Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Extra! Extra! Chocolate Tea Cake!

Some days, because you might have been very good, you deserve a second story for the day.

I have had a lovely evening browsing the beautifully battered old cookbook given to me by Barbara at winosandfoodies when she and I had lunch on Saturday. There is no publication date in the book, but an inscription made by a previous owner is dated 1939.

It is The Woman’s Book, and the chapter entitled Guide to Cookery shows that there was no doubt in the author’s mind that the cook and recipe writer are female. The author is quite clear on another point too – if the recipe turns out badly, the fault is the cook’s, not the recipe writer’s.

“The cook, whether professional or amateur, owes something to the author of the recipes she uses, and that debt is not discharged if the recipes are carelessly read and carelessly followed. Nearly every one has heard the remark “I am sure I don’t know why the dish is like this – the recipe must be wrong.” The recipe cannot reply – can only defend itself by success; and so, in the interests of fair play, it ought to receive just treatment. Accuracy in the weighing and measuring of ingredients must be insisted upon. Cooking may be an art, but it is also a science, and to ensure success we must be exact. There must be no guesswork. An ounce more or less may bring ruin on your labours.”

I do, however, have some issue with the recipe writer in this book – there is a certain lack of clarity in some of the instructions, so perhaps it is not always the cook’s fault if things don’t turn out as expected.

This recipe does sound delicious, with a wonderful combination of flavours – if only we could be sure when and how to add them.

Chocolate Tea Cake.
4 oz Butter.
3 oz Castor Sugar.
3 oz Grated Chocolate.
1 oz Ground Almonds.
Grated rind of half a Lemon
4 oz Pastry Flour
3 small eggs
1 dessertspoonful Orange Flower Water
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
A Pinch of Ground Cinnamon.
A Pinch of Nutmeg.
Sieve the sugar, cinnamon, chocolate, and nutmeg into a basin. Add the butter, and beat together with a wooden spoon until of a soft creamy consistency. Then add the eggs and flour by degrees, beating and mixing well between the addition of each egg. Flavour to taste, and add the baking powder at the last. Pour into a tin that has been greased and dusted out with flour and sugar mixed, and bake the cake in a moderate oven about one hour, until well risen and until it feels dry when tested with a skewer.
Note:- When cold, this cake may be iced with chocolate glacé icing, and then decorated with crystallised violets and leaves cut out of angelica or any other suitable decoration that will form a nice contrast to the brown icing.

My issue with the recipe writer: Sieving of cocoa would make sense, but this recipe calls for sieving of the grated chocolate, which sounds odd indeed. There are no specific instructions for the inclusion of the ground almonds, lemon rind, orange flower water – these are presumably added at the point where the recipe says “flavour to taste” – which belies the warnings about exact measurements. Would it not make more sense to add the ground almonds with the flour?

I’ll make it if you come to visit, Barbara!

4 comments:

Barbara said...

How much warning of my visit do you need?! I'm pleased you enjoyed an evening with the book.

The Old Foodie said...

An hour or two will be sufficient Barbara - provided I get some orange flower water into the pantry. Hope to see you soon.

nbm said...

there seems to be a bigger problem still: how many eggs? (Perhaps a problem in the transcription?)

The Old Foodie said...

Hello nbm. The problem was with the transciber. There should be 3 small eggs. I have now fixed it in the post. Thanks for alerting me.