HED:Phyllis Harper’s Cooking Column for Feb. 19
By Phyllis Harper
It takes the cake!
Cakes have been valued since mankind first learned to cultivate and harvest and grind grain. They probably were rather plain affairs in those early days, baked dough sweetened with honey.
The word “cake” came to us from Middle English, which probably had its origins in Old Norse. The saying that something “takes the cake” means that it is a prize-winning achievement, and dates back to times when cakes were given as prizes in athletic contests or other contests.
From the earliest days of civilization, man considered cake a food for the gods as well as himself, says the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. The Egyptians made cakes in animal, bird, and human forms for their gods and the Greeks offered cakes to their gods. The Norse people baked honey cakes for Thor at their winter solstice to ensure a fruitful year to come.
In America today, we have two main types of cakes, those made with fat and those without. Standard cakes and pound cakes are made with fat, often with lots of it. The pound cake got its name from a pound of each ingredient, including butter.
Angel food cakes are made with no fat and beaten egg whites, plus flour, sugar and flavoring. Sponge cakes are the same, except that beaten egg yolks are added after the beaten egg whites.
Chiffon cakes are relatively new, having come along in this century, and they use oil instead of a solid shortening.
Today we can make cakes from scratch, buy boxed mixes, or by a combination of the two.
In response to a request from Iris Sappington for a recipe for a Lane Cake, and the history behind its name, Lindell Waters sent a recipe for the cake. She said her recipe came from Eleanor Murphy at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Ala.
“According to my information, a lady by the name of Mrs. Lane of Macon, Ga., originated the cake,” Lindell said. It is an old recipe and the cake is best when it is one or two days old.
Another request, this one for a Rum Cake recipe, was left on my voice mail without a name, and I’ve found a couple of those in the Cooking Encyclopedia.
3 and 1/4 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
8 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
Sift flour and baking powder together 3 times. Cream butter and sugar until very light. Alternately add flour and milk a little at a time, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in egg whites and vanilla. Line the bottoms of four 8- or 9-inch cake pans with brown paper. Pour batter into pans and bake about 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Let cool before filling, and then ice whole cake with a white icing. Place in a tight cake pan.
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup finely chopped and seeded raisins
1/3 cup whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat egg yolks, sugar, and butter together; pour into heavy saucepan or use double boiler. Cook until quite thick, stirring all the time, for about 20 minutes. When thick and still quite hot, add remaining ingredients. Let cool; spread filling between layers.
Use your favorite white icing to cover top and sides of cake.
ITALIAN RUM CAKE
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Garnishes, if desired
Beat eggs until light; gradually beat in sugar. Keep on beating until mixture is thick and pale in color – use an electric beater at high speed for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in water and vanilla. Sift flour with baking powder; fold into egg mixture. Bake in greased and floured 9-inch springform pan in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan while makig topping.
TOPPING FOR RUM CAKE
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 cups hot milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dark rum
1 large orange
1 cup heavy cream
Soften gelatin in cold water. Stir in hot milk and sugar. Cook over low heat until mixture is hot and gelatin dissolved. Mixture MUST NOT boil. Gradually pour over egg yolks, stirring constantly. Stir in rum. Set pan in bowl of cracked ice and stir constantly until mixture cools and begins to set. Peel orange and separate into segments. Fold orange segments and cream into custard.
Pour topping over cooled cake in pan and chill until serving. To serve, remove cake from pan and place on platter. Garnish with orange segments, if desired, and with rosettes of whipped cream.
CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE
1 ounce (1square) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 and 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup dark rum
Rum Chocolate Frosting (recipe below)
Melt chocolate in water over very low heat, stirring constantly. Cool. Cream butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift flour with baking powder, salt, and soda. Add flour and chocolate alternately to egg mixture; beating until smooth. Stir in rum. Line 1 9-inch cake pan with greased wax paper. Distribute batter evenly into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until cake tests done. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn out on racks and peel off paper. Cool completely, fill and frost.
RUM CHOCOLATE FROSTING
Melt 3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate with 1/2 cup dark rum over low heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 4 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1/4 cup of soft butter. Add a little bit more rum if necessary to make frosting of spreading consistency.