Day 363: Chocolate Cake

You’d think after 362 days I’d have my daily cooking and writing down pat but tonight I nearly forgot to cook. It was a busy day and suddenly it was almost 10 pm and I realized I hadn’t made anything from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book today. So I decided to leaf through the cookbook and see what turned up. Chocolate Cake caught my eye and I discovered that I haven’t made any of the five recipes for chocolate cake. I guess I kept saving them for a special occasion. This isn’t a special occasion but tomorrow a family member starts chemotherapy. I think we need a feel good recipe tonight. I selected the one contributed by Mrs. W. B. Wood of St. George.

At first I thought this recipe was straightforward except for determining the amount of chocolate. It turned out to have a couple more quirks. Bakers chocolate recently changed the way they package their chocolate. I think they’ve returned to the way it might have been in 1898. Instead of the small squares packaged separately there are two bars marked in rectangles. It takes four of the rectangles to equal one of the old squares. I tried to break the bar into strips lengthwise but it broke horizontally instead. I ended up using the equivalent to 1 1/2 of the old squares of unsweetened chocolate. I dropped the pieces into 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and turned up the heat. Once the chocolate was melted and the milk had boiled I tried to stir in 2 beaten egg yolks. This wasn’t a great success. I realized later that some of the yolk cooked. I added 1 cup of sugar and turned the heat off. Should I turn the mixture into a bowl or make it in the saucepan. I continued with the recipe in the saucepan despite this potential cooked yolk problem and potential for hot batter before I realized I didn’t know if the instruction to add the “other half cup of milk” meant I’d used too much at the beginning or that I was supposed to add another 1/2 cup now to the 1 cup I’d used at the beginning. I decided to stick to the original 1 cup of milk and continued. I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the cake batter in the saucepan. When I stirred in the 2 teaspoons of baking powder the mixture became very foamy so I quickly mixed in the 2 cups of flour. The batter was now very thick. I spooned it into a greased square cake pan and baked it at 350 for 35 minutes.

Mrs. W. B. Wood of St. George is another frequent contributor to this cookbook. I’ve made her desserts and drinks so she’s become familiar to me. She’s Ellen Elizabeth Malcolmson and she married William Bruce Wood a miller who eventually headed up Dominion Mills in Montreal. However, in 1898 they lived in St. George, Ontario. The 1891 census records William B. Wood (42), Ellen Wood (38) and their three children Margaret H. (16), Ellen M. (14) and Alexander (10). Imagine how excited these children might be at chocolate cake for dessert.

I wonder if this recipe was so familiar to Mrs. Wood that she neglected a few important details. I am not impressed by my chocolate cake. It tastes of chocolate which is a bonus but the texture is a bit rubbery. I think I made some mistakes in interpreting this recipe. I should have let the chocolate and milk mixture cool a bit before adding the egg yolks. I should have poured everything into a bowl before adding the sugar and butter. The mixture should have cooled even further before adding the vanilla, baking powder and flour. I’m still not certain about the amount of milk but suspect I should have added another 1/2 cup. This would have made a more liquid batter but then it would have spread evenly in the pan. Mine ended up lumpy. I assumed it would smooth out in baking. It did not. My baking powder used all its “fizz” in the hot batter and didn’t have much left for lightening the completed cake as it baked. All together this cake was not a success. I didn’t even bother to make the icing. It would have been wasting good icing sugar and it would not have improved this cake.

Mrs. W. B. Wood, St. George

One and one-half strips of chocolate, one cup of milk, one cup of sugar,two cups of flour, yelks of two eggs, two small tablespoonfuls butter, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, one teaspoonful vanilla. Boil the chocolate in the milk for a few minutes, stir, add the yelks well beaten, stir till thick, then add sugar and the other half-cup of milk and other ingredients mentioned. Either bake as layer cake with icing between, or in one large cake with icing on top.
ICING FOR CHOCOLATE CAKE – Three tablespoonfuls of milk, one-half cupful granulated sugar. Boil together for a few minutes or until it strings from the spoon. Take off the fire, flavor with vanilla and stir till cool before putting on the cake.


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