognizable.

Tada!

Candlestick salad!

Isn’t that clever! A pineapple ring candle holder, a banana candle, a cherry flame, and mayonnaise wax!

Why? What did you think it was?

M2

Published in: on 17 December 2012 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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