Learning 2 Bake, from Scratch – VI

Snow Cake

From: Erna

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 egg whites (beaten stiff)

This looks like a white cake to me, so let’s give it a whirl. The potential problems, which I see already:

  • No instructions at all. What size pan? What temperature? How long?
  • No oil. Perhaps the butter and milk are sufficient? Note the age of these recipes: Definitely pre-WWII; possibly pre-Depression. That means “milk” was actual milk from cows, not the processed stuff we get today. Half-and-half is about as close as city folk (such as myself) can get without buying shares in a herd.
  • No salt. Baking powder and salt are usually paired. Salted butter, perhaps?
  • No cream of tartar. Egg whites and cream of tartar are usually paired.
  • High cholesterol omelet for breakfast, tomorrow.

I’ll pick a pan after seeing how much batter results. I’m guessing a single layer, but I do have those 8-inch pans, which need parchment paper on the bottom. (One must remember lessons learned or they’re not really “learned” are they?)

[A note on tenses: Since there are pictures, clearly I’ve written this after doing it. However, I think it reads better if I write it as if it were being done as I type.]

Mise en places:

Pre/post baking:

Forgot the picture until they were in the oven.

These are non-stick 8-inch pans (I didn’t know I had those), so I skipped the parchment paper.

They did rise, although it’s not very obvious in this picture.

Change of plans: The peanut butter frosting can wait. I want that recipe, hence the link so I don’t lose it, because the comments are either “OMG!” or “WTH!” (“heck”; this is [so far] a family friendly blog). I’m curious what will happen. However, this is supposed to be a series about grandma’s cookbook and I want to learn to make flavored frosting without extracts. So, let’s start with this one:

Frosting for Cake

From: Erna

Boil together ¾ of a cup of sugar and 4 tablespoonfuls of water until it threads. Beat the white of 1 egg stiff and dry. Add to this 5 cents worth of marsh mallows, cut fine. Pour the syrup over all and beat until stiff enough to spread. add the nuts [what nuts?]. This is for one cake.

Aside from the “what nuts?” issue, there are two obvious questions:

  • At what temperature does boiling syrup “thread”? Teh Intertubes say, “The thread stage occurs between 223 F and 235 F, the lowest temperature range in candy making.” Since that overlaps the Italian Buttercream frosting from Part III, we’ll go with 230.
  • How many marshmallows could one buy for 5 cents at the mysterious point in time at which this was written? I’m pretty sure it’s pre-WWII, but not so sure about pre-Depression, which means 5 cents is around 5 dollars, now, but that buys a LOT of marshmallows.
  • Fine, three questions: Is “cut fine” the same as “minced”? “minced marsh mallows” sounds better.

Let’s be sure that what we call marshmallows today are the same as marsh mallows in the past. I think they used to be a plant extract rather than whatever chemical goop they are now. [pause for intertubing] That’s more than I ever wanted to know. I’m basically correct although “chemical goop” is a bit harsh and “used to be” is undefined. It seems that they will make a fine frosting thickener, being basically fluffy fondant, which is basically corn syrup and corn starch. I’ll try it with marshmallows and attempt to deconstruct it later, if the flavoring works (to avoid having half-used bags of marshmallows laying about the kitchen; although the mini ones are yummy, once they get stale).

The reason I chose this recipe is that I think using whatever soupy flavoring substance in place of the water will result in something of the right consistency since the syrup will not reach the correct temperature until sufficient water has boiled out of it. Hypothesis proposed and experiment designed. Let’s do some science!

Mise en place (one seems sufficient for something this simple):

Found a similar recipe on teh intertubes so I doubled this amount of minced marsh mallow.

Ready to frost:

Parchment paper looks as if it would have been a good idea. Frosting consistency is good, though.

Ta da!

It’s not bad – if you like really thick pancakes with marshmallow frosting.

What I learned:

  • OK, OK, I’ll use parchment paper.
  • Canned – and refrigerated – things lose flavor. The grape jelly/syrup is actually from two years ago and while it “lavendered” the frosting, it does not taste grape-y (neither the stuff from the jar nor the frosting).
  • This cake recipe is not very good; it tastes like pancakes. Cookbook updated.
  • This frosting recipe is not very good; it tastes like marshmallows, not frosting. Cookbook updated.
  • Making frosting with hot syrup is messy and a lot sticks to utensils (pan, mixing bowl, spatula, whisk – all of them). It’s not as noticeable when the syrup is clear; when it’s purple, one notices.
  • The baking powder by itself worked. The texture is dandy and they did rise.
  • Butter and milk (half-and-half, granted) supply sufficient oil.

Now that I find I have no grape stuff, the peanut butter and jelly cake is cancelled. The next one will be a surprise!

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