1,2,3,4 Cake (Project VICTORIAN CAKES)

Always baked by Mother, and flavored to the preference of the celebrant, this "simple old receipt, a stand-by in every family" was the base of every birthday cake in the Campion household.

Caroline and her sister, Kitty, were fond of a chocolate version (made by substituting some flour for cocoa powder), while eldest Emily preferred Almond. Maud chose lemon; Molly, orange; Father, raisins; Aunt Sophie, citron; Uncle George, nuts and spices. As Emil and Anna's birthdays were separated by just a week, Mother would bake a large cake flavored "in true German fashion with anise" for them to take to Anna's for a private celebration. Caroline does not record what flavor Mother herself was fond of, though for some reason i like to think that she would have chosen coconut. 

In a time before wide-spread literacy and standard measurements, the 1,2,3,4 Cake was about as democractic a cake as one could get. The ingredients few, the taste fantastic, it really was, and is, the classic yellow cake. The birthday cake. (Alice Waters agrees. See The Art of Simple Food.)  And let it be known that this is not the last time you will see 1,2,3,4 Cake here, I love it that much.

1,2,3,4 Cake
Adapted from the 19th c. (and Victorian Cakes by Caroline B. King)

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c (400 g) sugar
3 c (375 g) all-purpose flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp baking powder
1 c (240 g) whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare a large capacity loaf pan (like a Pullman) and set it on a baking sheet just in case.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and set aside. 
Add the vanilla to the milk and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each in fully before adding the next.
Stop and scrape the bowl!
On low speed, mix in the flour mixture and the vanilla milk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry. 
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and slide into the hot oven. 
Bake for 70 minutes or until a cake test comes back clean and the sides of the cake begin pulling away from the pan. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. 

Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

CakeBook Monday: SEVENTY-FIVE RECEIPTS by A Lady of Philadelphia

That Lady would be Eliza Leslie, one of the most popular cookery writers of the 19th century. Considered the first baking book to be published in the United States by an American author, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828) is lovely little volume. As Eliza notes in the introduction, "The receipts in this little book are, in every sense of the word, American." This holds especially true for her recipes incorporating a popular ingredient of "the new world": Indian Meal. I mentioned this book, and the Indian Meal Cake, briefly when I posted about another CakeBook Monday selection (Baking In America), but I thought her book, and her contribution to cookbooks and cookery writing, important enough to warrant her own Monday slot. 

Other than the Indian Meal Cake, I have not yet baked one of her recipes from this book, though I do want to try Queen Cake out of sheer curiosity:

CakeBook Monday: Cake Making at High Altitude

This slim advertising pamphlet from the Swans Down company is one of my favorites. The graphics are fantastic, as are the recipes which cover a range of altitudes from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. Published in 1955, all of the classic cakes of the day are represented, from Devil's Food and Front Cake to Angel Food and Wonder Cake. There's also a trove of recipes for fillings and frostings such as Sugarplum (Seven Minute Frosting with Prunes), Sea Foam (Seven Minute with brown sugar instead of corn syrup), and Clever Judy (an uncooked egg-based chocolate frosting). 

The King's Shoelaces (Project VICTORIAN CAKES)

It is not surprising that a man of Father's presence held great attraction for the ladies. Every unattached female who came into our home, and many, I fear, who were already safely married, had her flirtatious eye on him. Visitors, pensioners, clients, all fell before Father's Irish charm; but he, to do him justice, was to all appearances quite unconscious of his conquests, while mother was merely amused. (p. 82 of Victorian Cakes)

The passage above is from the enticingly-titled chapter Father's Lady Friends. In it, Caroline introduces us to a variety of women who made frequent visits to the Campion home and were smitten with her father, Robert. All of them are remembered through the cake recipes they contributed to the families collection, but none are quite like The King's Shoelaces.

A Miss Lizzie Dexter can be thanked for bringing this confection to the family table. "An Irish gentlewoman of a certain age," Lizzie was introduced to the family following the Great Fire. Though suffering no loss herself, she volunteered to aid those devistated by the blaze, among them being the Campions, who "barely escaped with their lives." Quickly befriending Mrs. Campion, she soon became a beloved guest and the woman whom Robert jokingly proclaimed to be who he'd like for a second wife (causing much flustering for Miss Dexter and, I imagine, Mrs. Campion as well because, I mean, come on). 

Though skilled in many areas that she demonstrated, it was with this cake that Lizzie made her strongest impression. "Its name had a glamorous sound, and the cake was uncommonly good," Caroline remarked. And I have to agree . . . once you get past the sheer oddness of cake served in such a manner, it really is a lovely little bite, redolent with the Orange Flower Water and Lemon used to flavor the strips.

The King's Shoelaces
Adapted from Victorian Cake by Caroline B. King

3 large eggs, divided, at room temperature
1 c (125 g) all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 tbsp. Orange Flower Water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a half-sheet pan with a Slipat or parchment paper

Separate the eggs and set aside. Whisk together the flour with the baking powder and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, rub the zest of the lemon into the sugar until incorporated. Add the egg yolks and beat at medium speed until foamy, about 4 mintues. Remove from the mixer and, by hand, fold in the Orange Flower Water followed by the flour. Beat the egg whites on medium-high in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter with care. 

Spread the batter evenly across the prepared half-sheet pan. Put into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until a cake test comes back clean and the top is faintly colored. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

To make into "shoelaces," lay the cooled cake upside down on a large cutting board liberally dusted with powdered sugar. Carefully peel away the Silpat or parchment, then dust the exposed cake. Using a pizza cutter, slice the cake into long, thin strips, dusting each with powdered sugar before setting aside.

In the book, Caroline remarks that they would enjoy the cake with cold milk or lemonade in the Summer or Hot Cocoa in the Winter, and indeed, any of those accompaniments would be perfect. 

CakeBook Monday: THE CAKE COOK BOOK by Lilith Rushing and Ruth Voss

This wonderful cookbook from 1965 contains a plethora of cake recipes, but the reason I really love it is for the Rare, Historical, and Offbeat chapter which contains the priceless recipe for the Toothless Nell Cake. Plenty of used copies can be found online for as little as a mere penny.

Toothless Nell lies buried in Boot Hill at Dodge City, Kansas. Wyatt Erp, Bat Masterson and other law men of that day probably tried to keep her in bounds. We are told she liked this cake. How she ate it without teeth history doesn't record.


I baked and wrote about the Toothless Nell cake for my former blog, Domestology, back in 2012. You can find that post here if so inclined.