Friday, October 17, 2014

Chocolate Cake 1877 or Brownie Cake!

The Brownie Cake with drippy icing.
This is really for the Fortnightly Food Challenge "Let them eat Cake!" which I thought was 2 weeks ago and scrambled to fit a post.  So, here's the real deal.  As a bonus, I get to make yet another cake on Sunday.  I seem to be Cake Lady lately.  Fortunately I don't have to eat it.

"The 16th is the anniversary of the beheading of Marie Antoinette (zut alors!). In honor of Madame Deficit, prepare your best cake from a historic recipe. And then eat it, bien sur.," and this is basically 3 layers of brownies with chocolate icing, you just can't go wrong.  My favorite cake of all time is not historic, so this is a pretty close second.  Actually, as I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cake, this is just my favorite chocolate cake... anyway, it's good no matter what. 

It was not a pretty cake.  For the life of me, I couldn't get it to level nicely, and the icing just enhanced every imperfection.  I felt like the executioner who just had to keep hacking away to get the job done.  It actually looked much better with the chef's knife stuck in it - truly... for whatever reason, that knife just made the whole thing into something delightful.  All it lacked was a strawberry jam topping pouring out & it would have been utterly fabulous.  It tasted fabulous.

"The Brownie Cake" from Buckeye Cookery 1877.
"One cup butter, three of brown sugar, one of sweet milk, four of flour, yolks of seven eggs, nine table-spoons grated Baker's chocolate, three tea-spoons baking-powder. This may be baked as a layer cake, making a white cake of the whites of the eggs, baking in layers, and putting them together with frosting, alternating the layers".--Mrs. Frank Woods Robinson, Kenton.

I made some economical changes, but nothing out of historic probability.  
1 c. butter (softened)
3 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. of 2% milk (use sweetened condensed for a denser cake)
4 c. flour (sifted)
5 eggs (2 whole, 3 yolks, reserve whites for icing)
9 tbsp unsweetened baker's chocolate, grated fine (powdered cocoa is OK too, but the texture is different)
2 tsp baking powder

Cream the sugar & butter
Alternate milk & dry ingredients
Mix dry ingredients

 Cream butter & sugar, beat in eggs one at a time.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternately mix milk & dry to the creamed sugar until it has a smooth consistency.  Put in 3 9" greased & floured pans (parchment paper is fine too), bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes or until done.  A little gooey is fine, but to stack, you want it baked.  Take out of pan & cool on wire racks.

stiff peaks for eggwhites
everything combined
 I used the icing from a different (nearly identical) chocolate cake recipe.
"For icing, take whites of three eggs, beaten stiff, one and a half cups powdered sugar, six table-spoons grated chocolate, two tea-spoons vanilla".--Mrs. J. H. Shearer.

3 egg whites (beaten to hard peaks)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
6 tbsp grated chocolate (powdered cocoa works too)
2 tsp vanilla extract.

Beat egg whites, beat vanilla in.  Mix dry ingredients & slowly add to egg white mixture, beating all the time.  (You could add boiling water to cook the egg whites to reduce the bacteria risk, but that's up to you).

This ends up being more of a glaze than a true frosting.  It tastes great and doesn't overwhelm the cake.

Time: About 2 hours total.
Cost: I had everything on hand, but I'd say roughly $7 in supplies.  Not cheap, but then handmade cakes never are.  I don't want to think about how much it would be if you had to actually buy everything outright, probably around $30, but you'd have a lot of staples in your pantry after that.
Accuracy: fairly.  I used cocoa powder because I got tired of grating baker's chocolate.  Modern gas oven.  Fridge to cool the cake.
Results: it's pretty much a cake made from brownies.  Good brownies.  With good glazed icing.  I don't like that the icing pours down so much, it wrecked my pretty drizzle lines, and the cake itself is not really easy to carve (or even level) so that's something to remember.  Everyone loved it.  It's very rich, so go easy on the portion sizes. 
Mamma, give me some cake.
Our friends at the meeting fed him waaaaay too much of it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Steamed Carrot Pudding with Vanilla Sauce, 1942-49

Steamed Carrot Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
"Throughout history, housewives and housekeepers have kept a close eye on their budgets and found creative ways to pinch pennies while providing delicious and nutritious food. Create a dish that interprets one historically-documented method of frugal cooking."
This recipe is from 'The Good Housekeeping Cook Book' 1942, 1944 & 1949.  It is a tasty lesson in frugality.  I did not use any of the suggested recipes in "Thrifty Meals" mostly because it would not have met the core definition of frugal, which is "sparing or economical with regard to money or food."  I took the challenge to be literally frugal, and use exactly what I had on hand to create a meal or part of a meal, without spending any additional money.  It was just a matter of finding a recipe that I had ingredients for.

no grating skin
Here is the recipe, you'll just have to turn your head to the side as Blogger insists on it being this way.  Stupid blogger.
I shredded everything, and despite my mother's jokes about "how much skin does the recipe call for?" I escaped with my knuckles intact.  I used suet as my kid is having a hard time with dairy (suet doesn't cream like shortening does, do not expect "light & fluffy").  This took the zest of 1 lemon, about 4 carrots, and 6 tbsp of grated suet.  That is a lot of hand grating on that old thing.

Stir everything in together.  It's really pretty & smells great at this stage. 

stir everything together
hey, look!  It's right way round!
Pop it in the mold, be sure to leave space (I chickened out on the one with the hole in it & used the solid).  It'll come out fine, so no worries, just grease & flour really well.  Cover with 2 layers of waxed paper & set in steamer or on rack in a larger pan.  Cover & steam 1 hr.  

Just before your pudding is done you'll need to start your vanilla sauce.  It takes about 10 minutes start to finish, but you'll want it hot.

more sideways reading for you.  Sorry.
  Very easy.  Just make sure nothing is lumpy going in.  Spoon out any surprise lumps later.  Stir for a little more than 5 minutes until it's clearish, then turn off the heat & add the other ingredients.  Very easy.
finished vanilla sauce with nutmeg

The pudding out of the steamer & unwrapped.  Some of the waxed paper stuck to the mold, but I think it will come off when I wash it.  It was really beautiful this way, and I prefer it to the duller upside down, but it's so sticky it would be hard to keep that glorious finish, which is why the vanilla sauce is so important. 

How Accurate Was It?
Everything according to the directions, with essentially the right tools & equipment, so very.  Wooden spoons are your friend here.  I cooked on a gas stove.

How Long Did It Take?
3 hours start to finish, though there were a few toddler breaks in there, so probably more like 2 hours total, 1 for prep & one to steam it.

How Much Did It Cost?
Everything was already on hand, and a lot of it had to be used soon or thrown out anyway - so goal accomplished, it reduced waste.

How Did It Taste?
Mom: This blows Evelin Peck's carrot cake out of the water.  (I've heard about EP's carrot cake my whole life, it's practically mythical).
Dad: Excellent.  I only ate 2 pieces.
John: This is as good as your chocolate cake  (FYI, that chocolate cake is among the best things I've ever eaten - ever.  NOTE: my husband doesn't like chocolate cake, but he likes that one).
Me: It's interesting.  It's good.  Very spicy & smells great.
John Robert: "NO!"  And he wouldn't eat it either.  He'd pick up a piece, smell it & shake his head & toss it aside.  Too many spices for baby.

Steamed Carrot Pudding is moist, savory, smells wonderful, has a great texture, the raisins are perfectly juicy, it's easy to eat.  I'm a fan.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mr. Brown Can Moo Cake (and a 1st Birthday Too!)

Mr. Brown Can Moo
1st Birthday Cake
My son's favorite book is 'Mr. Brown Can Moo' by Dr. Seuss.  We read that thing about 5x/day.  So it was obvious that we should have a Dr. Seuss / Mr. Brown 1st Birthday theme party.  I came up with a few silly games & made some funny hats out of felt and our friend Missy brought green deviled eggs, and of course we had roast beast, and a funny cake.

The cake recipe was the hardest decision because JR can't eat dairy, and I can't eat palm or coconut (try finding shortening without it).  We solved our problems with lard and juice and marshmallows and eggs.  And sugar.  Lots & lots of sugar.  Let's not think about how much sugar.

Here is the original cake recipe* from Buckeye Cookery 1877
*yes, I squeezed a Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge into my son's birthday - what can I say?  It tastes good, so why not?

Gold Part.--Yolks of eight eggs, scant cup butter, two of sugar, four of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch; flavor with lemon and vanilla.

Silver Part.--Two cups sugar, one of butter, four (scant) of flour, one of sour milk, tea-spoon soda, table-spoon corn starch, whites of eight eggs; flavor with almond or peach. Put in pan, alternately, one spoonful of gold and one of silver.--Miss Emma Fisher.

Figures are marzipan, natural and artificial colors
the black paint is food coloring gel just painted
on with a synthetic brush.
Hard Money Cake 

Yellow cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
1 c. butter/lard
2 c. sugar
1 tsp lemon
1 tsp vanilla
8 egg yolks
1 c. sour milk / orange juice
White cake:
4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch
2 c. sugar.
1 c. butter / lard
8 egg whites
1 c. sour milk / orange juice / water / other juice
1 tsp almond extract or peach juice

Once he figured out it wasn't sand
there were a lot of "mmm mmm"
noises.  Awesome.
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease & flour (4) 8” round pans & (1) 9x13” pan, parchment paper optional.
In 2 medium bowls, mix flour, baking soda & corn starch for both cakes.  Set aside.
In 2 large bowls, cream sugar & butter.  Add vanilla & lemon juice to yellow cake.  Add almond extract OR peach juice to white cake.
In 3 smaller bowls, separate yolks from whites using the 3rd bowl to hold the shells.  Beat each till mixed.
Beat eggs into respective creamed sugar.
Alternate flour mixture & milk, stir until combined.
Spoon into pans alternately, no more than ½ full. 
Bake at 350 until done, 45min – 1+hrs.   (35-40 min if using lard)

I did not do the coin thing for this cake, just added a bit of extra liquid to the yellow cake & made them both up as separate layers.  When I made the cake the first time I found out that the yellow & white aren't that different once they are baked, so no point.  This bad boy will serve 20 generous, 40 wedding cut.
Caution: lard burns fast.  Watch it the last 15 minutes, don't go off to play with your baby.  Just don't.

Accuracy: fairly.  At least for this part.  After this it's totally not.  It's just a cake.
The substitutions are plausible and tasty, and would have been available in summer in 1877 in our area of NY.  I see no reason not to use them.  I lined the pans with parchment, etc.  Just used a conventional gas oven.  All my tools are hand tools, so no major issues there.

Cost: Let's not even think about it.  Truly.  It's not a box mix.

Results: pretty darn good.  Not fabulous.  Not "if you touch the last piece I'll stab you with my fork" good, but it was a tasty cake.  I would not have complained to the bakery if I had bought it.  It was light enough to have some air bubbles & dense enough to allow for carving & stacking (yes, I used plastic straw dowels to support the layers, which were removable).

Basic Marzipan, sticky as slug slime...
far better tasting.
Marzipan Mr. Brown
I used a cooked marzipan recipe by Elizabeth LaBau mostly because it's cooked egg whites.  I know the chances of getting sick are like 1:100,000,000 or something insane like that, but baby = cautious mom. 

A few words of caution: while this recipe is excellent in both flavor and final product, it is not all that easy to make and it is sticky as slug-slime to start.  Have a friend help you with the powdered sugar and plan on using a lot.  Also, it does not hold its shape well when you first start working it.  Let the various pieces dry a little before trying to stick anything together.  Expect some slumping.

A bit of history on marzipan: the early recipes go back insanely far.  If you want a sweet European/Middle Eastern treat for a medieval or renaissance era feast, this is a good option as long as nut allergies aren't an issue.  Recipes call for rose water, almond extract, orange extracts, etc.  Steer clear of vanilla until later recipes... actually, steer clear of it entirely, everything today tastes like vanilla today - it's overused.

7-Minute Frosting 1 from All Recipes by cookinwifeandmom
Hilarious.  More like 35 minute frosting with 7 minutes before the blasted stuff crusts over into nasty sugary shattery bits, and I had to finish it off with the hand whisk before it got anywhere near soft peak stage.  Tastes great though.  Stuck the cake together like nobody's business.  Cleaned up easy after it got everywhere.

Help me!  She's going to EAT me!
This marshmallow fondant.  It's A-Mazing.  It's easy.  It tastes GOOD.  It works.  It takes food coloring like a charm.  It's paintable.  I highly recommend it.  If it starts to dry out, add some shortening (not much) and knead it in.  Problem solved.  Feel free to refrigerate ahead or freeze, but don't refrigerate the cake after its on or you may risk slumping. I was worried that I had put on too much jam-glue, but it was perfect.

I stuck the marzipan & fondant on the cake (and each other) with diluted orange marmalade.  Delicious.

Time: The cake took about 1 week to make, starting with mixing up the marzipan & fondant, then on to sculpting the figurines.  I baked and carved the cake on Friday, and put the marzipan layer on.  It rested overnight.  I applied the white fondant on Saturday and then did the colored fondant & painting.  Doweled & stacked it Saturday & boxed it up for the party on Sunday.  We ate it Sunday afternoon and it tasted great.  Dad ate the last piece yesterday, everything was still good, so it lasts.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not a professional baker and have no intention of ever being one.  This was my first time using fondant ever, if that gives you any idea of how easy that recipe is to use...
I'm in love with food coloring as paint.  That is awesome.  I highly recommend trying it.  You'll need a hard, smooth frosting (not buttercream) and gel food coloring.  My kid pooed green the next day.  Again, awesome.  While I hope he can eat dairy someday, we did not settle for second best here.