Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hot Milk Cake

This simple old-fashioned recipe intrigued me in a lot of ways. First, I never heard of it before, even though my mother and grandmother were both big on cake baking. Lots of other people evidently have eaten it since childhood, considering the number of different recipes and nostalgic blog entries on the web. However, none of those recipes were exactly like this one. All of those called for butter, from a little (1-2 T) to a lot (2 sticks or more), but this one doesn't have so much as a smidgen -- qualifying (in my book, anyway) as a low fat alternative to angel food for a change.

Hot Milk Cake

2 well-beaten eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup hot milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs and add sugar. Beat thoroughly. Add the flour mixed with the salt and baking powder. Add the hot milk and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Bake in a greased and flour-dusted cake pan eight inches by eight inches. Bake thrity-five minutes in a moderate oven (350 F). Turn out of pan. Cool. Ice.

-- The International Cookbook, Margaret Weimer Heywood, Boston, 1929.

Sponge cake consistency, good for use as strawberry shortcake, or accompaniment for yogurt.

Since it doesn't have any added fat, I figured I'd better use whole milk (the only kind available in 1929). I also used cake flour, although it probably wasn't necessary. The main thing is to make sure the eggs and sugar are really well-beaten -- I used a mixer and let it run until the egg-sugar mixture was thick and light yellow in color.

The need to beat the eggs vigorously wasn't real obvious in the recipe as it was written, but it was stressed in other similar recipes on the web and seemed logical. Incorporate enough air so the baking powder doesn't have to do all the work of keeping it light as it baked. I'm sure the cook-in-training in 1929 would have learned that trick eventually, if Grandma didn't give it up.