I had a query some time ago about Goldenrod cake. I seem to have lost the email, but not the memory of it. It was from my frequent correspondent, ‘Anonymous’.
I am pleased to report that I have tracked down Goldenrod (or Golden Rod) Cake in several versions. It is clearly an American cake, and it seems a reasonable assumption that its name comes from its colour, as the recipes often, but not exclusively, contain orange. They must have been quite in vogue for a while, so that special pans were made for them. Fannie Farmer makes mention (in 1918) of ‘golden-rod pans’ as a suitable baking receptacle for ‘Newport Cake’, and they are advertised elsewhere as being suitable for making ‘Waldorf Triangles, Golden Rod Cake, Orange Slice Cake and other fancy cakes.’
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) is a plant with a long history of medicinal use, especially in wound healing and urinary complaints, and it also used to be a source of yellow dye. As its name and usage suggests, it has golden-yellow daisy-like flowers. Presumably the colour inspired the cake? Seems odd, why not simply Orange Cake? Why special pans?
The first version is from 365 Orange Recipes: An Orange Recipe for Every Day in the Year (1909)
Cream 1 pound of butter with 1 ¼ pounds of sugar, add the yolks of 10 eggs and the
whites of 3; beat until smooth and light and add the juice and grated rind of 1 large
orange, 1 pint of milk, 2 pounds of flour sifted with 1 ½ ounces of baking-powder and
stir until smooth. Bake in goldenrod pans and when cold ice with the following ICING: Grate the rind of 1 small orange, add the yolk of I egg and stir in confectioner's sugar until stiff; add a tablespoonfuls of boiling water, the juice of 1 small orange and ½ lemon and sugar to make as thick as fondant.
Color a delicate orange, ice the tops and sides of the cakes and leave them in a warm place to dry.
And another version, from The Rocky Mountain Cook Book. For High Altitude Cooking (1903)
Golden Rod Cake
Beat the yolks of six eggs till light; gradually beat into these one-half cup of sugar, then two tablespoon-fuls of orange juice and one-half cup of sifted flour, sifted again with a level teaspoonful of baking powder and one-fourth teaspoonful of salt; bake in small cakes and cover with orange icing.
And a very sophisticated version, suitable for a ‘novelty dessert’ for a ‘company meal’, from the Syracuse Herald of August 19, 1937
Golden rod cake.
For white part take 3 egg –whites, ¾ cup sugar, ½ cup shortening, ½ cup milk, 1 ¾ cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add ¼ cup sugar gradually, beating constantly. Cream shortening and remaining sugar. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, salt; add alternately with milk to second mixture. Fold in egg whites and extract.
For gold part use ½ cup shortening, ¼ cup sugar. 3 egg yolks, 1 ¾ cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolks and beat well. Mix and sift
flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with milk to first mixture. Add vanilla. Fill greased 10-inch tube pan by spoonfuls, alternating the white and gold mixture. Base in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) 50 to 60 minutes. Frosting: Frost with
uncooked frosting, tinting ½ yellow.
Serves 10 to 12.
Quotation for the Day.
I remember his burlesque pretense that morning of an inextinguishable grief when I wonder that I had never eaten blueberry cake before, and how he kept returning to the pathos of the fact that there should be a region of the earth where blueberry cake was unknown.
William Dean Howells (1894)