Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sponge Cake: It's Time For Sweets

As we start to wrap up the 1930s treasure, The Savannah Cook Book, I wanted to learn more about the cookery of the time, as a lot of recipes -- especially the baked goods -- make reference to ingredient scarcity. I started wondering when certain things came into use. Baking powder, for one (1859, it seems, for commercial stuff).

Take a peek at; if you've ever wondered why anyone would bother with beaten biscuits, this quickly shows that they were being made before the advent of commercial baking powder. A lot of things I thought of as entirely modern (margarine, the mainstay of my 1970s childhood) are from the 1800s... (Also fun for a look-see: Duke's Emergence of Advertising in America collection. Promotional cookbooks, yay!)

We've done savory and side dishes from The Savannah Cook Book; let's move on to sweet treats.
Sponge Cake

This sponge cake is famous in Savannah, and the proportions given here make two large cakes. it seem enormous, so, if you think your family will be satisfied with one, divide the proportions in half -- and then have it all to do over again a few days later!

10 eggs
1/2 pound Swansdown flour
1 pound granulated sugar
juice and rind of 2 lemons

The art is in the making, so follow the directions verbatim.

Separate eggs and put the yolks in a large bowl, and the whites on a large platter.

Grate the rind of the lemons and set aside in the strained juice to "steep."

Sift the flour three times.

Grease two large "stove-pipe" pins, and then proceed.

Beat the egg yolks until very light, adding sugar gradually, then the lemon juice and peel.

Beat the whites until stiff and dry. The old-fashioned flat egg beater is highly recommended instead of the Doyer beater or the more new-fangled electric life savers, as they make the eggs dryer. You'll get stiff and dry before they do, but no matter ....

Stir the beaten whites into the beaten yolks, and into this custard-like mixture sift again the already thrice-sifted flour, folding it in very lightly.

Divide the batter in half, and bake in two pans in a slow oven for about forty-five minutes.

Extravagant? Perhaps ... but think of the butter and baking powder you save by making it!

Just think!

I'm nearly positive there's a typo in the original -- a Doyer beater is probably a Dover beater, and what most people think of as an old-fashioned beater these days. For the recommended flat beater, picture the flat plastic blade for a KitchenAid stand mixer, scale it down for hand use, and put a handle on it.


I think I'll stick with my new-fangled conveniences when it comes to cake making.

And I might just start calling the stand mixer a "life saver."

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