Unconscious Mutterings, At Long Last
Catching Up: February Photo a Day

More Birthday Cake

Yesterday, in a fit of domesticity, I pulled myself away from the My Fair Wedding marathon and made my Mom's Devil's Food cake, straight from the Fannie Merritt Farmer Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

I've written about this cake before -- it's the cake Mom used to make for our birthdays -- but I had forgotten just how involved it really was. Here's the recipe, straight from the cook book:

Now, allow me to add some commentary.

You're gonna need at least three bowls: one for the butter/sugar, one for the egg yolks/sugar, and one for the egg whites. Then you need a wee bowl to melt the chocolate in, and a plate or paper towel to put your sifter on as you alternate adding the milk with the dry ingredients, sifting as you go. Also, butter that angel food cake pan. (I suspect you could make this cake as a layer cake or sheet cake, but it's really best in an angel food pan.)

I used a hand mixer, a spatula, and a wooden spoon at various times for mixing and beating and stirring. I probably shoulda melted the chocolate and beaten the egg whites ahead of time, but I was cookin' in order of the recipe. Sooooo.... I got to the egg whites part, and realized Damn! I gotta wash the beaters and beat up these egg whites! Oh, and melt the chocolate! So I did that, then folded in the egg whites, chocolate, and vanilla. The batter is thick, creamy, and quite tasty, so don't forget to lick the beaters and bowl.

I was getting fed up with all these steps and the mixing and the beating and the combining and the melting, and then I had a revelation -- when this cook book was published, mixers and microwave ovens did not exist. So you had to mix everything by hand, including beating the egg whites and creaming the butter and sugar. My hands ache just thinking about that.

And something else you may not have noticed. There's nothing in the recipe about preheating the oven. I puzzled over this for quite a while before I realized that this recipe predates ovens with controllable temperatures! If you bought this book new, you were probably lucky if you had this stove:

I may gripe about my stove, but at least I don't have to clean the coal pan, the ash pan, and the flue!

Oh, and the oven temperature for the cake? I gambled on 350 degrees, because that's what I remember my Mom using.

It worked like a charm.