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November 11, 2004

General Observations on Cakes

- Taken from American Matron 1851 -

It is an excellent plan for the mistress of a household to keep always a tire*, high in the neck, with short sleeves, for herself or her domestic to put on, when either bread or cake is to be made. Always requre your cook to do this more especially if she has other duties to perform out of the kitchen. Have it well understood that it must be kept for this purpose, and this alone. To be taken off when this duty is accomplished.
Have every thing which you require in your preparation at hand, before commencing. Be equally careful not to make trouble for your domestic or yourself, by scattering materials, by soiling your tables or the floor, or by the needless multiplication of utensils.
Have your pans buttered, your flour and sugar sifted and weighed; your butter washed and weighed; your eggs counted, ready to be broken; the spices and fruits all ready. Use wood or earthen in preference to tin vessels to make your cake in.
Put your eggs into cold water some time before breaking them. They will beat to a finer froth, and in shorter time when cold. In summer, put them into water with a little ice. It is better to beat them in a cold place rather than a hot room.
All cakes are decidedly lighter if the whites and yolks are beaten separatly. It is well always to require this to be done. Beat the yolks well, adding graducally the sugar, where there is no butter to be used. But if the butter is needed, work your butter to a cream, adding from time to time the sugar, until the quantity is used; then, the yolks, well beaten; and lastly, the whites, beaten to stiff froth. Every one will, I think, be sufficiently repaid for the time and trouble in so doing, by the finer quality of thier cake.
In mixing your cake, do not use the hands, if possiable to avoid it, particularly in warm weather. The warmth of the hand will be apt to make your cake heavy. A wooden spatula or spoon should be kept for this purpose alone.
All cakes, not made with yeast, should be bakes as soon as possible after they are mixed, as the ingredients are very liable to separate.
Sugar should be rolled with the rolling-pin to a powder on a clean bread board, and sifted through a fine hair sieve. Crushed white, or loaf sugar, must be used for sponge and pound cakes, and all other rich white cakes. Brown sugar, coarse grained, but clean, will answer for plum cakes, and some of the cup and loaf cakes. Still these last are nicer made of crushed sugar. It can be purchased, ready powdered, at the stores.
Firkin butter should be cut in small pieces, well washed and drained before using it, or the cake will be heavy.
Lemon peel should be pared very think, and with a little sugar, beaten in a mortar (marble if you have it) to a paste; then mixed with either wine, cream, or little milk, so as to divide easily among the other ingredients. The better way to give the lemon flavor to cake or custard, is to rub a piece of sugar some time over the rind of a fresh lemon; the hard sugar tears the cells in which the oil of the lemons is enclosed, and the oil is attracted into the pores of the sugar. As the sugar us discolored, scrape it off with a knife, and it is well, perhaps, to dry this sugar before using it in delicate cakes. This can be kept in jars or bottles. Any oil or essence, to be added tocake, should be dropped upon a lump of sugar, and then put into the dough to dissolve.
Black or white plum cakes requrie less butter and eggs, for having yeast in them, and eat equally light and rich. If the dough be only of flour, milk, water, and yeast, it becomes more tough and is less easily divided than if the butter be first mixed with these ingredients and the dough afterwards set to rise.
Fresh eggs are required for nice white cakes. Sponge cake, savory biscuit, pound cake, and ladies'-finger cakes, should never be attempted without fresh eggs.
Eggs kept in lime, or in any other preparation, will answer for simpler mixtures.
Fruit is the last article to be added to cake, and immediatly before putting it into the oven. Cask raisins should be washed before they are stoned, as also box raisins, unless they are fresh. To stone them, cut them once or twice, and remove the stones. Some persons chop them very fine.
It is well to prepare currants before they are needed. Wash them well in warm water, rubbing them between the hands; and then drain off the water. Continue to do this until the water is clear, drain them in the colander, spread them on a cloth on the table, and rub them dry with the cloth. Finish drying them in a very gentle heat. If they are added to cakes or puddings damp, they will make it heavy.
Buttered paper should be put in the bottom and sides of pans, when the cake requires a long baking; and paper not buttered is good for other cake to prevent burning. If the oven is too hot, place a sheet of paper on the top of the cake, to prevent the top from burning.
The heat of the oven is of great importance in baking cakes, especially those that are large. If not pretty quick, the batter will not rise. If not long enough lighted to have a body of heat, or if the heat has become slack, the cake will be heavy. To know when it is well soaked, take a broad-bladed knife that is very bright, or a clean straw, and plunge it into the centre, draw it out instantly, and if there should be the least stickiness, the cake is not cooked, and should be immediately returned to the oven. Saleratus or soda should be always kept, rolled and sifted, and when used for hot cakes, should be dissolved in a very little warm, not hot, water. Some people keep saleratus dissolved ready for use. Put as much saleratus into a bottle as will dissolve, when filled with water, using two table-spoonfuls of the liquid instead of a tea-spoonful of powder. This answers better for hot cakes than for cup or loaf cakes. When eggs are broken, be exceedingly careful that noe of the yolk becomes migled with the white. A very little of the yolk will sometimes prevent the white from foaming well. Take a cup and break the shell on it; allow the white to fall out into it, and put the yolk into a bowl; transfer the white from the cup into a shallow meat-dish. Beat them with an egg-beater, or a long bladed knife. Hold the knife almost parallet with the dish; give a quick, sharp stroke througgh the whole length. Beat them in a cool place till you can cut the froth, or till it slifes from your knife in one mass. It is better not to stop beating, when once begun, until you have finished; as it will become liquid and cannot be restored, and your cake will be heavy. These directions are given, to be applied to each of the following recipes; and are now given to avoid useless repetition in each recipe. Almonds can be obtained ground in Europe. I know not that they are so prepared here. To blanch them, pour boiling water over them, let them stand from ten to fifteen minutes, drain them, rubb their skins off with a cloth; lay them in a warm place to dry. If to be pounded, add orange water or rose water to prevent them from oiling. Keep this paste in a cool place. Stir the almonds into the sugar and butter, or the cake will be streaked. This should be prepared the day before wanted.
Griddle cakes may be made with new-fallen snow, very light, in proportion of a tea-cup of snow to a pint of milk.
Fresh-fallen snow contains a large portion of ammonia, which renders the cakes light; but which also soon evaporates, rendering the old snow useless for this purpose.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES. As all families are not prepared with scales and weights, the following list will be found useful:-
Wheat Flour, one pound is one quart.
Indian Meal, one pound two ounces is one quart; sixteen large table-spoonfuls are one half pint.
Butter, when soft, one pound one ounce is one quart; eight table-spoonfuls are one gill.
Loaf Sugar, when broken, one pound is one quart; four large table-spoonfuls are one half gill.
White Sugar, powdered, one pound one ounce is one quart; a common-sized tumbler holds one half pint.
Best Brown Sugar, one pound two ounces is one quart; a common-sized wine glass holds one half gill.
Eggs, average size, ten eggs are one pound.

*Meanings of Words:
Tire - apron like piece of clothing.

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