I found an old cookbook at the Alameda flea market last year. It came in a ziplock bag with a note: careful please! When I opened it up, I understood why. The spine was nearly gone, and the little piece that remained barely held all the pages together. It was published in 1828, when slavery was still around, and the U.S. was an agricultural nation. It was a time when California had yet to exist. What was most fascinating though, was learning that the first restaurant in the U.S. didn't open until 1829. There were cafés at the time, but similar to bars, they were for men exclusively. The idea of dining out hadn't existed yet, which meant women had to cook all the time.
This particular cookbook focuses on pastries, cakes, and sweetmeats. I was inspired by the classic Pound Cake - it's true, it got it's name because it calls for a pound EACH of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. Four pounds of cake?! How about...just one?
I settled on making ONE pound of pound cake, which meant a quarter pound of all the ingredients. This is as basic as it gets and it's easy to remember! What's great is that you can add to it, such as lemon zest, vanilla extract, brandy, or cinnamon + nutmeg.
A change of plan: instead of going for a 1lb pound cake, I went with these smaller, 1/2lb molds. They are personal size!
|Lemon + honey + brandy glaze|
One of the biggest differences between 1828 and now is convenience. It would have been 10 times harder to whip without a mixer and to bake without knowing the temperature of the oven. Because of this inaccuracy, the instructions in the cookbook were rather vague: "Bake in a moderate oven for two, three, or four hours, in proportion to its thickness and to the heat of the fire." Great. I think a lot more skill was involved in those days, and I suppose women had time to practice and perfect those recipes.
All in all, it was fun to decipher an old recipe and to imagine people eating the very same thing 184 years ago.
1lb Cake (or two 1/2 lb cakes)
ingredients:1/4lb sugar or powdered sugar
1/4lb eggs (about 2)
1/4lb butter (1 stick)
a dash or two of brandy or vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
lemon brandy glaze:
juice of one lemon
equal amount of brandy
equal amount of sugar
Whip butter and sugar for 8 minutes.In 4 batches, add eggs.
When combined, add the zest and brandy.
In 4 batches, add the flour.
Bake in a buttered loaf or two mini loafs at 325F.
Depending on pan size, can vary from 30min.-1 hr.