Historic Everyday Eats – Sunshine Cake

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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. πŸ˜‰ 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.

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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.

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

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…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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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50 minutes later, I had a perfectly golden brown sunshine cake. πŸ™‚

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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.

Flavoring.

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

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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!

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

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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

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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? πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜‰

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

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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.)

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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).

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

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

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

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

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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. πŸ™‚

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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!)

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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! πŸ˜‰