Monday, December 08, 2008

Variations on a theme of Ribbon Cake.

It is some time since I gave you a vintage cake recipe, and I know that is what many of you love best. Of course, you can always fly in your quickest electronic fashion over to T.W’s Retro Cake series, if you are seriously deprived.
In 1876-7, the New York Times ran a series called ‘Receipts for the Table’, and on December 1876, they featured this gem:
Ribbon Cake.
Two cupfuls sugar, one cupful butter, one cupful milk, four cupfuls flour, four eggs, one teaspoonful cream tarter, half teaspoonful soda; have two tins ready of equal size; put one third in each and bake. To the other third add three teaspoonfuls molasses, one cupful currants, and a little citron and spice to suit, and bake in same size tin; then done put a layer of light, then a layer of jelly, then dark, then jelly, then light; lay a pice of paper on top, and turn it over on one of the tins and press it with two flat irons till cold.
Now, once you have overcome the very counter-intuitive idea of weighting down an ordinary cake, this concept lends itself to a myriad variations. The idea is so good, that recipes were still popping up in 1915. Here is a honey and spice variation, also from the New York Times, on December 19, 1915 – this one with no mention of pressing the finished cake (or is that a given? Is there a ribbon-cake expert out there?).
Ribbon Cake (2).
Half a cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup milk, 3 ½ cups flour, 5 teaspoonfuls baking powder, 1 ½ teaspoonfuls ground cardamom seed, 1 ½ teaspoons ginger, ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspooon cloves, ½ cup raisins, seeded and cut in pieces; ½ cup figs, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon honey, and 4 eggs.
Rub the butter and sugar together and add the yolks of the eggs. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add them to the mixture, alternating them with the milk.  Finally, add the whites of the eggs, well beaten. Bake two thirds of the mixture in two layer-cake pans. To the remainder add the spices, fruit, honey, and bake. Put the layers together with crystallized honey.
There are a lot of very colourful Christmas-themed possibilities here!
Have fun, and if you make a ribbon cake over the holiday season, do let us all know in the comments.
I just might feature some more ideas from the Receipts for the Table series this week, in case you want to have a 1876 Christmas.
P.S The Vintage Christmas Recipes archive is HERE.
Quotation for the Day …
Don't expect too much of Christmas Day. You can't crowd into it any arrears of unselfishness and kindliness that may have accrued during the past twelve months.
Oren Arnold


Anonymous said...

I love a good vintage cake recipe! I was wondering if you might have found out the answer to a question that has bugged me for a while: What O what is a golden-rod pan? Fannie Merritt Farmer is so helpfully clear about so many topics and then I bump into a term like this in her recipes and end up confused.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Anonymous
I havent the faintest idea what a golden-rod pan is, but I will do my best to find out!
Anyone else out there have any ideas?

Ford said...

These recipes reminded me of one I saw in my local newspaper, the News and Observer, just this week. They featured holiday cookie recipes from Raleigh, NC area bakers. One was for "Rainbow Cookies"; the story claimed that the baker's recipes derived from a New York bakery operated by generations of his family. The rainbow cookies are made by a similar method to the ribbon cake, except that after the stack of cake has been compressed, it is cut in strips, and then these are glazed and coated in chocolate. I might try this recipe. Here's a link --

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

Maybe my brain is not working from the intense cold we have been hit with, but I'm having a very difficult time picturing what the final Ribbon Cake would look like. The name sounds so festive, but as I read the text I can't tell if it's supposed to resemble a streusel (with a ribbon of nuts and filling running through it) or a pancake!

Anonymous said...

I briefly looked up the golden-rod cake pan thing, on a whim. The first useful/related thing I found was this: []
Looks like some kind of aluminum (sorry, *aluminium* for our Commonwealth friends) bundt cake pan with a goldenrod-yellow enamel coating, or something like that. So what I'm thinking right now is: does "golden-rod pan" mean "a bundt cake pan", or does it mean "any cake pan with that coating on it"?

Anonymous said...

The original anon back in:

As far as I can make out, the "golden-rod pans" called for in the works of Fannie Merritt Farmer, and also in the anonymous 365 Orange Recipes dated 1908, are the same thing. They are cake pans, I think, but they turn out a smaller size than a regular cake layer or loaf cake--I think. How much smaller, what shape, etc., isn't clear. However, Bundt cakes first appeared later in the century.

I Googled for goldenrod pans, but found no hits for pans by that name. Plenty for assorted enameled cookware in goldenrod color, but it was all for later decades. I did get a hit, with partial quote, for an eBay item that appears to have been another antique cookbook. An excerpt(?) referred to orange slices and golden-rod pans both being advertised as handy new kitchen items. But the item itself is long gone and all I have are three lines from the Google hit.

Rumela said...

Thanks a lot. This is an interesting cake recipe. At last I have found something interesting and unique to serve to my guests during the holidays. I am sure that they'll love this ribbon cake.