Tonight is New Year’s Eve and I am about to head to an annual party in my neighbourhood. I planned to start this blog tomorrow but I couldn’t resist baking New Year’s Pound Cake tonight. I’ll bring it to the party and report the results. The recipe was contributed to the 1898 New Galt Cook Book by Mrs. Pattinson of nearby Preston. The communities of Preston and Galt are part of Cambridge Ontario today.
I began the recipe by weighing the ingredients and creaming the butter and sugar as directed in the recipe. One pound of butter is two cups or an entire block of butter. One pound of sugar was just over two cups. Weight measures for dry ingredients can vary slightly in winter since there is less moisture in the air.
Next I started breaking eggs — twelve eggs! Since I want to replicate the 1890s I beat the eggs by hand with a rotary (Dover) egg beater and then mixed them with the creamed butter and sugar. Next I weighed the peel and the almonds. A 200 gram package of blanched sliced almonds was close to the half pound needed and so was the 225 gram container of mixed peel. I stirred them into the mixture.
Once the flour was weighed I added the two teaspoons of baking powder to the flour before mixing it into the batter. It would have been better to add the flour and then the peel and almonds. It was a heavy batter and my mixing arm is out of practice. I spooned the pound cake batter into two greased round cake tins. I was concerned they might overflow while baking but it was fine. I baked the two cakes at 350°F. for one hour.
Mrs. Pattinson of Preston is a mystery at the moment but it is possible she is Mrs. George Pattinson. The 1891 census lists a 35-year-old George Pattinson and his 36-year-old wife Mary Elizabeth as residents of Preston. They also have four children Ellen (9), John (7), Frank (5) and Ruth (2). Another daughter Mabel is born in 1894 but their first-born daughter had died in 1888 when she was nine. I really hope that Mary Elizabeth is not the correct Mrs. Pattinson. You see there is more tragedy for this family. She was 44 when she died of septicemia in 1898! That’s the same year The New Galt Cook Book was published. She could have contributed her recipe for New Year’s Cake for the first edition of the cook book and the editors decided to include it again in the next edition. Her death is a good reminder of how far we’ve come since 1898. Today infections can be treated with antibiotics — something that didn’t exist for Mrs. Pattinson — and so septicemia is far less common.
This style of cake is also not common today. A pound cake was a simple cake to make since the recipe was easily memorized — a pound of butter, a pound of flour and so on. It would be a more expensive cake to make at this time of year. Butter would be more expensive in the winter. Almonds and peel are common but are imported ingredients. Unfortunately, the cake was not spectacular. It was just okay. I over baked it slightly but at least they were both cooked through. I was concerned that such a heavy batter might result in an uncooked centre. I let the cakes cool a little before turning them out of the pans.
I cut a slice to taste before packing one cake for the walk to the party. I thought some elements of the cake were good. I like the crispy top and the flavour of the almonds and peel. I’m not a fan of peel but this amount was okay. Unfortunately the almonds had risen to the top while the peel was sitting on the bottom of the cake. I should have floured them both before adding to the batter. I also noticed a strong taste of egg. I detest eggs so this was not a plus for me. I suspect other people will not even notice the egg flavour. The yolks of the twelve eggs were very yellow so the cake has a yellow colour too. Some guests at the party sampled the cake with mixed results. Some people tasted a bit and left the rest while others liked it. This is not a cake for everyone. Try making Mrs. Pattinson’s New Year’s Pound Cake if you enjoy peel, almonds and dense cake but cut the recipe in half. It was surprisingly quick to prepare but this recipe make a large quantity of cake!
NEW YEAR’S POUND CAKE
Mrs. Pattinson, Preston
One pound butter, one pound sugar rubbed to a cream, one dozen eggs beaten and added, one-half pound of mixed peel, one-half pound blanched almonds, one and one-quarter pounds flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder.