Thursday, April 21, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 8

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016  Challenge 8:

Literary Foods

The Challenge: Literary Foods
Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item. 

The Recipe: Anne Shirley's nightmare Goblin Cake or Devil Cake
" I just grow cold when I think of my layer cake. Oh, Diana, what if it shouldn't be good! I dreamed last night that I was chased all around by a fearful goblin with a big layer cake for a head."
Anne of Green Gables

This challenge was right up my alley, however, it happened to fall during my birthday and I REALLY wanted chocolate cake. I remembered the Anne of Green Gables cookbook has a chocolate goblin cake recipe, inspired by Anne's layer cake nightmare. Anne's layer cake was a golden yellow cake with red jelly in the center - not what I had in mind.

The Anne stories were published between 1907-1939. There are numerous references to chocolate cake in the books. However, the stories are set a little earlier, beginning in 1877. Anne's unfortunate cake baking incident occurs a year later, in 1878. [source: The Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson]

Upon researching cookbooks from that year, I had a dilemma. Research revealed that chocolate cakes as we know and love them did not yet exist!

In the first half of the 19th-century, when Marilla Cuthbert was learning to bake, chocolate cake was typically a yellow or spice cake meant to accompany a drink of chocolate. By the time Marilla was teaching Anne to cook, a typical chocolate cake was as white or yellow cake with chocolate icing meant to be eaten at tea time.  Later on, chocolate was grated and mixed into the batter and Anne's children would know chocolate cake made with melted chocolate or cocoa powder. I'm not sure Susan Baker would actually bake such a thing but if Shirley asked her to, she would or if Mrs. Doctor dear invaded Susan's kitchen, she might make a chocolate cake for the children. 

The common type of icing was boiled icing often made with egg whites. More modern buttercream type frostings came into popularity in the beginning of the 20th-century.

A timeline of chocolate cake:
1877 a Canadian cookbook features a tea cake filled with chocolate
By 1886 some recipes put grated chocolate IN the cake
1887 marble cake with white and chocolate 
1889 White House cookbook cake only chocolate only has chocolate in the filling
1900 Canadian cookbook features chocolate cake and cocoa cake.
1905 Chocolate cake recipes as we know them more or less appear.

[source: and research into numerous cookbooks from the time in which the stories are set]

Since the stories take place between 1877 and World War I (World War II if you include The Blythes are Quoted or The Road to Yesterday) and there are lots of references to chocolate cake up through Anne of Windy Poplars, (there's even a mention of Anne frosting cupcakes with Little Elizabeth, though the trendy confections as we know them did not yet exist), and chocolate cake and Devil's Cake or Devil's Food cake was around when Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote her novels, perhaps she would have made this cake for her boys and thought of it when she wrote chocolate cake into the Anne novels. 

"But we couldent fix up the stewpan. Marilla had to throw it out. Thanksgiving was last week. There was no school and we had a great dinner. I et mince pie and rost turkey and frut cake and donuts and cheese and jam and choklut cake."
Davy's letter to Anne from Anne of the Island
This reference doesn't sound like a chocolate filled cake. It's not tea time, it's dessert. 

"We had cold tongue and chicken and strawberry preserves, lemon pie and tarts and chocolate cake [my ephasis] and raisin cookies and pound cake and fruit cake—and a few other things, including more pie—caramel pie, I think it was. After I had eaten twice as much as was good for me, Mrs. Douglas sighed and said she feared she had nothing to tempt my appetite.
"'I'm afraid dear Janet's cooking has spoiled you for any other,' she said sweetly. 'Of course nobody in Valley Road aspires to rival HER. WON'T you have another piece of pie, Miss Shirley? You haven't eaten ANYTHING.'
"Stella, I had eaten a helping of tongue and one of chicken, three biscuits, a generous allowance of preserves, a piece of pie, a tart, and a square of chocolate cake!"

"A warm plummy odor filled the whole house, for Priscilla was cooking in the kitchen. Presently she came in, enshrouded in a huge work-apron, with a smudge of flour on her nose, to show Aunt Jamesina the chocolate cake she had just iced.
Anne scrambled to her feet somehow, emptying two indignant cats out of her lap as she did so, and mechanically shifting her wishbone from her right hand to her left. Priscilla, who would have had to cross the room to reach the kitchen door, lost her head, wildly plunged the chocolate cake under a cushion on the inglenook sofa, and dashed upstairs."

Anne of the Island

That's my justification for the recipe, anyway. Hey, it's my birthday and I'm not about to eat a non-chocolate cake! 

Devil Cake

Custard part:
Half cup grated chocolate, half cup sweet milk, one cup dark brown sugar, yolk of one egg. Stir all together on stove; cool slowly and set aside to cool.
Cake: One cup brown sugar, half cup butter, two eggs. Half cup sweet milk, two and a half cups flour. Cream butter and sugar, yolks of eggs; add milk and sifted flour and whites of eggs, beaten stiff; beat all together and stir in custard; lastly, add one teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a little warm water. Bake in layers and ice with chocolate.
Vogue Cookbook, News Publishing Co. Toronto, 1900

"Chocolate cake that is made with sour milk and soda is usually softer and darker in color than that made with sweet milk and baking powder Chocolate contains starch which thickens the batter so that less flour is needed for chocolate cake than for white cakes. Alkali darkens a chocolate mixture and a little soda added to the melted chocolate before putting it into the batter will not only darken the cake but also neutralize any free fatty acid in the chocolate and help to make the cake light. The large amount of soda in some recipes for chocolate cake serves the same purpose."
Wesley Hospital Bazaar Committee, The New Century Cookbook, Chicago, Ill., 1899

Marshmallow paste
¾ c. sugar
¼ c. milk
¼ lb. marshmallows
2 T hot water
½ tsp. vanilla
heat milk and sugar slowly until boiling point without stirring. Boil 6 minutes. Break marshmallows into pieces and melt in double boiler. Add hot water. Cook until smooth, then gradually add hot syrup stirring constantly. Beat until cool enough to spread. Add vanilla.

Chocolate fudge frosting
1 ½ T. butter
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
few grains salt
¼ c. milk
½ tsp. vanilla

Melt butter, add cocoa, sugar, salt and milk. Heat to boiling. Boil 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat until creamy. Add vanilla. Pour over cake.

Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Book, United States 1913

Date and Region: 1900, Toronto, Ontario, Canada/ 1913 United States 

Anne is a Canadian icon and I really wanted to find a cookbook she might use. I settled for using one Lucy Maud Montgomery may have seen after her marriage and move to Ontario.

I chose the more modern frostings from Fanny Farmer.

How did you make it: I intended to follow directions. I made my chocolate custard first and spiked the custard with ¼ tsp. Godiva chocolate liquor. (I know Marilla would NOT approve)Then I discovered I didn't have enough brown sugar for the cake. I tried to make my own mixing molasses and white sugaand it was an epic failure. The molasses made the white sugar clumpy. I tried to sift it but it was too sticky and thick to sift. I ran to the store to find brown sugar but alas, they had none. My dear Miss Cuthbert, (may I call you Marilla), brown sugar IS useful for something. I'm not sure I could use 20 lbs. either but I could have used some of that bag Matthew brought home. I also substituted sour milk for sweet milk, making sour milk with a bit of apple cider vinegar in sweet milk because I wanted a rich, dark cake. 

I then tasted the batter and it wasn't sweet enough. I added some semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter and ½ tsp. vanilla.

I sprayed layer cake pans with PAM + butter because I  had only a small amount of butter left was too lazy to butter and flour pans. I baked the cakes 30 minutes in “jelly pans” 

After freezing the cakes, I made the frostings. I spread a layer of marshmallow cream in the middle and frosted the outside with chocolate fudge.

How Successful Was It?: 
The cake baking was successful. I had trouble with the frostings. When I boiled the sugar syrup for the marshmallow frosting and followed the directions to NOT  stir it, the mixture burned! When I beat the chocolate fudge frosting mixture with an electric beater, it seized up and turned gross.  I tried again to cream the butter and sugar in a modern stand mixer, again without success. I went back to the original directions but mixed by hand this time for a successful fudge frosting. The cake baking went much better than poor Anne's did anyway. I did forget the vanilla in the frosting but I didn't confuse vanilla with liniment. 

ETA: YUMMMMM! This cake is a success. It's best eaten warm. The frosting makes it sweeter and richer. It got a thumb's up from the family. 

Time to Complete:  An hour or more for the whole thing. I did it in stages so 3 days total.

Total Cost:  Because I fail at frosting 101, I had to get more butter and cream. I don't feel like looking up how much that was but those ingredients would have come from the cows on the Green Gables farm. 

How Accurate Is It?: Well, the cake recipe is mostly accurate. The frosting recipes are accurate and the whole cake is accurate to the time period the Anne stories were written in. The plate is period correct!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 7

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016  Challenge 7:

Pretty as a Picture

The Challenge: Pretty as a Picture
If you’re a fan of cooking competition shows, you know how the saying goes: we eat first with our eyes. Make a dish that looks just as spectacular as it tastes. Extra points for historically accurate plating - and don’t forget to post pictures! 

The Recipe: 
It's my mom's birthday and I offered to make her something from her childhood as a birthday cake. I thought she would pick a pie, which she says is her favorite, or let me choose. She had a craving for gingerbread with cream cheese frosting. It was difficult to find a period recipe from the 50s or 60s for gingerbread, let alone gingerbread with cream cheese frosting. A little digging revealed Betty Crocker produced a gingerbread cake mix and pre-made cream cheese frosting. I went back a little earlier in time, knowing my grandmother could NOT cook when she married in 1944, her mother wasn't well enough to cook, so my grandmother used her mother-in-law's recipes. We did not have one for gingerbread cake in the family files so I turned to the Internet for help. 

The recipe I chose was:  "My Best Gingerbread" as found on A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn.
1940s United States.

For the frosting I chose Philadelphia's recipe. I don't know what year the ad is from but it looks vintage. Cream cheese frosting uses the same ingredients in every recipe, only the proportions change.

How did you make it:
I followed the directions on the card. I used butter instead of shortening for a richer flavor.  
soupy cake batter 

I baked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

The cake finally done after baking. The middle sunk a bit.

I followed the directions for the frosting but used a little less powdered sugar. The full amount was just too sweet for this type of cake. 

I then frosted the cake with cream cheese frosting. I decorated with chocolate bits and slivered almonds to make the daisy pattern seen in this ad

How Successful Was It?: It took a little longer to bake than the blogger's cake. The center was very wet. 
The frosting is very successful but it would not make enough for two 9" cakes as the recipe says. 

Taste-wise it was a success. My mom said it was exactly what she was wishing for and if she didn't have a dress to fit into she would have a second piece. The other adults gave it a thumb's up and I liked it too. It's a classic dense molasses gingerbread. The children only liked the chocolate chips on top. 

Time to Complete: about 1 1/2 hours total.

Total Cost:  We had to buy more molasses and regular cream cheese. We had everything else on hand.
Given the popularity of gingerbread during the colonial times and again during the Depression and World War II, this cake needs little sugar and was less expensive than other types of cakes and fit the wartime rationing rules. 

How Accurate Is It?: 100% down to the plate, which was my paternal grandmother's from the 1950s or 60s.