Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fun Food.

Earlier this week we had a couple of heavy-duty (dare I say “unpalatable”?) stories on bread made from blood and sawdust. It is the end of the week, and time for some Friday Fun (I know it is still Thursday for many of you – please don’t email me and tell me I got the date wrong – I assure you it is already Friday in Australia.)

I wondered about the origin of Chiffon Cake. It seems that before it was cake, chiffon cake was a jelly dessert (as in ‘set with gelatine’, i.e Jell-O, not ‘jelly as in jam’). Here is a recipe from a South Carolina newspaper in 1934.

Apricot Chiffon Cake.
1 tablespoon granulated gelatine.
4 tablespoons cold water.
1-2 cups apricot juice.
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
1/8 tablespoon salt.
3 egg yolks.
1 cup sugar.
2 tablespoons flour.
3 egg whites beaten.
1/3 cup cooked apricots.
½ cup whipped cream.
Soak gelatine and water 5 minutes. Beat yolks, add sugar, salt, and flour. Add fruit juices. Cook in double boiler until thick and creamy. Stir constantly. Add gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Cool. Fold in rest of the ingredients and pour into a glass mold. Chill until stiff, unmold and serve cut in slices. Garnish with apricots.

I am not certain when the real, cakey chiffon cake came into being. The usually repeated story is that it was invented by Harry Baker, who was not a baker at all but an insurance agent. He kept his recipe secret for two decades until he sold it to General Mills, who gave it away to Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, who published it in May 1948. The problem with this story is that there are recipes for chiffon cake before this date – not much before, I grant you. The Nevada State Journal of April 30, 1947 gave a recipe for “a new cake indeed … the baking sensation of the century” which turned out to be a chiffon cake. There may well be earlier recipes waiting to be discovered, but in the meanwhile, I am happy that it was invented in the late 1940’s.

One interesting thing is that the advertisement (for a brand of flour) which included the recipe said that it was from ‘Martha Meade’ and could therefore be trusted. There was a cookery book promoting the Sperry Brand of flour called Modern Meal Maker edited by Martha Meade and published in 1935. I have not found out anything else about this author, nor have I set eyes on a copy of the book so I don’t know if it included a recipe for chiffon cake.

The ‘secrets’ of chiffon cake are said to be two in number: – the use of vegetable oil, and the whites being whipped separately then folded in (I don’t believe this last one was a new idea in the 1940’s).

Here is the recipe from the Nevada newspaper of 1947.

Velvet Chiffon Cake.
Sift flour before measuring.
Use level measurements for all ingredients.
Preheat oven to baking temperature 325o [F] a slow moderate oven.
Have all ingredients at room temperature (about 70o)
Measure all ingredients before starting to mix cake.
Have ready an ungreased tube pan 10 in. diameter, 4 in. deep.

Sift together in a mixing bowl:-
     2 cups sifted Sperry Drifted Snow “Home Perfected” Enriched Flour.
     1 ½ cups granulated sugar.
     2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder.
     1 teaspoon salt.
Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add in order listed:-
     ½ cup cooking (salad) oil
     5 egg yolks, unbeaten
     ¾ cup cold water
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts.
Beat with a spoon until it forms a smooth batter.
In a very large mixing bowl place:-
     1 cup egg whites, unbeaten (7 or 8)
     ½ teaspoon cream of tartar.
Whip (using hand whip, rotary beater, or electric mixer) until whites form very stiff peaks, Do not underbeat. (Whites should be much stiffer than for angel cake or meringue.) Then pour batter slowly and gradually over stiffly beaten egg whites, while gradually folding in with a rubber scraper or large spoon. Fold in until blended: do not stir. Pour immediately into the ungreased tube pan, Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minuts. When done, top surface of cake will spring back when lightly touched with the fingers, and the “cracks” will look dry. Take from oven and immediately place pan upside down, placing the tube part over a funnel or bottle. Let hang, free of table, until thoroughly cold. Loosen cake from sides and tubes with spatula. Turn pan over and hit edge sharply on table to loosen. Frost or not as desired.
16 to 20 serve in slices.

Quotation for the Day.
When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.
Laiko Bahrs


Anonymous said...

Sperry Flour was a California company--they had a mill in Stockton (I think that the home base was San Francisco). I have several of their cookbooks from the teens and twenties, probably a couple from the thirties (my grandmother was from Stockton). Martha Meade had a radio show that was sponsored by Sperry.

Pete said...

Wasn't Martha Meade sort of like Betty Crocker? That is, a trademark name used by successive home economics-educated spokeswomen? I don't know what the Australian or British equivalent would be, although I'm sure there must have been a few. They were all the rage from about the end of World War I.

Shay said...

Martha Meade was the nom de radio/cookbook of a food writer whose name escapes me now, but it's on a lot of cookbooks from the 40s-60's (I have a few). I believe she was based out of Chicago but now I can't find the article on her that I bookmarked, darn it.

Marcheline said...

That jell-o cake thingy sounds fun for summer!

SharleneT said...

Thanks for the Apricot Chiffon Cake recipe. This will be the first year my apricot tree provides fruit, so I'm looking forward to trying it out. Come visit when you can.

RetroRuth said...

Fascinating stuff! Love the Apricot Chiffon Cake recipe, will have to add that one to the recipe file!

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks everyone for your enlightening and interesting comments - and sorry for the belated response. Don't you love the Internets ? So much sharing of information and fun!

Phyllis said...

I have been searching for a recipie for Hala-Kahki Pie from an old Sunset Magazine Ad. The advertiser was Drifted Snow by Sperry Mills and in my search I found your blog!!...Surprise Surprise You had a reciped for chiffon cake that my sister and I where lamenting that we did not have our Mother's recipe....and here it is. Thank you. And it has apricots....we were raised on an apricot orchard in Mountain View having it include apricots is even mmore special. Before your site I found the Martha Meade Cookbook you are referring to. It is for sale at I think it is Ruby Lane " s cook book is titled Modern Meal Maker"...I tried to copy the name but if you search on that name the vendor selling it $35 is Ruby Lane I think. Any way thanks again for the chiffon recipe