The 50th Birthday Cake

Birthday CakeOn my 50th birthday, Barbara sent me this magnificent cake from Olympia, Washington to Medford Lakes, New Jersey. How it  arrived safely is a great mystery, but it did. For those of us who believe that chocolate is essential to one’s well being, it was exceptional. Given that the current temperatures have been as high as 104, going down at times to 101, it seems safer to send the recipe.

At least I think this is right recipe, but it is hard to remember nearly 20 years back. However the name is the Barry Torte and it can be frozen …………

From Jane Freiman’s Dinner Party try the Barry Tart Recipe.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Jane and I are making these on the anniversary of our sister’s, Barbara Shelnutt Bolender, death as a special remembrance as suggested by our youngest sister, Sarah.

Cooking with Gourmet Grains is one of Jane’s favorite cookbooks, her first edition becoming so tattered, it needed to be replaced. She also gave Barbara a copy and Barbara made these Black Bottom Cupcakes with her own special twist. She replaced a key ingredient with prunes. However, as my sister Sarah and her husband Denny happily devoured the miniature cupcakes, they discovered a frequent need to go to the bathroom. That was an experiment which, as far as we know, was not repeated though she continued to make them to share with family and friends.

More remembrances to follow.

For Barbara:

Black Bottom Cupcakes (from Cooking with Gourmet Grains – Stone- Buhr Milling Company, 6th printing, 1976 page 145)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 6 oz- package chocolate chips
1 ½ cup sifted Stone-Buhr all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon soda
¼ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in a bowl. Beat until well and stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside. Beat in all the remaining ingredients until blended. Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full. Top each with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture. Bake a 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes about 24 cupcakes.

Feeding America – The Historic American Cookbook Project

Feeding America – the Historic American Cookbook Project is a joint project of Michigan State University and Michigan State Museum to not only collect influential American cookbooks but to make them available in either pdf format or as searchable text. The cookbooks range in date from 1798 (Amelia Simmons) to 1922.

Who can resist Breakfast, Lunch and Tea by Marion Harland (actually Mary Virginia Terhune) printed in 1875. See her recipe for Ambushed Trifle and she writes at length about beating eggs, etc.

I have another 1876 book, Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving by Mary Henderson which is filled with fairly sophisticated recipes, simple six course luncheons for ladies and grand dinners. The ladies drank very well and lunch included Chateau d’Yquem. I certainly paid less than $20 for it and it is highly recommended.

In addition to the individual pages, or the entire scanned book as a pdf, you can also seach for recipes by name and ingredient, browse the books by date, author or categories. A great project and fun to look through.

Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine

The 25th anniversary edition of Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine is out. This book, by Norma Jean and Carole Darden is what started my interest in collecting old family recipes, etc. It chronicles the Darden family roots from slavery with lots of old photos and great recipes from both the north and the south.

The sisters opened restaurants in Harlem and near Columbia University which I would like to try sometime – see Spoonbread Inc.

It was hard to choose among the recipes for sweet potatoes and I will need to revisit Sweet Potato Bread and Sweet Potato Biscuits. But this looked good:

Sweet Potato Spoon Custard
1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
2 small bananas, mashed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons seedless raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degress. Combine mashed sweet potatoes and bananas. Add milk and blend. Pour into a well-greased 1-quart casserole. Bake for 45 minutes, until custard is firm and golden brown. Wonderful served with lamb or pork. (6 to 8 servings).

Homemade Mayonnaise

One of the joys of getting a Cuisinart in 1975 was making mayonnaise. Hellman’s is fine and often preferred, but the magic of the swirling blade was irresistible.

This is a good standard recipe. The quality and taste of the oil makes all the difference.


1 whole egg
1 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups oil

Blend the egg, vinegar (or lemon juice), salt and pepper in the food processor for a few seconds. With the blade still whirring, gradually add the oil through the feed tube, slowly at first. The mixture will thicken to a normal mayonnaise consistency. Taste and add more vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary.

Tomata Honey (Second Version)

 While reading Elizabeth David’s An omelet and a Glass of Wine, I found a second recipe for Tomato (or tomata as the recipe is called) Honey which she says she found “excellent”. This recipe comes from Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery, Philadelphia, 1837 and is American rather than English.

The recipe is as follows:

“To each pound of tomatoes, allow the grated peel of a lemon and six fresh peach leaves. Boil them slowly till they are all to pieces; then squeeze and strain them through a bag. To each pint of liquid allow a pound of loaf-sugar, and the juice of one lemon. boil them together half an hour, or till they become a thick jelly. Then put it into glasses, and lay double tissue paper closely over the top. It will be scarcely distinguishable from real honey.”

David recommends using very juicy tomatoes to get enough yield of the juice. She substituted a few drops of almond extract for the peach leaves.

Tomato Honey

One of the books I found in the Cutchogue Library was Janet McKenzie Hill’s 1927 edition of Canning, Preserving and Jelly Making. It has great recipes for all sorts of fruits and vegetables including varieties that we think of as designer or heirloom today. This one sounds interesting:

Tomato Honey

To each pound of ripe tomatoes, allow the grated rind of a lemon. Cut the tomatoes in small pieces, add the rind, and let cook rapidly till the water is evaporated, then strain through a fine sieve. Measure the pulp and for each pint take a pound of sugar (two cups) and the juice of a lemon. Let all cook together very quickly until quite thick, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Apples or pears may be prepared by this recipe.

Anyone like to try it?

Emergency Desserts – Chocolate Mousse

I was in great need of a very fast dessert and remembered making chocolate mousse in 15 minutes. I couldn’t find that recipe immediately, so used the Raspberry Pie recipe in the Family Cookbook which looks awful but tastes just fine.

However, with a little more time to look, found what I had used in the past:

Chocolate Mousse

1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 6-oz. package semisweet chocolate bits
3 tablespoons dark rum
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup toasted almonds

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and boil for 3 minutes. Using the metal blade of the Cuisinart, add cream and process uninterrupted until a very thick whipped cream forms, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Without washing the bowl, reinsert the metal blade and add chocolate bits. Process on pulse for 15 to 20 seconds. Contiue processing and gradually pour in hot s yrup, run and egg yolks. Add almonds (optional) Process, turning on and off until
almonds are coarsely chopped and evenly distributed, about 20 seconds. Fold mixture into whipped cream and freeze or chill. Makes 6 servings.

This comes from a cookbook that came with my very exciting new Cuisinart in 1976 – “New Recipes for the Cuisinart Food Processor” by James Beard and Carl Jerome.

Looking for an even earlier recipe, I discovered that this was almost identical to a recipe I had used from the “New York Times Cookbook” (1961) which uses whipped egg whites in place of the cream for a very light mousse. Use the same recipe and methods above, but omit the sugar and cream, use 5 ounces of water and 4 eggs, separated.

Devilled Almonds – 1927

From the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1927 edition:

2 ounces blanched and shredded almonds
1 tablespoons Chutney
2 tablespoons chopped pickles
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
few grains cayenne

Fry almonds until well browned, using enough butter to prevent almonds from burning. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over nuts, and serve as soon as thoroughly heated.

Must have been quite the thing in the 1920’s.

Toffee Cookies – Mabel Platts

foodI found this recipe card, minus a large corner, inside The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. By Fannie Farmer, this edition has a copyright of 1927 with the date of December 18, 1941 written on the bookend and the signatures of Wendell H. Gordon, Natalie Jane Gordon, Brant Rock 1941 and Mercedes Prudence Budd Gordon. Perhaps a present for Wowie from Aunt Mercedes?

The Toffee Cookies card is in Wowie’s handwriting and goes as follows:

Cream 1 cup shortening with
1 cup brown sugar
Add 1 unbeaten egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift 2 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Add to first mixture and blend.

Pat into 1/4 inch thickness on a well greased cookie sheet. Spread top with unbeaten egg white and sprinkle with 1/2 cup ground nuts.

Mark in squares with silver knife before baking at 275 degrees for 30 minutes.
Cool. Remove with spatula.

Since this is from Mabel, it must be good.