Sunday, October 17, 2010

17 October 1956 “I revisit an Old Friend”

womanwithcake Now, readers, that old friend isn’t a person nor even a place, but a cake. That’s right, ladies and gentleman, a cake.
Back in my early days of 1955, it seems so far as to almost have been in 1955, yet is under two years ago, the kitchen was a new frontier. I was having a 1950’s dinner party and with all the newness of the kitchen and the cookery book, I felt overwhelmed. Then, out of the blue, my friend saved me: The Best Two-Egg Cake.2eggcake1 You can read about that first encounter in my old post HERE.  Re-reading that post, I had forgot how in those early days  things, such as the microwave, lurked around every corner to taunt me with the convenience of modern cookery.
The reason for my friends recent return yesterday, was convenience and a slimming pantry. I have learned, over the past two years, that to have a stocked and prepared pantry is important. Yet, I have also learned that to over-stock can often be a mistake both financially as well as for your baking results. Things, such as baking powder, even baking chocolate, loose thier flavor and cooking chemistry with time. So, with my weekly shopping schedlue, pantry basics take their turn in my weekly budget. One week may be flour and sugar, so cream of tartar or baking powder takes a back seat.
In the beginning I thought little of simply going out and filling up my cart just to see all those items waiting for me, as if I OWNED my own grocery store. For me that is no longer my situation. I have found, then buying less, having the essentials on hand but in smaller quantity, has allowed me to be both more frugal and more inventive. I often think of our 40’s wartime sisters faced with empty larders and having to invent sweets from ground up beetroot or egg-less cakes. So, for me, I often can find myself at the end of a shopping week with less things. Do I think, “drat, I forgot to buy this”, no for you see it is planned, in a way. I allow myself to fill the needs of the week within the allotted shopping budget and make do with what needs to be done.
I noticed, as time when on, how many advertising in the 1950’s ladies' magazines will show a new freezer packed to the rim with food. I think this must have felt a safe or happy thought, coming out of the war and also living in the threat of the nuclear bomb, as the Atomic Age was. Yet, as we can see, it was truly a false sense of safety, as their never was a need for hoarding and it merely worked its way into our American way of shopping. We wanted to ‘save up for a rainy day’.
I remember when I lived in Paris as a young girl. There were many aspects of that city that showed how different other parts of the world were to my own USA. Even the way one was treated as a customer was foreign to one who was used to the ‘the customer is always right’ mantra here in America. But, what I really noticed was the French housewife’s shopping.
Being young and rather poor I, out of necessity, would shop daily for my sustenance. I was no cook then, but found my ‘budget’ best used to grab some bread and cheese here, pate’ there, today an afternoon on a sidewalk cafe’ and a cigarette. My empty shopping basket was out of necessity, but I noticed, as I frequented the daily stalls and local Super Marché’, that I would see the same faces again and again. I came to learn that the French housewife does shop daily or almost daily, prefers fresh ingredients and to hand pick them herself every day. Even when fresh wasn’t available, daily shopping seemed to be the norm.
I must tell you readers, for those of you who have not been to Paris, the quality of fresh food available at every turn is wonderful. There one finds stalls of veg/fruit a fish monger, a butcher, and on and on. Wonderful fresh food at one’s fingertips.
In our country we began to want to have shelf-life, longevity, and ease in our food. This began to be more important than flavor, or nutrients of the food. Now, when one really considers the quality of prepared food in taste and nutrients, I am sure most would be appalled. But, when one doesn’t know, there is no comparison.
For me, store bought and easy here in the USA had become the norm. Yet, now, after two years of increasingly more home-made, I sometimes find prepared or store-bought foods to be almost inedible. After you have become accustomed to a home-made cake, try a box cake and you will know the difference. Even a pastry I once enjoyed at a chain cafe now tastes like chemicals and I wonder how I ever enjoyed it. Knowing the chemistry and ease of baking has made me appreciate ingredients. Therefore, when marketing day comes, the pantry does not get restocked full every week.
This week, my baking chocolate was almost gone from last weeks chocolate cake and a few nights of homemade hot chocolate (another thing that is far easier and tastier than premade mix you had hot water to). I also checked my egg supply (my hens have not yet started laying) and counted out the remaining breakfasts of the week. So, I knew a white cake (using so many precious egg whites) was out as well. Then, of course, I recalled my good friend: The Best Two Egg Cake.
For those of you who have not yet wanted to tempt fate with making your own cake, I really can suggest this as a good starter. It really is quite simple.2eggcakerecipe And when making this cake, really when doing any baking where one is creaming butter and sugar, really give that some time. The longer you cream your butter and sugar (to a point) the lighter your baked good will come out. This is a secret to light home-made cakes. What I have noticed is the super high moistness of a box cake tastes bland and rather cardboard like to the lightness combined with rich density of a homemade cake. And quite honestly it is not harder to make a homemade cake. You are still adding dry to wet ingredients and mixing it. Yet,  you can control what you are putting in and will learn to tweak recipes as you go. A pinch here, a dash of this there. And even a base recipe like this can become an easy chocolate cake with added baking chocolate or a touch of peppermint for the holidays.
2eggcake2 So, from that simple recipe you get a lovely dense and moist yellow cake. It has such a rich almost pound cake flavor, but really minor ingredients.
2eggcakeslieIt serves up a treat!
And, when you are also low on confectioners sugar, as I was, you turn to your other old friend, 7 minute frosting. Many frostings require powdered or confectioners sugar to thicken them and are often just a ‘mix it up’ frosting. When you use regular sugar, which is coarser, you must make a boiled frosting, sometimes using egg whites as is the case here, to get a stiff frosting. The wonderful result of this type of frosting is the sheen! It is a marvel to look at.
7minute frosteningcloseup I think this close up of yesterday’s cake shows the joyous sheen and movement if this easy frosting. It colors a treat, taking food color and making it a true shade. Wonderful at holidays, looks splendid coated it coconut, toasted coconut, dusted in powdered chocolate, a great canvas for shaved bits of rich dark eating chocolate. It is an all round good staple to have in the homemakers baking arsenal. So, do try it if you have not yet done so. Here is the recipe from my cookbook with variations on it.7minute frostening
So, I hope you enjoy trying this cake. It is a good penny pincher and yet always elicits happy smiles at the dinner table. Even my friend who often says, “Oh, I don’t like frosting, too sweet” raved about this cake yesterday. And it is a sweeter frosting, but it doesn’t have that over-sweet waxy taste of a bakery or grocery store frosting taste. Give it a try.
Until tomorrow Happy Homemaking!


  1. I think I may try my first "Real" homemade cake for Thanksgiving this year. I grew up with from a mix being "homemade". Store bought was MUCH more common. ;)

    Not sure what kind of cake just yet though. Yours looks delicious though.

  2. Amy-I suggest trying a cake out before Thanksgiving, just to have a dry run, sort of, except you get to eat the test! Once you see how simple it is to make a cake you will wonder why you haven't before. As I learned more about baking and cooking I began to see the pattern of ingredients emerge from recipe to recipe and began to understand the core basics of cooking. For example the ever present creaming butter and sugar this is the base for cookies cakes and other such treats, then the amount of flour to wet ingredients and the rising elements tell it to be a cookies or a cake and so on. As you master this you will soon find that 'making up your own' recipe is rather quite easy and using what you have on hand last minute becomes a fun challenge!

  3. Your cake looks beautiful--and delicious! I will have to give it a try one of these days.

    What I really want to know though is how you make your hot chocolate. I have been craving a good cup for a while...and haven't had any since I was a child and relied on the store bought mixes....

  4. Well, I sort of 'wing it' each time, but basically, I decide how many cups I am making and taking the drinking cup, measure out the milk. It is really done by taste. So, then I take, say for three glasses of milk (6 oz 1950's mugs, mind) about 1/4 or an 1/8 of unsweetened powdered baking chocolate. Then I add sugar, more than the amount of chocolate but not quite double. About a tsp of vanilla extract (sometimes, as I did the other day) some peppermint extract as well. Then simply simmer and use a whisk to really mix it and make a nice froth. I wait until it looks like it might boil, when you see the steam rise, that is simmering. And, of course, I taste as I go and add what I like. Sometimes instant coffee is fun to add. Or I will have half hot chocolate in a mug the rest coffee. This with homemade peppermint marshmallows is wonderful. It is very easy to make and you just do it to order. I realized as I began making more of my own things, how one merely needs the base ingredients in the home. Then you have less packaging, less garbage, spend less and need less space in your kitchen. It was a discovery that was not unlike the falling of dominoes, one thing leading to another.
    If you feel better with a more measure by measure recipe this is a good start.
    3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
    1/4 cup of sugar
    4 cups of milk
    1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
    mix in pan on low whisking until steaming. Serve with whip cream or marshmallows.
    Again, as you learn to make your own, you will find the rigidity of recipes no longer exist. Try making your hot chocolate with brown sugar instead of regular. At Christmas, use eggnog instead of milk. Try using hot water and cream rather than milk. Add cinnmon, nutmeg, any spices you like. Try it with almond and coconut extract and serve with whipped cream with a dash of toasted coconut. The hot chocolate world is yours to make and have fun Cedar. Think of the fun 'hot chocolate days' you shall have when your little one arrives and is old enough to appreciate it. Let him/her help you make it. Instilling the basics of cookery for any child, boy or girl, would be a wonderful gift, I think.

  5. You know I am sure a trial run will help lessen the stress. :) Thanks for reminding me...

    And YUM I LOVE hot chocolate as it gets closer to Christmas.

  6. Donna, thank you! I shall have to try this on the next rainy day we get.

    I definitely agree, and plan on having my child help out in the kitchen as much as possible. My mother never taught me to cook, and I, like you, had to go through quite a bit of mistakes to get to were I am now. I really hope to pass these things on to the little one.

  7. Though I am not a homemaker we make most of our food from scratch and do a lot of home preserving. I am planing to stay at home once we have children, well I will actually a farm wife since we live on a farm. My decision to wait until we have children is mainly because I have student loans and such that I want cleared off before I stay home, not because I think children are neccessary to justify staying home. I love your blog which I started reading earlier this year, it has helped give me a more defined idea of the approach I will take when I do stay home.
    Thank you for posting the icing recipe and for outlining how you make your hot chocolate. I bake cakes quite often and I do not like the super sweetness of most icing, but my husband loves icing so I keep looking for new recipes. I found one that uses maple syrup that, though sweet, was very good on the cake, I paired it with a pumpkin cake. As for the hot chocolate I have always wondered how to make it from scratch but just haven't gotten around to seaching for a recipe, this will be a perfect thing to make when having someone over to dinner on a chilly evening, or just to enjoy in front of the fire just the two of us.

  8. Thanks for posting your "old friends" again. I've been trying to avoid all packaged cakes, brownies, and cookies and have yet to find a wonderful cake recipe. The cookies are easier as I've been making Toll House for years. Do you have a brownie recipe you can share? It seems I need to make them often to bring when invited out and I just can't find a recipe.

    Thanks again. Lovely post!

  9. What a great post i really enjoyed the detail in it. I am always making cakes my boys love them. But i love the idea that less is more and will def be trying this new old receipe, Thanks Dee ;-)

  10. I've been looking for a good yellow cake, this one sounds just right!!

  11. The close up of the frosting looks like white caps on an arctic sea! Beautiful!

  12. What a lovely post 50sgal. I think the balance of a well-stocked pantry without 'overdoing' it to be something I'm thinking about a lot lately. I have the room for my stockpile and rarely waste a thing but I think I could calm down a little. I feel having excess can encourge me to use too much. eg. If I have a lot of stored shampoo I tend to use large amounts each wash; or those bananas will have to be used up so I'll do extra desserts or cakes or put one in my darling's lunch box when he already has enough to eat. I'm sure the marketers like us being more extravagant with our goods. Mmm thanks for mentioning this again. It all does take thought and management as do most aspects of homemaking. Isn't it a wonderful mind-expanding career.

    Thanks for being so detailed in all your writings. How I'd wished I'd had someone many years ago to mention for example how to recognise what 'simmering' looks like. You're wonderful. Thanks and thanks from all the readers who now and in the future will read your writings and have so much 'food for thought'. You're doing a wonderful job for society. Linda

  13. I've never cared for the way cocoa-based hot chocolate tastes. It's never creamy enough and almost always too bitter. We make our own mix and it's SO good!

  14. It can also be made by melting chocolate as well and you can make real hot chocolate. How do you make a mix without powdered chocolate? I used to make a powdered mix that had creamer in it, but I don't know as it is rather poor in taste compared to making it fresh with milk/cream. But now I am curious to know you make a mix without dry chocolate, if you don't mind sharing it with us.

  15. This comment is 5 years late, but I am surprised that no one had mentioned the Hershey's Cocoa recipe which used to be on the can of unsweetened cocoa. It is the only one I have ever used, and the cocoa my kids (all grown men now) grew up on. Several posts back you showed how you made your own chocolate syrup, and that is pretty much the way you make the cocoa. First you make a syrup of the cocoa powder, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt. Let that cook a minute or so to develop the flavors and then add the cold milk. Heat to the proper temp and then add a smidge of vanilla. Ambrosia! And if one is using canned evaporated milk, diluted, for the milk, it is a shortcut to start some water boiling in another vessel, then add that to the canned milk before adding it to the pot of syrup. The milk mixture will be pretty warm to start with, thereby shortening the heating time.


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