Small Basic Cake (ca. 1937)

Alas, it’s been a while since I ran across anything from general history that’s interesting enough to report on here!  But I am still using my vintage pamphlet collection.  Last week I baked a cake from the Sands, Taylor & Wood Co., aka King Arthur Flour (previously mentioned here), and it was excellent.  The first recipe in the booklet, it’s appropriately billed as “For the Small Family” – it’s only one 9-inch layer, baked 30-35 minutes in a 350-degree oven.  Here’s the whole recipe:

1-1/3 cups King Arthur Flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk

Cream shortening.  Add sugar and continue creaming.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.  Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk.  Pour into oiled pan and bake.

It was delicious – in fact, even better the second day than the first.  I prep my cake pans with shortening and flour and a layer of waxed paper in the bottom, not with oil, and used only about a half-teaspoon of salt.  And in my oven it did need to bake for almost exactly 30 minutes.

The I frosted it with

Butter Icing (Chocolate Variation)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 square of melted chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons cream (or top milk)
1/8 teaspoon salt

1.  Add sugar, salt, and cream to the melted butter and chocolate.

2.  Place over hot water and let stand for five minutes.

3.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, and beat until cool and of spreading consistency.

I used lactose-free whole milk instead of cream, and it worked just fine.  I melted the butter and chocolate in a double-boiler, then mixed in the other ingredients and let it all stand for the five minutes over the hot water.  It took quite a while to beat and cool down to spreading consistency – in fact I beat it at bit too long, because I have a lengthy record of making frosting that drips off the side of the cake.  It was just barely spreadable and didn’t look all nice and smooth, but it did stay put on the cake where it belonged.  Next time, I’ll try stopping a bit sooner.

I’ve decided to work through most of the rest of the cake recipes in this booklet.  There are a surprising (to modern eyes) number of loaf cakes.  I’m not sure I’ll try all the fruit cakes (and I’ll definitely be skipping the Fresh Pork Fruit Cake – which actually calls for a pound of pork fat, not actual meat, so I guess I could substitute shortening, but I don’t know where I’d get any sorghum or a quarter-pound of citron).

And I ought to try some of these fillings, too.  Mmm.  Plus, yard work.  Lots and lots of yard work.  And jogging, probably.

4 thoughts on “Small Basic Cake (ca. 1937)

    • It’s vegetable oils treated so they’re a creamy solid stuff – an alternative to butter or lard (some shortenings are made with animal fats, but I don’t use those). Crisco is a major brand.

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