Historic Everyday Eats – Sunshine Cake


Greetings to all of my fellow food and history lovers! I am sorry that it has been so long since I last posted a historic recipe, but life has gotten in the way of my food experimenting time. 😉 To make it up to you, I have found a recipe that very well may be the best one yet. It came from an 1896 cookbook for a girls’ cooking school (titled, of course The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book), and I can’t tell you how much I loved looking through this book and finding this cake recipe.

Boston Cooking School Cookbook

Plus, the author’s name is Fannie Farmer. That makes anything she writes pure gold. From what I could tell by her introduction in the book, she had a very scientific mind and had an eye to the future of proper dietary planning and its effects on personal health. Hats off to Fannie, a natural leader and a woman ahead of her time.

Since this is my birthday week, I wanted to make a cake if I could find a suitable recipe. I found one for which I already had all of the ingredients and supplies needed, so it was the winner! The recipe for “Sunshine Cake” reads as follows:

Sunshine Cake

“Whites 10 eggs.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar.

Yolks 6 eggs.

1 teaspoon lemon extract.

1 cup flour.

1 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Beat whites of eggs until stiff and dry, add sugar gradually, and continue beating; then add yolks of eggs beaten until thick and lemon colored, and extract. Cut and fold in flour mixed and sifted with cream of tartar. Bake fifty minutes in a moderate oven in an angel cake pan.”

Taking a shot at making egg whites stiff and fluffy is always daunting, but you know what? If our foremothers could do it without a stand mixer, I can certainly try with all of my modern amenities! Let’s see how my sunshine cake turned out.


The ingredients: powdered sugar, eggs, flour, lemon (or in my case, orange–because it was what I had around) extract, and cream of tartar (not photographed–totally slipped my mind)! That’s right, just five ingredients.


First, the hard part: separating 10 eggs and beating the whites until they turned from this yellow goop…


…into this fluffy white mountain! This was all thanks to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. I beat the whites on high for about 8-10 minutes.


I then turned the mixer on low and gradually added the 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.


After the sugar was incorporated, I added the yolks of 6 eggs, beaten until they were thick and “lemon colored.” 😉


I then added in my orange extract (no, it’s not lemon, but it’s still a citrus and goes along with the “sunshine” theme). The resulting mixture was light and creamy.


I then folded in the flour and cream of tartar by hand. You don’t want to overmix at this point–the batter needs to be airy.


The batter went into my “angel cake pan” and into a 350 degree oven.


50 minutes later, I had a perfectly golden brown sunshine cake. 🙂


I turned the cake upside down and cooled it on a cooling rack for an hour before taking it out of the pan. (I buttered just the bottom of the angel food cake pan to help it slide out easier.)

While my cake was cooling, I contemplated a frosting. After attempting one recipe and failing (I will try it again and make it work in the future–promise!), I decided to go with a super simple recipe I found in the same cookbook called “Confectioners’ Frosting:”

confectioners frosting

“2 tablespoons boiling water.

Confectioners’ sugar.


To water add enough sifted sugar to make of right consistency to spread; then add flavoring. Fresh fruit juice may be used in place of boiling water. This is a most satisfactory frosting, and is both easily and quickly made.”


In fact, this frosting was very simple. I heated two tablespoons of water to boiling in the microwave, added about 2/3 of a cup of sugar, and about a teaspoon of orange extract. Voila! Easy and delicious frosting!


I poured the frosting on the cake and let it drip down the sides. The finished Sunshine Cake with Confectioners’ Frosting looked great!


It tasted even better–light and fluffy but oh so flavorful!

Sunshine Cake was one of my favorite recipes to make so far. But really, I have loved all of the recipes with which I’ve experimented over these months, whether they turned out great or were duds. That’s just part of the process. This book said it best with this quote in its front pages:

Cookery means...

Cookery means all of that and so much more to me. How I love it so.


Historic Everyday Eats – Queen Cake


Historic Everyday Eats is very special this week, folks! This entry should really be called “Historic Birthday Eats” because that is precisely the reason I made a cake! My mom came up to Chicago for the first time to celebrate her birthday last weekend (February 7), and I decided that this would be the perfect time to make my first historic cake! I picked a recipe for “Queen Cake” because what is better for a birthday queen? 😉

The 1818 recipe for “Queen Cakes” from The Universal Receipt Book (which I have used before) reads as follows:

Queen Cake

“Take a pound each of dried and sifted flour, beaten and sifted loaf sugar, and fine fresh butter washed in rose or orange-flower water. Pour the water from the butter, squeeze it well in the hand, and work it by very small bits at a time, with half the flour and six yolks, but only four whites of eggs, beaten well together, and mixed with the butter. Then work in the rest of the flour and the sugar, adding three spoonsful of orange flower-water, a little beaten mace, and a pound of nicely picked and dried currants. The pans must be well buttered, and filled half full, have a little double refined sugar sifted over, and be set in a quick oven.”

Before going into the process of making this cake (which I did make as one big cake instead of several small ones), I wanted to explain a couple of the ingredients. The first is orange-flower water, or orange blossom water as you will find it in stores now. Like rose water, this is an extract made from the blossoms of orange trees. Unlike rose water, it is not nearly as strong (in smell or flavor), but it does produce a very nice aroma and taste in the finished product. The second ingredient in question is/are currants. Currants are a small berry, and I could not find their dried version in my grocery store. After doing some research, I found that dried currants can be replaced by raisins, so that is what I used in this recipe. As per usual, I cut this recipe in half so I wouldn’t have pounds and pounds of cake sitting around. 😉

So let’s see how this Queen Cake came together:


The ingredients: 1 2/3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 sticks butter, 4 whole eggs plus two yolks, 3 tablespoons orange blossom water, 1 teaspoon mace, 1 1/2 cups raisins. (Powdered sugar is optional–I used it for topping the cake.)


I started by mixing half of the flour, half the sugar, all of the eggs, and all of the butter (cut into small pieces after being soaked in orange blossom water for about 5 minutes).


I then added in the rest of the flour and sugar in addition to 1 tsp mace and 3 tbsp orange blossom water.


After mixing the batter together, I added 1 1/2 cups of raisins.


This is a very sticky, wet batter, but it is very pretty with the chunks of butter and raisins!


I then poured the batter into a well-buttered 8×8 baking pan and topped it with a little granulated sugar.


I baked the cake in a 400 degree oven (which I thought would be “quick,” but not quite quick enough!) for 50 minutes. The cake came out golden and bubbly with a crumbly sugar top. 🙂


After letting the cake cool for about 45 minutes, I topped it with sifted powdered sugar just to make it a little more special. (It was for my mom’s birthday, after all!)


The final product was a flavorful and aromatic cake that was very dense and sweet. The orange blossom water really makes this cake because of that extra layer of smell it adds.

Queen Cake was a pretty big hit among my husband, my mother, and myself. It probably isn’t a typical “birthday” cake per se, but I believe it would actually make a great breakfast cake (along the lines of coffee cake or muffins). It’s definitely worth a try, and it’s definitely fit for a queen! 😉


Historic Everyday Eats – Beef-Steak Pie


Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week in Historic Everyday Eats, I decided to go with a historic recipe that was NOT a dessert–I know, it’s shocking. I’ve only made a “savory” dish one other time in my weeks of following historic recipes, so I figured it was about time to do it again. 😉

I found a recipe in the same cookbook that I used last week, (Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, 1832) and I didn’t break anything this time while making it! (Yay!) The non-dessert I chose out of this book was Beef-Steak Pie.

The recipe for “Beef-Steak Pie” reads as follows:

Beef-Steak Pie


“Butter a deep dish, and spread a sheet of paste all over the bottom, sides, and edge.

Cut away from your beef-steak all the bone,fat, gristle, and skin. Cut the lean in small thin pieces, about as large, generally, as the palm of your hand. Beat the meat well with the rolling-pin, to make it juicy and tender. If you put in the fat, it will make the gravy too greasy and strong, as it cannot be skimmed.

Put a layer of meat over the bottom-crust of your dish, and season it to your taste, with pepper, salt, and, if you choose, a little nutmeg. A small quantity of mushroom ketchup is an improvement; so, also, is a little minced onion.

Have ready some cold boiled potatoes sliced thin. Spread over themeat, a layer of potatoes, and a small piece of butter; then another layer of meat, seasoned, and then a layer of potatoes, and so on till the dish is full and heaped up in the middle, having a layer of meaton the top. Pour in a little water.

Cover the pie with a sheet of paste, and trim the edges. Notch it handsomely with a knife; and, if you choose, make a tulip of paste,and stick it in the middle of the lid, and lay leaves of paste round it.

Fresh oysters will greatly improve a beef-steak pie. So also will mushrooms.

Any meat pie may be made in a similar manner.”

(In case you’re wondering, mushroom ketchup is exactly what it sounds like–ketchup made from mushrooms instead of tomatoes. I could not find this in the store, but I still used mushrooms in the pie!)

Let’s see how I did with this savory dish!


The ingredients: 2 cups flour, 2 beaten eggs, 3 sticks butter (for the crust). 1 pound beef (I used sandwich steaks), 1/2 cup onion, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 1 pound potatoes, and salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.


First, I made the dough for my pie crusts using the same method as I did for pumpkin pie and apple pie. I mixed the 3 sticks of butter (in large, cold chunks) into the 2 cups of flour with the 2 beaten eggs and a few tablespoons of water. I then let the dough sit, covered in the refrigerator for about thirty minutes while I prepared the other ingredients.


I then sliced and diced my onion and mushrooms while I boiled the potatoes. (I cut up WAY too many mushrooms and onion, but that’s okay. I just used the leftovers as a side!)


Since I got packaged meat from the grocery store, I didn’t actually have to cut away the fat and bone , and since I got “sandwich steaks,” the pieces were already cut thin. (Thanking my lucky stars for grocery stores!) I cut the pieces roughly into the size of my palm (about 2ish inches), as the recipe states.


I then rolled out my pie dough and laid it into a disposable pie pan.


Next, I “beat” the chunks of meat with my rolling pin [I really just rolled them with the rolling pin because that was easier], and I began to layer my pie. I put down a layer of meat, followed by a sprinkling of pepper, salt, and nutmeg, followed by potatoes [boiled and cut thin], onions, and mushrooms. [Shock of all shocks–I forgot to put extra butter in the layers. Oh well. It still turned out well.]


I continued the layering until I had my final layer of beef “heaped” on top. [I had three layers of beef total.] I then poured on about two tablespoons of water.


I then topped the pie with a top layer of crust [or “paste”] and tried my best to cut fancy holes in it, but I did not even attempt to make a tulip out of leftover dough and lay pretty leaves all around the top because I am just not that talented. 😉 I poked more holes in the crust with a fork to release as much steam as possible.


I baked the pie in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour [on a cookie sheet in case of spill over]. This was a complete guess, of course, because there are absolutely no baking instructions with this recipe! The crust came out golden brown, and the filling was cooked perfectly.


While the pie was baking, I made a side of sauteed mushrooms and onions since I purchased way too many. 🙂


I was very hungry when I made this pie, so I cut into it after about 10 minutes of letting it sit after it came out of the oven. Because of that, it kind of fell apart when I took it out of the pan, but it was still delicious! The pepper and nutmeg go really well together and give the beef a distinct flavor. The onions, mushrooms, and potatoes inside the pie were a great combination, and the pie crust was flaky and buttery.


When it was time to get seconds, the pie had set for about 40 minutes, and it stayed together much better out of the pan [even the bottom crust stayed in place].

Beef-steak pie was definitely a winner in my house (especially with my dog Cosmo who tried to steal it off of our plates several times and finally succeeded in stealing some off of the counter while we weren’t looking). This recipe is pretty simple, and it is a nice hearty meal to have in the middle of winter!

I may have to give more savory recipes a go in the future, even though my heart does remain most strongly attached to desserts!

Historic Everyday Eats – Duchess Loaves


Today is a special day, my friends. It is Downton Day! That’s right, Downton Abbey, season 5 comes to U.S. television screens this very evening! I love, love, love this show (the romances, the drama, the scandal, the costumes), and since it is set in England in the early 1900s, I decided to make my first “Historic Everyday Eats” post of the new year come from an English cookbook written in 1908. That book is Sweets and Supper Dishes A La Mode by Harriet Ann De Salis.

Sweet and Savory Cookbook 1908

Any cookbook that starts off with a quote by Shakespeare is fine by me!

After perusing the pages of this book, I came across a recipe that I thought would be absolutely perfect for Downton Day — Duchess Loaves (or should I call them Dowager Countess Loaves?). These are sweet biscuit-like “loaves” filled with jelly, aka a perfect little finger food for throwing a multimillion-dollar party or for sitting on your couch watching other people do that.

The recipe for “Duchess Loaves” reads:

Duchess Loaves

“Put half a pint of milk into a stewpan with five ounces of flour, four ounces of butter, two ounces of sugar, two ounces of chopped almonds, and a little lemon juice. Place the pan upon the fire and stir it until it boils for about three minutes. Mix in three eggs one at a time. Divide the mixture into small round balls the size of a pigeon’s egg; place them on a baking sheet spread with butter, and bake to a light brown colour. When cold make an incision down the sides and fill the loaves with strawberry jam, sprinkle with desiccated cocoa-nut, dish up, and send to table.”

(Side note: “Desiccated” coconut is coconut meat that has been shredded then dried to remove as much moisture as possible. So it is okay to get coconut that just says “dried” on the package, but don’t get frozen coconut.)

Let’s see how my “loaves” turned out!


The ingredients and measurements: 1 cup whole milk, 2/3 cup flour, 1 stick butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup chopped almonds, juice from 1/2 a lemon, 3 eggs, strawberry jam, and dried coconut.



I first chopped the almonds into very small pieces. I bought slivered almonds at the store for the sole purpose that they were cheaper than the whole almonds, but as long as they are chopped when they go into the mixture, you can start with whatever you like!


I then mixed together the milk, butter, flour, sugar, almonds, and lemon in a pan on medium-high heat. This became a dough almost immediately, so I do not understand the instruction for stirring until it boils, but I did stir it for about three minutes on the stove top.


I then removed the mixture from the heat and mixed in the three eggs one at a time. I made sure to not let the eggs touch the bottom of the pan so they would not cook (aka scramble) immediately on the hot surface.


The end result was a sticky but solid dough with a very wet texture.


Since I don’t know what exactly the author meant by balls the size of a “pigeon’s egg,” I used my tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out somewhat-uniform dough balls. (It’s never completely uniform when I’m involved, however!)


I then evened out the dough balls by hand and placed them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil coated in butter.


I ended up needing two sheet pans for the loaves, but this is still a more acceptable amount of dough than some of the other historic recipes I’ve made. 😉 Since there were absolutely no temperature or time specifications for baking these in the recipe, I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Check them often while baking if you decide to make these, but I believe anywhere from 20-25 minutes will get these done!


After baking, I let the loaves cool on a wire rack for about an hour.


After the loaves thoroughly cooled, I cut them in half, spread them with strawberry jelly, topped the jelly with dried coconut, and topped them with the other half of the loaves.


To finish them, I sprinkled more dried coconut on the tops of the loaves. The end result is a little snack that is sweet, but not overly so. The loaves are dense and intensely nutty in flavor. Certainly this is a dessert that the entire Crawley family would have enjoyed!

This recipe for Duchess Loaves turned out better than I could have imagined, and I can only hope that they have lived up to the standards of Mrs. Patmore.

Mrs. Patmore

I am looking forward to eating the rest of my Duchess Loaves during the season 5 premiere of Downton Abbey tonight, and I hope you all will join me on the crazy ride that this season will surely prove to be!


Historic Holiday Eats – Christmas Cookies


Merry Week of Christmas, everyone! This week, I decided to go with a very appropriately named recipe in Amelia Simmons’ cookbook, American Cookery. The recipe is for Christmas cookies! And apparently, “Christmas” was synonymous with “coriander” in 1798.

Here is the recipe for “Another Christmas Cookey” (though I promise there was not another Christmas cookie recipe mentioned in the book, or I would have made it):

Christmas Cookie“To three pound flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve three tea spoonfuls of pearl ash in a tea cup of milk, kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and size you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put into an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.”

Once again, let me explain what some of these directions and words mean (or how I interpreted them, at least). When I read this recipe, I was shocked (I mean, really, really shocked) to see that it called for an entire TEA CUP of coriander. That is a ton of coriander, even if I don’t know exactly how big Amelia’s tea cup may have been. To settle that question, I did a little research on modern measurement conversions, and I determined that a “tea cup” would equal about 2/3 to 3/4 of a “cup” as we measure it now. WOW! That is a lot of coriander. However, if you think about it, it would have made a lot of sense to heavily spice baked goods that used pearl ash (a leavener that was the precursor to baking soda that I explained in last week’s post about gingerbread). Pearl ash would have had a very metallic taste, so something had to help cover that up! However, I was still really worried about how much coriander was called for in this recipe, so let’s see how it turned out.


I ended up halving this recipe, just like I did last week, because having about 100 cookies laying around is not good, no matter how much I like the idea! So the ingredients were: 5 1/4 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of coriander (gah!), 2 sticks of butter, 2 3/4 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda (pearl ash), and 3/4 cup of whole milk.


First, I measured out the 5 1/4 cups of flour (about 1.5 pounds) and added the 1/3 cup of coriander (which is almost an entire spice jar, in case you’re wondering). I mixed these two together and set the mixture to the side.


I then dissolved my baking soda in 3/4 cup of whole milk. Since this recipe has no other liquids in it, I decided to go with the slightly higher measurement for what I determined a “tea cup” to mean. I then set this to the side while I got the butter and sugar ready!


In my stand mixer, I used the paddle attachment to mix together two sticks of room temperature butter and 2 3/4 cups of sugar. This is called the “creaming method,” and is useful for all sorts of baked goods, including a number of cookies I’ve made over the years.


When the butter and sugar looked like this (after about 7-ish minutes at medium speed), I added the milk and baking soda mixture before slowly incorporating the flour and coriander mixture. I did this on a low speed setting to keep the flour from flying out of the mixing bowl while adding it.


When the dough came together and pulled away from the sides of the bowl (about 8 minutes), it was time to turn it out and roll it flat!


The dough was sticky, so I made sure to lay down flour on my board and to cover the top of the dough with more flour after compacting it into a disc.


I was honestly so surprised with how well this dough came together and how easy it was to roll out! It was certainly much easier than gingerbread!


After rolling it out (less than 3/4 of an inch thick, though–I wanted them to actually look like cookies), I cut and stamped the dough into the shapes I pleased. 😉 (And yes, that is a dog bone cookie cutter on the peninsula of the dough on the far end–I’m obsessed with my dogs, remember?)


This dough was so perfect for cutting out shapes! I couldn’t believe how well they turned out!


One of my favorite shapes was the Christmas trees! (I once again baked on aluminum foil to cut down on clean up.)


And another favorite was the snowmen! These little guys went into a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes.


While baking, the cookies rose significantly, so they lost a little bit of their shape.


While the snowman was more of a blob by the time he was done baking, he still tasted fantastic!



These cookies smelled amazing while they were baking, and after letting them cool for about 4-ish minutes (couldn’t wait, really), Sam and I dove into them. I was really shocked with their taste! I thought the coriander would overwhelm the cookies, but it gave them a unique, fruity-yet-spicy flavor. Also, they weren’t as hard as a rock when they came out of the oven, like the recipe implied. They do keep getting better with each passing day though! They’re definitely a good flavor and texture for Christmas!


After cutting this recipe in half and making two dozen cookies, I still had dough left over (yay!), so I placed it in a zip-top bag and put it in the freezer to use at a later date.

I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It ranks among my favorites that I’ve made so far during my “Historic Holiday Eats” run. This dough has barely any liquid in it and absolutely no eggs, yet it came together so well and was incredibly easy to work with–not too stiff, and not so delicate that it tore when rolled out. Also, the taste was so incredible. I was so wary of using so much coriander, but I truly loved it in the end. I may have a new favorite Christmas cookie flavor! (So maybe Christmas should be synonymous with coriander after all.)

All-in-all, this would be a wonderful treat to make for a gathering this week! It’s fun, it’s easy, and you can eat the dough while making it without the fear of getting salmonella because there are no eggs in it at all! Thus, this would probably be a great cookie recipe to try with kids (and adults) who like to sneak a bite a cookie dough (like me). What better way to celebrate Christmas than with “Another Christmas Cookey?”