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. 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. 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.
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.
It 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.
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.
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!