Category Archives: Cakes

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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Day 356: Christmas Cake

I know some of you prefer a nice dark fruitcake and I think Mrs. Richard Jaffray‘s recipe for Christmas Cake in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) might be that kind.

Ad for fruitcake ingredients in The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.

Ad for fruitcake ingredients in The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.

Since I made another fruitcake a few days ago I’m going to cut this one in half so that my family won’t hate me when I present them with three kinds of fruitcake (light, medium, and dark). Mrs. Jaffray’s recipe has some very specific directions so I’ll try to follow them exactly. I creamed 1/2 pound (1 cup) of butter and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of sugar. Then I started added the 4 eggs one by one, stirring after each. Next it was 1/4 cup of molasses. I completely forgot to dissolve the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda or even add it at all! I kept thinking it was interesting there was no leavening. Now I realize I missed that direction but I did remember to add the 1/4 cup of brandy.

Once the more liquid ingredients were ready I weighed 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of flour and added 1 teaspoon mace, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Then I mixed the spicy flour into the rest of the cake. Finally I weighed 1 pound currants, 1 pound raisins, 1/4 pound (4 ounces) citron, and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of chopped figs and added it all to the cake. It was a challenging cake to mix since it was so heavy with dried fruit. Once it was well blended I spooned the mixture into three loaf pans and baked them at 325 F. for 45 minutes. I could probably have used just two pans but I was concerned about cooking the centres of such a dense mixture. Once they were out of the oven I let them cool a little and then cut my first slice at 11:45 pm. It’s been a long day but I was looking forward to tasting this cake especially since I made the baking soda mistake.

Mrs. Richard Jaffray is Mary Havel (Havill). She was born in 1848 somewhere in Ontario most likely Galt since she was living there for the census when she was four. Her mother was Maryann and her father James was a plasterer. By 1871 she’d married Richard Jaffray and they had a one year old daughter named Mary Gertrude. Richard was born in England but his heritage is Scottish and he was a printer in Galt. They eventually had two more daughters Kate Fleury and Minnie. Richard became the proprietor of a newspaper. They lived next door to Mary’s parents in 1891. Unlike many of the other contributors this family’s religious was the Church of England (Anglican) rather than Presbyterian. At 64 Richard died of kidney disease the year this cookbook was published. Mary and two of her daughters continued to share the house until Mary’s death in 1922 when she was 73.

Mrs. Jaffray’s Christmas Cake is probably an acquired taste but I liked it. It is more dense than Mrs. Jaffray intended since I forgot to add the baking soda but it is also nice and moist. Some day I’ll try the proper way but in the meantime this is a good fruitcake. It is buttery which make the top of the cake a bit crispy, including the fruit. I like it that way. The figs are probably the most challenging part of the cake but they add an interesting flavour as well as their seedy texture. Although the cake is sweet it seems to come more from the fruit than the sugar or molasses. The brandy flavour enhances the cake and I can imagine Mrs. Jaffray in the weeks before Christmas “feeding” her fruit cake by wrapping it in a brandy soaked cloth.

If you try Mrs. Jaffray’s Christmas Cake let me know how it turns out when soda is added and what you think of the taste. I think it can time travel into the hands of 21st century fruitcake lovers but each person seems to have their favourite kind of fruitcake.

Mrs. Richard Jaffray

One pound butter, one pound sugar, one pound flour, two pounds currants, two pounds raisins, one-half pound citron, eight eggs, one-half cup molasses, one teaspoonful soda dissolved in the molasses, two teaspoonfuls each of nutmeg, mace and cinnamon, one half cup of brandy, one pound figs. Mix butter and sugar to a cream, then add eggs slowly, then the molasses and brandy, then flour, and last of all fruit.

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Day 336: Coffee Cake

Tonight I drove the two hours down to my parents’ place and arrived sometime after eight. I made the trip since we think tomorrow my mother will hear something about what sort of treatment plan to expect. It was snowing and raining for part of the journey but now it is a clear night. I’m the only member of my family who doesn’t drink coffee so I’ve saved this strange Coffee Cake recipe from The New Galt Cook Book (1898) for a time when the family have the coffee pot on the go. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Quarrie.

Tonight my sister used her French press to make coffee and so I took the ½ cup I need for this recipe along with the grounds. First I creamed 1 cup (1/2 pound) of butter and 1 cup of brown sugar. My parents’ don’t make sweets much anymore and so the brown sugar was a bit dried out. I suspect brown sugar in 1898 was often in that condition since it was stored in bags and bins not plastic bags and probably not glass containers.

Next I added 1 large egg. It was supposed to be 2 eggs but this household — that always has eggs — had run out. I added the spices (1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp allspice) and 1 teaspoon of baking soda along with 1 cup of flour. Instead of raisins there was a 250 gram bag of “berry blend” that was made up of raisins, currants and dried cranberries). Although this wasn’t one pound of raisins I decided to go ahead and use it. I added another cup of flour and stirred. Next I added the ½ cup of coffee and the grounds. My sister prefers to drink coffee made with freshly ground coffee beans. I’m not sure Mrs. Quarrie had a choice. I don’t think it was possible to buy already ground coffee in 1898. By 1914 grocers could grind the beans in the store using their coffee mill something visitors enjoyed seeing when I worked in the dry goods and grocery store at Doon Heritage Crossroads. Mrs. Quarrie was probably thrilled that she didn’t have to roast the beans at home. That had been a typical chore for children in the 1850s. It’s a task I did many years ago when I worked at Joseph Schneider Haus and Gallery in Kitchener.

Finally I used another cup of flour to make a stiff batter. In total I used 3 cups of flour but I’m not sure it is enough. What exactly is “quite stiff” when looking at cake batter? I stood for several minutes trying to decide whether to add more flour but opted to leave things alone. I worried that more flour might make the cake too heavy. I think I’d need more flour if the extra egg was included.

I spooned the batter into a greased cake pan and smoothed it out. I baked the cake at 350 F. for 40 minutes. I removed it from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the middle came out clean. Since it now almost 10:00 none of us wanted to wait until the cake cooled before we taste tested this odd Coffee Cake. I cut slices for my tasters and we dug in.

Mrs. Quarrie is probably Mary Campbell “Minnie” McGregor. She was born around 1860 in Milton Ontario to Peter and Anna. At some point Mary moved to Galt Ontario where she met and married George A. Quarrie in 1885. In the 1891 census the couple have a five month old daughter named Jessie Edna and there’s 17-year-old girl working as a servant in the household. By 1901 it is just the three family members and George is an assistant post master. Mary dies in 1928 at their home on 20 Oak Street in Galt. Based on the street view provided by Google maps, the small brick house is still there.

Mrs. Quarrie's Coffee Cake

Mrs. Quarrie’s Coffee Cake

This Coffee Cake is now a new favourite of several family members. I can tell there’s coffee grounds in it but others didn’t notice the gritty texture just the pleasant coffee flavour. Several of us think it needs a bit more spice although it is possible that some of the spices I used were not very fresh. I suggest tasting the batter and deciding if you need more spice. The cake was also a bit dry. Perhaps I over baked but it is probably due to the missing egg. I would not use anymore flour. The three cups was just right. My father thought there was too much dried fruit and would have preferred golden raisins. However, he liked it and it reminded him of fudge! My mother thought it was a bit dry but that it went very well with a cup of coffee. My sister tried it later with some black currant jam and really liked the tangy sweet combination with the cake. This strange cake is a great time traveller. Make this cake and surprise your guests with a coffee cake that included the grounds!

Mrs. Quarrie

One cupful butter, one cupful brown sugar, one-half cupful strong coffee (put in grounds, too), one pound raisins cut fine and floured, one teaspoonful each of soda, cloves, allspice and ginger, flour enough to make quite stiff, two eggs.

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Day 307: Spice Cake

I’m not sure why Spice Cake appeals to me tonight but that’s what I’m making. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Duncan of Hamilton for The New Galt Cook Book (1898).

I creamed 1 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar. Then I added 3 eggs. In a separate bowl I mixed the dry ingredients (3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar) together. Next I put 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of regular milk and added this liquid alternately with the dry ingredients. Finally I added 1 cup chopped raisins. I kept checking the amount of flour as it seemed small but it was just a very liquid batter. Once this cake batter was blended I poured it into a greased round cake pan and baked it at 350 F. I should have had a second cake pan ready or else baked it in a long rectangular pan as I ended up with extra batter. I started checking the cake after 30 minutes and it needed a bit longer.  Once it was baked enough I let it cool just a little before I had to dig in. It smelled so good.

There are just too many couples with the surname Duncan in Hamilton in the 1891 census to possibly determine who contributed this recipe. I’d hoped that the extensive “Galt Cook Book” tree I’ve created would reveal a connection between a Duncan in Hamilton and a family in Galt but so far I haven’t found it.

Mrs. Duncan’s Spice Cake is wonderful — well if you like the flavour of nutmeg and cloves. Those flavours come through loud and clear and that’s great for me. I love the spice as well as the texture of the cake. It is buttery, something I find unusual in a spice cake, and it is fluffier than some of the cakes in this cook book. It would be a great layer cake. I imagine it with a creamy icing or one of the caramel icings in the next section.

Mrs. Duncan, Hamilton

One cup butter, one and one-half cups brown sugar, one cup of sweet milk, three eggs, three teaspoonfuls cinnamon, one teaspoonful cloves, one nutmeg, two and one-quarter cupfuls flour, one teaspoonful soda in the milk, one teaspoonful cream tartar in flour, one cupful chopped raisins. Bake one hour.

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Day 299: Light Fruit Cake

We are now two months away from Christmas. This is when shop keepers and house keepers had to start preparing for this special holiday. Stores needed to ensure they had stocked all the baking supplies households needed to start preparing special Christmas treats like fruit cake. I’m going to make Miss E. Cant’s recipe for Light Fruit Cake from The New Galt Cook Book (1898).

My first step in making this cake was gathering all the supplies including my scale so that I can weigh each ingredient. First I creamed 1/3 pound (3/4 cup) of butter with 1 pound of light brown sugar. Once it was ready I added 5 eggs. Next I weighed the flour and added 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 1/4 pounds of flour. Finally I added 1/2 pound of peel. I decided to defer to the raisin haters and not add them although I like this dried fruit. When everything was well mixed I spooned the batter into two loaf pan and baked it at 350 F. for almost 1 hour. It smelled good and was browned on the top. I cut myself a slice, or two, to taste.

Miss E. Cant is probably Eliza Cant. She was born in 1841 in Scotland. Her parents Hugh and Alison had quite a number of children before her and brought them all to Canada where her younger sister Ellen or Helen was born. Hugh was a millwright and one of his sons was also while one of the other boys was a pattern maker.  After her father’s death the 1881 census shows Eliza living with her mother and sister Helen who was a public school teacher. When their mother died, the two sisters continued to share a home. At her death of paralysis agitan (apparently another name for Parkinson’s disease) Eliza was 65 and living on West Main Street.

I overbaked this cake slightly but it tastes good. This is a nice light cake with just a touch of peel. I’m hanging on to this one even though I don’t think it is suitable for soaking in alcohol like a rich dark fruit cake.

Miss E. Cant

Five eggs, one pound light brown sugar, one-third pound butter, one-half pound lemon and orange peel (mixed), one and a quarter pounds flour, one teaspoonful soda, one pound raisins (if wanted). Put raisins and peel in after the flour.


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Day 286: French Cream Cake

You are probably expecting to read about a traditional Thanksgiving feast from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book and that’s what I expected to prepare. However, my family already enjoyed turkey and all the fixings on Saturday and so they aren’t really interested in eating it again. I finally settled on a lighter sounding cake recipe contributed by Mrs. Howie of Waterloo. Her recipe for French Cream Cake sounds a bit like the Boston Cream Pie my father enjoyed as a teen.

I decided to make the cream part first so that it could cool and to be sure I was successful since this  is a troublesome sort of recipe for me. I get impatient and end up burning the creamy custard or neglect it so much that it curdles. I put slightly less than 1/2 pint (1 cup) of regular milk in a saucepan and turned the heat to medium. While it started to warm I mixed 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch together. I beat 1 egg and then added it to the dry ingredients. Once the milk was hot I added this mixture and kept stirring. I added about a tablespoon of butter. I decided to add vanilla as the flavour.

Next I prepared the cake while the cream cooled. This appears to be a sponge cake recipe since there isn’t any butter in it. I mixed the 3 eggs and 1 cup of sugar well and also prepared the dry ingredients separately. I put 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder in a bowl and then added them to the sugar and egg mixture. I alternated flour and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Once It was all mixed together I poured it into a cake pan and baked at 375 for 30 minutes. I removed the cake from the oven when it was firm and golden. I let it cool just a little and then took the cake out of the pan. I cut it across horizontally and piled on the cream. I decided it looked a little bland so I made a plain vanilla butter cream icing and spread it on top of the cake. It was time to slice the cake and taste.

I don’t really have anything new to share about Mrs. Howie of Waterloo. I’ve talked about her several times including when I made her Velvet Sponge Cake on October 1 (day 274).  She’s Mary Ann Gardham and married Scottish born Alexander Howie. His career as an excise officer meant they moved around. They lived in Kingston and Hamilton and finally Waterloo.

Clearly she likes recipes with interesting titles. Not just Sponge Cake like everyone elses but Velvet Sponge Cake. Not just Cream Cake like the other two recipes but French Cream Cake. I have no idea what makes this one French and not the others. This French Cream Cake is good. I think I might have over baked the cake by a few minutes. The edges were a little hard. The cake was quite solid so again I’m wondering if it sank a bit after I opened the oven door to checked it. That’s a hazard with homemade cakes. The cream was quite good although the vanilla flavour made it an unappealing beige colour. Everyone ate their slices of cake and some had another piece so it is certainly edible. I’ll certainly keep the cream part of the recipe handy and I might consider making the cake again.

Mrs. Howie, Waterloo

CAKE.– Three eggs, one cupful white sugar, one and a half cupfuls flour, one and a half teaspoonfuls baking powder in the flour, two tablespoonfuls cold water. Bake in a quick oven.Split the cake while warm and spread with cream.
FOR THE CREAM. — Boil nearly one-half pint of sweet milk, beat one egg with a scant half cupful of sugar and one tablespoonful of corn starch; when the milk is nearly boiled, stir in the remainder, add a small piece of butter, flavor to taste.

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Day 274: Velvet Sponge Cake

I’m speaking in Waterloo tomorrow so I thought I’d make Velvet Sponge Cake since the recipe’s contributor Mrs. Howie is from Waterloo. It will be interesting to figure out why her recipe appears in The New Galt Cook Book (1898).

This is one of the recipes in this cook book that doesn’t list the ingredients in the order in which they are used. The first step is to put the 2 cups of white sugar in a bowl and then add 4 eggs. Once this is well mixed I added 2 cups of flour. Again I mixed well and then realized I should have blended the baking powder with the flour. I went ahead and added the 2 teaspoons of baking powder and also some lemon flavour. Once it was mixed I stirred in the 2/3 cup of boiling water.I poured the batter in a greased cake pan and put it in the preheated oven at 350 F. for 40 minutes.

Mary Ann Gardham was born about 1838 in Kingston Ontario. She married Alexander Howie who’d been born in Scotland. His family came to Canada when he was about 11. I don’t know when they married but their first child was born in 1863. They moved around a bit from Hamilton to Kingston and then to Waterloo. Alexander was an excise officer which explains their moves. Three of their five children were still at home when they were recorded in the Waterloo 1891 census. Mary Ann died in 1923 at the age of 86.

I might not know a lot about the life of Mrs. Howie but her velvet sponge cake is quite good. I have mixed feelings about sponge cakes. There’s something about the bouncy texture that seems strange for a cake and since they rely on eggs I sometimes find the flavour of egg overpowering. However, they don’t contain any dairy, an ingredient I should avoid. They don’t keep a long time but they are so light and airy that they make a nice simple dessert. Although this cake has the typical spongy texture the lemon flavour hides the egg. It is incredibly quick and easy to make. I’m going to keep this 19th century recipe on hand in the 21st century.

Mrs. Howie, Waterloo

Two cupfuls white sugar, two cupfuls flour, two-thirds cupful boiling water, four eggs, two teaspoonfuls baking powder, flavor to taste. Beat eggs and sugar together, then add flour, and lastly the hot water just as it is ready for the oven; this is excellent.

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