Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cake Day No.4

February 21 ...

Next week we might meander back in time a few centuries, but during cake week we are staying in close to chronological home.

Two cakes purely for fun today – one very quick, the other strictly for professionals or gifted amateurs with delusions of sculpting skill.

The first one s as wacky as its name – at least method-wise. It appeared in the 1950’s, and the Oklahoma newspaper that gave the following recipe credited the Canadians with its invention. It could certainly be an idea for anyone who is afraid to ‘bake’ but no afraid to mix and pour.

Wacky Cake
1 ½ cups flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons melted shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water.
Sift dry ingredients together in a buttered cake pan and make three depressions in the sifted material. In one hole, put the melted shortening; in a second, the vanilla, in the third, the vinegar. Pour the lukewarm water over, and stir all well. Bake 30 mins at 350 degrees F [180 degrees C]
[The Daily Oklahoman, October 1954]

The second one is a rogue migrant for the week on two counts. It hails from England, not America (or Canada), and it is older than our other cakes this week, as it comes from the end of the nineteenth century.

Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb (a la Soyer)
A dish of this character is of no extraordinary value, even as an eccentricity. Put the yolks of thirty-six eggs in a basin with 3lb. of caster sugar, stand the basin in another one containing hot water, and whisk the eggs till rather thick and warm, then take the basin out of the water, and continue whisking them till cold. Beat the whites of the thirty-six eggs and mix them with the yolks, then sift in gradually 3lb. of the best white flour and the finely-chopped peel of two lemons, stirring it lightly at the same time with a wooden spoon. When quite smooth, turn the batter into a very long mould and bake it. When cooked, take it out of the oven and leave till cold. If not convenient to use so large a mould, the Cake can be baked in two separate portions, and afterwards joined together with icing. When cold, trim the Cake with a sharp knife into the shape of a haunch of lamb. Make a hollow in the interior of the Cake, but fill it up again with the pieces, to keep it in shape. Colour some icing to a light gold with a small quantity of melted chocolate and cochineal, and coat the Cake over with it, and leave it till dry. Make sufficient strawberry or vanilla ice to fill the interior of the Cake. Form the knuckle-bone of the lamb with office-paste; moisten the interior with brandy and preserved strawberry-juice, then fill it with the ice. Put the haunch on to a dish, fix a paper frill round the knuckle-bone, and glaze it over with a mixture of apricot marmalade and currant jelly. Melt a small quantity of red-currant jelly with some red wine, pour it round the haunch, to imitate gravy, and serve.
[Garrett, Theodore. The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery. London, 1895]

Tomorrow’s Story ...

Cake Day No. 5

Quotation for the Day …

Baking is just like driving a car; you can read every manual you can get your hands on, but until you get in and do it, you won't really learn how. Marion Cunningham.


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

In my formative baking years (the 1970s) we would make something called a Poke Cake with a yellow mix and liquid strawberry jello. Kind of a hip descendant of the Wacky Cake. The haunch of lamb continues to intrique...

The Old Foodie said...

One day, you'll write that Retro Cake Cookbook!

Vesna VK said...

This cake is certainly older than 1954, and probably dates to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In Cook's Country, Feb/March 2006, Bridget Lancaster writes "Several sources suggested that wacky cake was invented during the 1940s, but I couldn't understand how it earned its name until I read a recipe in The Time Reader's Book of Recipes...1949...Mrs. Donald Adam of Detroit, Mich., submitted this strange recipe..."

Here's a blog entry on Wacky Cake where a reader comments about their memory of it.

This is the blog entry:

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprout) (who blogs at says she remembers her mother making it during the Depression. She remembers her mother calling it "War Cake." It's not clear whether Tofu Mom knew it as both Wacky Cake and as War Cake, or just as War Cake. If it's the latter, it's possible that it dates from the "make-do" cakes of the World War I era.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Vesna - thanks for this - I do love finding an even earlier mention of a recipe. It is a bit like the debate about the origin of the pavlova - 'meringue' mixture has been around for centuries, so do we mean the specific use of the name? Does the 1949 recipe you mention use the name 'whacky cake'? Anyone else have any 1940's ideas?

Vesna VK said...

I don't know what the 1949 book says -- I just transcribed what I read in the Cook's Country magazine. It doesn't really answer the question, does it? Lancaster says, "I couldn't understand how it earned its name until I read a recipe in" that book, but then she doesn't explain how it earned it's name. !!

I wondered, just as you did, whether the name is older than the cake, or what.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Vesna
I guess for the time being, this will have to remain a mystery.

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I'm Tofu Mom and I DO remember my Mom baking this same cake...(or at least extremely similar, couldn't vouch for the exact teaspoons and Tablespoons) and she called it "War Cake" because, according to my Mom, they didn't have butter and eggs readily available during the war - they were rationed - (this would have been WWII) so they made cakes and other desserts (Vinegar Pie?) without. (I had also thought sugar was rationed but they seemed to always have enough of that around.) Great blog!! I am always checking out your historical stuff... fascinating!