Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ruth Hamilton Cookies


If you yearn for a crisp coconut brown sugar cookie, then these are your ticket to happiness. I didn't love them (I like chewier cookies) yet found them very, very addicting.

You can feed this habit with ease -- Ruth Hamilton (whoever she was/is) created a recipe that can be put together quickly and simply.  You just need the simple ingredients, a wooden spoon and a saucepan.

I found this vintage recipe in a large binder filled with family recipes dating back to about 1920. As you can see at the end of the post, a younger generation family member carefully copied the original recipe, and may others. (Somehow this family treasure trove ended up on eBay. So much for tradition.)


These cookies are a dream to make. Butter is melted, sugar is added, and the rest of the ingredients are simply added to the saucepan.


Adding the eggs and vanilla smooths this out.


After the liquid mixture cools, the dry ingredients are introduced.


Mix it all together very well.


You can drop these cookies from a teaspoon or, as I did, scoop them with a small cookie scoop (or roll the dough in your hands).


Bake and watch them disappear.


Here's the original recipe, and below that, the recipe copied over by a daughter or granddaughter.


Production notes: I followed this recipe exactly, but used half light brown and half dark brown sugar (mostly because that's what I had on hand). Using light brown sugar will make the cookies lighter in color. I used old-fashioned oats, and Angel Flake coconut. And butter, of course, instead of shortening.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pizza for Dessert!


This recipe is a pure fun -- and delicious -- trompe l'oiel of a dessert. Wish I'd made it for April Fool's Day, but didn't want to wait 11 months to post this. It's that good.  It is also very, very easy and would be a delightful baking project with children. The vintage recipe is from a collection I purchased on eBay last year.


Start by making the crust, which is much easier than pie (or pizza pie) crust.  Melted butter is simply stirred into some flour and confectioner's sugar.


Blend the mixture until it holds together.


Then simply pat it into a greased baking pan. I used a springform pan so it would be uniform and easily removable, but I think free form would work fine. And maybe look a bit more authentic.


Bake until the edges are slightly brown. Cool.


Next make the "cheese" topping by mixing softened cream cheese with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.


It's best to use a hand mixer for this task. I spread the mixture on the crust and refrigerated it for 30 minutes to firm it up, as I feared the strawberry mixture would bleed into the soft "cheese."


You can start the strawberries at any time. I bought a bag of whole frozen strawberries (I think it was either 12 or 15 ounces) and put them in a saucepan to cook down. I then added the cornstarch -- big mistake. I learned the hard way that adding dry cornstarch to hot liquid results in small white balls of starch, which need to be picked out one-by-one.  The way to do this is to make a slurry -- dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of liquid -- and then add it.


Cornstarch slurry added to the strawberries, below.  I used a potato masher to break down the berries so the mixture would more closely resemble tomato sauce.


Place the "cheese" on the crust, top with the "sauce" and add some dollops of  "cheese" on top. Dot with fresh mint leaves and enjoy.


Enjoy a slice! And share the rest.


 Production notes: I followed this recipe exactly, and used a 9 inch springform pan.  Next time, I might try to simply pat the crust on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and go free form.  Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, and make a slurry before adding the cornstarch to the strawberries.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

One Egg Cake and Creamy Fudge Frosting


My obsession with simple everyday cakes is more than a recipe quest. Instead it's a search for an idealized 20th century America, one I know is more rooted in fantasy than reality. I'm not the only one trying to recapture a false nostalgia of pies cooling on the window sill, a cake quickly made for a Sunday supper. Just listen to the yearning in Nellie McKay's wonderful I Want to Get Married.   And I would venture to say that Trump's Make America Great slogan is intended to evoke a version of this same thing -- the heteronormal nuclear family enjoying the middle-class privilege of post WW II America. But much of it was an illusion. The reality is/was probably more like Patty Griffin's Making Pies, a mournful song about factory work (albeit at Table Top Pies) following the wartime death of a boyfriend.. Or the domestic violence and alcoholism in the film The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio. Or the truth about women's work in this New York Times opinion piece.

Politics and nostalgia aside, no one can argue with a good cake recipe. And this one egg cake ticks all the boxes. Quick, easy, delicious. And I found a vintage chocolate frosting -- equally easy -- that pairs beautifully with this cake.

There were no instructions on the vintage recipe card, which probably dates from the early 1940s. One egg cakes were quite popular then, given wartime shortages.

Here's the method I used. Beat the butter, add the sugar and egg.


Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.


The batter is very thick, so spread it to the edges of the pan using an offset spatula, a butter knife or the back of a spoon.


Bake until it is very light brown. This cake bakes quickly and is very dry if overbaked. (I did that the first time.)


Remove the cake from the pan after about ten minutes, turning it out onto a rack.


This creamy fudge frosting is as easy as the cake, and just as delicious.  Combine sugar, milk, cocoa and butter in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add some vanilla and mix with a beater until it thickens and reaches frosting consistency. Make sure the cake is completely cool before frosting.


I put the boiled frosting into a bowl before beating it. It got a bit too stiff while I was waiting to use it, but I just added a bit of cream and beat it again.



Production notes: I followed the top recipe and the method I used is below. The week before I had made the large cake recipe which I don't recommend (or else I overbaked it). See the end of this post for pictures.  For a two layer cake, I would simply double the "small cake" recipe. This cake does not brown much and it's very easy to overbake. I started checking it at 15 minutes.


Production notes: I followed this exactly, and added one teaspoon of vanilla. If it sits before frosting the cake, it will become stiff. Just add some cream or milk and beat again. This makes enough for one single layer cake. I didn't frost the sides, just put a generous layer of frosting on top.


One Egg Cake

Preheat oven to 350F

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter (one stick), softened
1 egg
3/4 c. milk

Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch round or square pan.

Combine four, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add egg and mix well.
Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour.
Combine mixture (but don't overbeat).
Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake about 20 - 30 minutes, checking frequently so cake doesn't overbake.
Remove from oven (top will only be very light brown).
Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on a rack to cool.

First time I made this, was for a dinner party. It did not work out well, but my guests, below, were very polite. Jim, Paul, Kris and Karin "enjoying" the dry cake.


Slice of cake.


Whole cake, frosted with a modern ganache, which saved the whole thing.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Classic Pound Cake


With just five simple ingredients, you can easily create this moist and delicious old-fashioned pound cake from a vintage recipe. Pound cake, so named because it originally called for one pound of each ingredient, is a perennial favorite, and one that has survived the years. Most modern recipes gild the lily with sour cream, milk or any number of other flavorings and additions. As good as those are (and who doesn't like variety?), this classic version is rather perfect.


Here's the mis en place for the recipe. Flour, butter, eggs and sugar. (Also, vanilla and a pinch of salt, which I forgot to photograph.)


Start by beating the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time.Add the flour, a pinch of salt and vanilla -- and that's it!


Spoon the batter into a greased bundt pan.


Smooth it with an offset spatula, a butter knife or the back of a spoon.


Bake for about 45 minutes. The top will look underbaked, but you can tell it's done by the way the cake is separating from the sides.


Let it cool in the pan for about ten minutes. Then run a knife around the edges to loosen it, turn it out on a rack, and tap the top until the cake releases.


The cake has a nice crumb.


Production notes: Have the butter at room temperature, and beat it well. Add the sugar and beat the mixture until it's light and fluffy before adding the eggs. I also added the vanilla to the butter-sugar-eggs mixture, instead of after the flour. The first time I made this (see below), I sprayed the pan with Pam and overbaked it, which resulted in a broken cake. This time, I greased the pan with Crisco -- not sure that made a difference.
It is essential not to overbake this cake. Don't go by the color, but do test with a skewer.
I also made an quick icing -- put some confectioner's sugar in a bowl, and add liquid (milk, cream, water or lemon juice)  and mix to the desired consistency.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bee's Matzo Meal Bagels


I didn't have to look far for this vintage recipe card -- it's from my mother Bee's collection. She wasn't a particularly good cook or baker, but she made dinner six nights a week without fail and always made special food for holidays, these Matzo Meal Bagels among them.

I'm not fan of food hacks that use a substitute to imitate the real thing (Tofurkey, for instance), but even during Passover, some people will insist upon bagels, I suppose. And they are handy if observant folks need to have a sandwich during the holiday.

Even those these are called "bagels" they resemble them only in shape, not in texture or flavor. But, they are pretty good and take but minutes to make. The outside is crispy, while the inside is soft. My son-in-law said they taste like matzo balls, which is pretty accurate, since they have the exact same ingredients.


Let's get started. Mix the dry ingredients (matzo meal, salt and sugar) in a bowl.


Add the boiling liquid all at once, mix well, and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.


Let the batter stand for about 15 minutes. Then, with greased, wet or gloved hands, form balls. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.


Flatten each ball slightly, and use your index finger to create a center hole.


Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.


Cool and serve.


Below is Bee's very stained recipe card, with rather incomplete instructions.  Below that, is the recipe written out.


Matzo Meal Bagels

Preheat oven to 350F

2 c. matzo meal
1 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
dash salt (up to 1 t.)
2 T sugar
4 - 5 eggs

Combine the matzo meal, salt, and sugar in a bowl. 
Bring the oil and water to a boil and add to the matzo meal mixture. Stir well to combine. 
Add eggs,o­ne at a time, mixing well after each addition. (I used four eggs, as the batter seemed too wet to accommodate an additional egg.)
Let batter stand for 15 minutes.
With oiled hands, shape into balls and place o­n a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Pat each ball down slightly, and using a greased finger, insert it into the middle of the roll, moving it around to create a hole in the center. 
Bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes.