Today, May 10th …
On this day in 1876 the Centennial Fair opened in Philadelphia. It was the first World Fair in the USA, and as its name suggests, it was held to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. And what is an anniversary without a cake?
There are lots of emphatic, but completely un-documented references to a 'Centennial Cake' produced especially for this event, a cake which the same emphatic references say is the ancestor of Shoo-Fly pie. It might seem strange to suggest a cake as an ancestor to a pie, but this is from a country that clearly confuses the two as shown by the existence of the famous Boston Cream Pie, which is unequivocally a cake. I await eagerly but with some trepidation for my American friends to chastise, ridicule, inform, enlighten or otherwise engage with me in the process of enlightenment on this issue.
In the search for the original Centennial Cake, the most likely candidates would surely come from cookbooks of the same era. There was one such, put together by the good ladies of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio in 1876 also in celebration of the Centennial of the country and called The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book. I may not know a Buckeye when I see one, but I do know that Ohio is across the border from Pennsyvania, which I also happen to know is the location of Philadelphia (my geographical knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds since starting this blog). This book therefore seemed a good place to start, and it does indeed have a Centennial Cake recipe. This is it, from the 1877 edition:
Two cups pulverized sugar, one of butter rubbed to a light cream with the sugar, one of sweet milk, three of flour, half cup corn starch, four eggs, half pound chopped raisins, half a grated nutmeg and two tea-spoons baking-powder.
Which sounds like a fairly unexciting cake for such an special event, does it not?
In view of the cake/pie confusion alluded to above, I make no apologies for including this next recipe, which is unequivocally for a pie, from The Times Cook Book of 1905
Centennial Marlboro Pie.
One cup stewed apples, sifted; one cup cream or rich milk; one cup sugar, one-half teaspoon cinnamon, two eggs beaten stiff; put all together and bake in pie crust, same as for custard pie. When baked pile on top whites of two eggs well beaten, with one tablespoon sugar; return to oven and brown slightly.
It does not, however, sound at all like shoo-fly pie, does it?
I think I need help with this. Those of you “Over There” please consider sending in your own Centennial Cake recipes in, and we will try to make sense of it all. If anyone has the mythical ‘original’ recipe from the Centennial Fair, I will be most pleased.
Tomorrow’s Story ...
Any fruit with that?
This Day, Last Year …
Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
Quotation for the Day …
Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish. Henry Miller, American writer (1891-1980)