Which Cake to Make?

A while back, when I was doing the Vintage Kitchen series, I acquired some antique cookbooks through various means, including a friend on social media who is a book dealer and would pop into my dm’s with hey, want a book? So yeah, I did want a book. 

Which is how I wound up with the oldest cookbook in my collection. It’s not in the best of shape, sadly. Part of it fell out, and was put back in, but not in order and there may be missing pages. I don’t really care. There’s enough to give a delightful glimpse of what-was, and frankly that’s the best way to study history, by reading between the lines. Today, though, I pulled it out to look at cake recipes. I have a four-day weekend courtesy of a big winter storm rolling over Texas, and I’m in a mood to bake. 

Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide was copyrighted in 1880, and it is chock full of advice like how to go shopping in a market, rather than having an order brought to you. After the last two years? I have to say I appreciate that a little more than I did before an era of curbside pickup and not knowing just what you’d get in the way of produce or meat cuts. 

I was entertained by these cake recipes, and I had to share. If you make any, I want to hear about it! I don’t have the ingredients for several, and am still deciding which one I want to make this weekend. What do you suggest? 

This is so sweet! At the time, cake decoration was a completely different skillset than it is in the modern era, and children were to be seen and not heard. So this is a very kind thing to include. 

I had initially perked up at the Fairy Gingerbread. Until I started reading the instructions to make this. If you don’t have large pans – and I do not – it would take all day! Also, these will be wafer cookies. At this time, cookies weren’t the big thing they would become later, there is one cookie recipe in this book. There are ‘rolled’ cakes, which we would call cookies, and these, which are wafers. 

Good old chocolate cake! Only… there’s no chocolate in the cake! I’m not sure cocoa powder was generally available at the time. Baking chocolate was the same stuff we know and love, at least. 

I can’t make the Federal Cake. I don’t have brandy in the house. Or saleratus, for that matter. 

Saleratus was a chalk-like powder used as a chemical leavener to produce carbon dioxide gas in dough. It was a precursor to baking soda. To make it, pearlash (K2CO3) had carbonic acid added to it, changing the potassium carbonate in it to potassium bicarbonate. The chemical formula for this is KHCO3. Strength varied by brand. All brands needed something acidic to react with.

The Wedding Cake. I would say I have no words, but I do. I also don’t have the necessary ingredients… in those quantities. However, I kind of want to make this someday. For Science! and to see if it really will last for years. 

Angel Cake and Sunshine Cake I had heard of before. I did not know there used to be the dark counterpart of Angelfood! Demon Cake is on my list of reasons to buy Brandy. Also, I recommend you use parchment paper for the lining here, instead of the wax paper. Wax is not good eats. 

Lady’s Cake is a strong contender for the cake of the weekend. I have everything I need, other than the almond essence (I don’t use that often) and I can sub in vanilla. 

For that matter, I have everything I would need for the Rice Cake, although the flour I have on hand is mochiko, which is likely much more glutinous than Miss Parloa could have known. The Silver Cake is a sponge, which are always fun to make. 

So! Which one shall it be? 


13 responses to “Which Cake to Make?”

  1. That was fun! Thank you for sharing. One vote for Lady’s Cake this weekend. Saving this post for future reference (and baking).

  2. I’m all over that Demon Cake recipe. Even found a one-cake version online for us folks who don’t have large groups to feed. Will be adding a dash of either cayenne or chipotle powder to give it that certain little something and really earn its name.

    1. I look forward to hearing how it came out! I’m definitely making a smaller batch, but need to pick up ingredients.

    2. Miss Parloa’s book is free on Amazon Kindle, albiet without the illustration plates. I just downloaded it and found her measurement references in the front, which will make it immensely easier to convert to modern cookery.

      1. Ah! I wondered if there might not be a scan somewhere.

  3. Roger Ritter Avatar
    Roger Ritter

    Do the measurement references include a translation of “moderate oven”, “quick oven”, etc. to modern baking temperatures?

    1. I’ll have to see if I can find a link for you. A moderate oven will be about 350, quick would be 400. But they didn’t have temperature gauges usually. Used to be I could put my hand in the wood cook stove oven and know when it was right… now, there’s an obsolete skill!

  4. Demon Cake is in the oven. The batter tasted wonderful. Didn’t have any apples, so I left the fruit out, which may make the cake a bit dry. Still, if it’s as good as the batter, we’ll just serve it warm with lots of butter.

    1. Definitely needs the apples for moisture, and I did overcook it. Warmed up slices, added a lot of butter, and it’s delicious. Will definitely make it again.

      1. Wonderful! I’m going to give it a try next week.

  5. Hmmmm. I’ve been wondering who should get my cookbook collection.

  6. […] is a recipe from Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, published in […]