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Entries in cake history (57)

Sunday
Nov302008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Presidential Sweet: A Tour of Presidential Holiday Desserts

Presidential Sweet
The holidays are a wonderful time, aren't they? You get to sit around and eat. Hopefully at someone else's house, where they cook and you don't have to clean up afterward.

But what about the big house? That is to say, the White House? We began to wonder what sweets and traditions might have played into Presidential culture, in both the current age and years past. And luckily, we were chosen by Foodbuzz for the 24, 24, 24 project so we suddenly had the time and the means to learn and explore a bit more--all amounting to quite a sweet surprise for our family and friends the entire week of Thanksgiving! Let's just say it wasn't just one day of feasting chez Cakespy.

Mount Cupmore

 

The below is a combination of the actual dishes served based on actual Presidential menus we've located, known favorite recipes of the presidents and their wives, and, you know, a little mischievous daydreaming of our own. We made several of the recipes and served them to family and friends--and so, without further ado, here's a summation of several of our favorite Presidential-inspired dishes, going in chronological order:

A note about Thanksgiving: You'll notice that most Thanksgiving recipes kick in later on in the list--this is because although the first one was celebrated in 1671, it wasn't actually a holiday (or even celebrated regularly) until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln finally made it a national holiday. But there was plenty of other holiday goodness going around before--and since!
George thinks the cake is great
Washington's Great Cake: Our journey of delicious started with the big man, that Cherry-tree killa George Washington (OK, so maybe he did it, maybe not). Though George Washginton did have a Thanksgiving dinner, what we found much more entrhralling was Martha's famous "Great Cake" (read more here!), one of her favorites which was traditionally served at Christmastime. This cake truly was great--especially in size, as it called for 40 eggs, 4 pounds of butter, and a variety of fruits including 2 pounds of apples, and plenty of cream sherry. While tempted, the materials just seemed like a bit of a wast, so ultimately we did the recipe in 1/8 scale and it actually worked out ok; we ended up swapping egg-white icing (an acquired taste in our opinion) for a rich cream cheese frosting with some festive stars. George would approve, we think. If you want to try the actual recipe for THE great cake though, check out this site.
Cake frosting
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Corn Pudding
Thomas Jefferson's Corn Pudding: TJ was certainly a renaissance man, and in addition to a great deal of hobbies and interests, he was quite the gourmand--he's even credited with introducing the greater US culture to the île flottante (which he served at a New Year's fete). Though Thanksgiving wasn't technically a holiday yet, we like to think that he'd serve something like this sweet corn pudding at his table--a popular recipe during his Presidential years. At our table, we found it to be a pleasant-tasting dish--like some types of cornbread, gently skirting the line between side dish and dessert.
Thomas Jefferson's Corn Pudding
Sweet Corn Pudding Recipe
  • 2 c. whole kernel corn (1 16 oz. can) drained
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 stick butter
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix at high speed 10 seconds. Pour into well greased baking dish and bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees. To make enough for company I triple the corn and double everything else and bake it for an hour or more until a knife comes out clean.
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Gingerbread
Madison's Gingerbread: While to many, the Madisons (namely, Dolley) are linked to ice cream, Dolley also had a much warmer, but equally delicious, favorite for the holidays--Soft Gingerbread. Apparently hers got its unique and delicious flavor from beef drippings, but call us chicken, we decided to use butter instead and while we have no point of comparison, this one was very moist and delicious, so the butter seemed to have worked just fine. If you'd like, though, be the judge yourself!

DeliciousDelicious
Dolley Madison's Soft Gingerbread
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2/3 cup fresh beef drippings
  • 1 rounded tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 rounded tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar (to top)
Mix molasses and beef drippings; dissolve baking soda in the 1/4 cup of hot water and add to molasses and drippings mixture. Sift together flour, ginger and cinnamon and add alternately with the cup of very hot water to molasses and dripping mixture. Beat well until batter is thoroughly mixed and soft enough to pour. Bake in shallow, well-greased pan at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until center of cake springs back when pressed gently. Serve warm, sprinkledwith powdered sugar. Makes 6 servings.

President stuff
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Martin Van Buren's Doughnuts: Well, we didn't actually make them, but we were fascinated to learn two facts about MVB: first, he and his wife spoke Dutch at home (he was American-born but of Dutch heritage); the second, that his favorite food was doughnuts. Here's a recipe for an 1800's era Dutch doughnut (oliebollen) that we bet he would have loved on Christmas morning.
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*Mischievous note* William Henry Harrison Might have Liked it: well, he wasn't president for long. but, he did prompt us to learn more about Funeral Pie.
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*Mischievous note* James K. Polk might not have had much of an interest in food, but we'd officially like to dedicated the Bûche de Noël and the millefueille to him--after all, he was Napoleon of the Stump.
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Mary Todd Lincoln's Cake
Abraham Lincoln / Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla-Almond Cake: It's said that this is the one Mary made when courting Lincoln in the early days. Since they both met and later married during the holiday season--not to mention that Honest Abe declared it to be the best cake he'd ever tasted-- we figure it's a good holiday offering to represent Lincoln's era.
While the cake itself is good--dense, slightly nutty, and plenty buttery--we're not so sure about its aphrodisiac powers. We made our cake in just one layer, not two; all the more frosting to glaze on over it all.

 

 

Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla-Almond Cake (via Recipe Goldmine)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 cup almonds, finely chopped
  • 6 egg whites, stiffly beaten
  • White Frosting
  1. Cream together sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Stir together the cake flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in almonds.
  3. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  4. Pour into two greased and lightly floured 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Fill and frost with White Frosting.
White Frosting: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and dash salt. Bring mixture to boiling, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

 

In mixing bowl place 2 egg whites; very slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over, beating constantly with electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
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Cakespy Note: Though it's not strictly dessert, we couldn't help but notice that Andrew Jackson, FDR, Calvin Coolidge, and LBJ all had an admitted penchant for pancakes. We'll bet these carb-lovin' presidents would have enjoyed this Christmas tree composed of crepes like this one.
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William Howart Taft: It takes only a mere glance at the man to tell that he was as serious about sweets as he was about politics (it's true--he weighed well over 300 pounds). Apparently above all he had a soft spot for pumpkin pie; while we found the recipe below online for a "William Taft Pumpkin Pie", it seems a little bit suspect (we're not sure if they had canned milk then...does that sound ignorant?) we've gotta believe that in a different era, he'd have enjoyed the one at the bottom of this post even better.
  • 9 Inch pie crust
  • 1/4 c Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c Brown sugar
  • 3/4 c Canned milk
  • 3/4 c Fresh milk
  • 1 1/2 c Pumpkin
  • 2 Eggs; separated
  • 1/4 ts Allspice
  • 1 ts Cinnamon
  • 1/2 ts Ginger (if you wish)
  • 1/2 ts Salt

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Mix sugars, salt and spices. Add
pumpkin. Add egg yolks and milk. Add more spices, if desired. Last, fold in
beaten egg whites, not too stiff. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell. Bake
at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees until done,
about 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your oven). Pie ready when knife comes
out of filling clean.

 

Pietime!Tasting pie is serious business
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Sweet Potato Casserole
Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon (his menu below) and Lyndon B. Johnson were apparently huge fans of the sweet potato casserole; happily, there's an official White House recipe. We doubled the marshmallow for added awesomeness. The founding fathers would approve, we think. We sure dug into this one with relish--er, sweetness.


November 27, 1969

 

 

  • 8 medium sized sweet potatoes,
  • roasted, peeled and passed through
  • a fine mesh sieve
  • 3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ bag miniature marshmallows
  • cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly mix all the ingredients except the marshmallows. Spray a 9 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the custard and top with a half bag of mini marshmallows. Bake for about a half hour. Keep warm for service.
Sweet Potato Casserole
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Truman mini pie
Harry S. Truman's Light Pie: Via The Old Foodie, we discovered this excerpt from a 1946 edition of the New York Times:

WHITE HOUSE MENU GUARDS WAISTLINE.
The White House announced today an ample menu for the Thanksgiving dinner which President Truman will sandwich in between two diplomatic dinners, but he’s still dieting.

 

The continued waistline-reduction regime is on the authority of Mrs. Mary E. Sharpe, White House housekeeper, who counts the Presidential calories. She declined to elaborate other than to say: “When I make up menus I keep it in mind.”

Mrs. Sharpe gave the Thanksgiving menu as follows: clear bouillon, curled celery and olives, roast stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, candied sweet potatoes, buttered peas, cauliflower au gratin, orange and cress salad, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and cheese, candied fruit, nuts, coffee.

And so, we figured that it would be in keeping to make a pint-sized (diet friendly) pie for Harry--so, with an extra bit of filling from the Mesnier recipe (bottom) we made a single-serve piece in a cupcake cup, with a low-fat marshmallow topping. Still yummy, and mos' def cute!

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Jackie Kennedy's Hot Fruit DessertJackie Kennedy's Hot Fruit Dessert
Kennedy's Hot Fruit Dessert Pies: It's known that assorted pies and ice cream always played a role in the Kennedy Thanksgiving dinner. However, we took it a step further by combining the pie idea with Jackie Kennedy's famous Hot Fruit Dessert (click here for the recipe)--her signature dish. We made the dessert but then baked it in as a pie filling; we used extra pie crust from the recipe at the bottom of this post and used it to line cupcake cups, filling them with the fruit slurry and topping it all off with a brown sugar glaze on top. Though we're not usually fruit pie fans, this one had enough of a rich kick from the buttery glaze and sour cream that even we were impressed. As seen below, we think JFK approves as well. Of course if you don't care for fruit pies, you could always try to replicate these cookies.
JFK approves
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Ladybird Johnson's Lemon Cake
Johnson's Lemon Cake: Behind every great President is a great First Lady, and behind at least one first lady--Ladybird Johnson--was a great arsenal of awesome cake recipes. We went for one of her (and the President's) favorites--taking a modern twist and making them into cupcakes. The result? A cupcake that is light, fluffy, and simply delicious--so refreshing, it provides a nice foil to all of those other holiday foods!

 

 

Ladybird Johnson's Lemon Cake
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
What's in the batter?
Icing Ingredients
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine (at room temperature)
  • 1 lemon, Grated rind only
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons cream (or more, until spreading consistency)
  • Yellow food coloring, if desired

Directions:
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks until light and lemon-colored; blend into creamed mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; resift 3 times. Add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with milk. Beat the batter thoroughly after each addition.

 

Add vanilla extract, lemon rind and lemon juice; beat 2 minutes. Bake in greased 10-inch Bundt pan in preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 1 hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. You can also can use three 9-inch round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Double the frosting recipe for a layer cake.

Lemon Icing
Combine ingredients and beat, adding cream until desired consistency.

Ladybird Johnson's Lemon Cake (as cupcakes)
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Tassies
Jimmy Carter's Pecan Toffee Tassies: Now, Jimmy Carter did have holiday meals at the White House, duh, but even more importantly, he was the first Presidential figure to ever bake with Paula Deen--so we'd say that these cookies are a step above. We'd serve these at any Christmas party. Ours were stickier and less pretty than Paula's, but man, were they rich and delicious. Needless to say, they disappeared really fast.

Pecan Toffee Tassies (Via Paula Deen)

 

  • 1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 (10-ounce) package almond brickle chips
  • Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Unroll the piecrusts onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into 2 (15-inch) circles. Cut out 48 circles using a 1 3/4-inch fluted or round cookie cutter, re-rolling dough as needed. Place in 1 3/4-inch muffin pans, pressing on the bottoms and up the sides of each of the mini-muffin cups. Combine the melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and eggs in a large bowl, mixing well. Add the vanilla. Stir in the pecans and brickle chips. Spoon the pecan filling evenly into the pie shells. Bake for 25 minutes, or until filling is set and crust is lightly browned. Cool in pans on wire racks.

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Presidential Eggnog
And now, to the modern day. What better to get into the spirit of the holidays than with some holiday spirits? For 11 years spanning the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, this eggnog recipe has ruled. In White House Chef, author Walter Scheiber describes how
every year, the holiday season was kicked off with the "running of the 'nog", our playful way of referring to the tour of the House we made with the eggnog (and a riff on the "running of the bulls" from Pamplona, Spain).
What can we say? This is the real deal--it certainly packs a punch, and even if it was just thanksgiving, it certainly put our crew in a celebratory mood. (Though for full disclosure, we didn't have Cognac so just doubled up on the rum. *hic*)
White House Eggnog
  • 5 ounces egg yolks (6-7 yolks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 3/4 cup Cognac
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 7 ounces egg whites (6-7)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 quart milk, plus more if needed
  • Nutmeg, for serving
  1. Put the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with whisk attachmen; whip until pale yellow ribbons form, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the cognac, bourbon, and rum, whip well, scrape down the sides, and mix again. Transfer the mixture to a 6-qt bowl.
  3. In separate, clean mixer bowl, whip the egg whites and salt until very stiff peaks form. Fold into eggnog mixture.
  4. Wipe out the mixer bowl, pour in the cream and vanilla, and whip until very stiff peaks form. Fold this into the eggnog mixture. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Chill, garnish with nutmeg (and cinnamon, in our case!) and enjoy!
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Yes We Pie
And for the past 25 years or so, apparently one pie has risen above all others in the White House: Raymond Mesnier's Ginger Pumpkin Pie. So we made it--here's one thing we wouldn't mind passing on to the next administration, we must say.

 

 

Presidential Pumpkin Pie With Ginger
Ingredients for the Pie Crust
Makes enough for 2 12-inch pie shells.

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening, plus some for greasing parchment

Recipe for pieProduct Placement?
Ingredients for the Pumpkin Filling
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 18 ounces milk
  • 2 2/3 cups plain canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 baked 12-inch pie shell (recipe below)
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • Candied ginger, finely cut

Directions for the Pie Crust

 

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place ingredients in mixing bowl. Then using paddle attachment of an electric mixer, mix until well blended, about 3 minutes.
2. Divide dough in two; shape each into a ball. (Dough balls can be wrapped and frozen.)
3. Roll out on floured surface into a round to fit a 12-inch glass pie plate. Trim crust at edge of plate. (It will be covered with whipped cream.)
4. Prick crust with fork on bottom and sides. Crumple a piece of parchment paper; open up and grease one side of the paper. Place greased side down in crust; fill bottom and a little up the sides with dried beans.
5. Bake 15 minutes; remove from oven, and carefully remove paper and beans. If crust tears, patch it by pressing together with your fingers. Bake another 10 minutes, until crust is brown, and remove. It is not necessary to wait for crust to cool before filling.

Directions for the Pumpkin Pie

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat whole eggs and yolks lightly.
3. Cream sugar and eggs, and beat in salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and milk until thoroughly blended. Stir in the pumpkin. Pour into pre-baked pie shell.
4. Bake about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not jiggle. Cool pie on wire rack, then chill.
5. To serve, whip cream and pipe around edge of pie; decorate with candied ginger.

(Eggnog and pumpkin pie Recipes courtesy of Roland Mesnier, Chief White House Pastry Chef, copyright 2001.)
Yes We Pie

 

As for a grand finale? How about a sculpture of Mt. Rushmore rendered in sugar cookie dough and cake? OK, it sounded great in theory--but alas, our chef d'oeuvre turned out to be a major chef don't. And yet...while eating hunks sugar cookie dough molded into a vague visage of a President, one can't help but be slightly dazzled by all that sweetness--regardless of whether the outcome looked more like an unholy mashed potatoes and peas combination. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
Mt Rushmore from sugar cookie dough
In closing? Have a sweet Holiday Season, and thank you again to Foodbuzz for letting us have fun with the 24, 24, 24 project--and do check out the other entries here!

For suggested further reading, check out the sources we used for this post:

Dessert University: More Than 300 Spectacular Recipes and Essential Lessons from White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier
The White House Cook Book : A Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information for the Home Containing cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner Giving Table, Etiquette, Care of the sick, Health Suggestions, Facts Worth Knowing Etc.
Presidential Tidbits & Trivia by Sid Frank and Arden Davis Melick
The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy
Zimbio.com
Hugging the Coast

 

 

 

Wednesday
Nov122008

Royal Dilemma: Why is the Princess Cake Green?

Why is the Princess Cake Green?
Princess Cake shown is from Miette in San Francisco; photo credit Frankie Frankeny.

Some of you may trouble yourselves mysteries of the natural universe: What is the meaning of life? If a tree falls in the woods, can anybody hear it? Why on earth is Paris Hilton famous?

But we Cake Gumshoes choose to ponder a much bigger (and more delicious) mystery: why is the princess cake green?

First things first though. For those of you not acquainted with the princess cake (or princess torte), we'd like to clarify that we're not talking about the "Princess Cake" that has a severed Barbie doll stacked atop a dome of frilly buttercream (though that one has its moments). No, we're talking about the Princesstårta, a cake which hails from Sweden, where it was invented in the 1930s by cookbook author Jenny Åkerström, who is said to have made it in honor of Sweden's three princesses at the time--Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid. While it's not as common in bakery cases as say, Red Velvet, it's not an exceedingly rare cake either--most urban areas will have at least a couple of bakeries that offer the sweet confection, which is made of alternating layers of light, airy cake, thick pastry cream, and jam, all topped with a sweet jacket of marzipan--often in a dome shape. But perhaps the most striking thing about this cake is how it's nearly always green.
Princess Cake
Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, famed Los Angeles restaurant Scandia offered a chocolate-topped version back in the day (which, with the help of pastry chef Chris Jarchow, we made it recently; see above); some bakeries will offer an off-white or pink version. However, it seems to us that most frequently--or at least frequently enough for us to have noticed-- it's an attractive and very signature pistachio tone of green.

So what gives?

Unfortunately, this proved to be quite the challenge. Here's a summation of our epic journey to discover the truth:

First Stop: The Library

 

First, we hit up the library, where we consulted the serious tome of a book The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg, in which we found the following passage:

"I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I do not have a definite answer as to why is the marzipan on top of a Princess Cake traditionally colored green. This is a question I have been asked time after time, and believe me, I have tried to find out. It would at least make more sense to me if the cake were flavored with mint or pistachio. Princess Cakes are often made with other colours..."

 

Our buddy over at ReTorte referenced Friberg's quote too, adding that "My fancy French pastry books do not even mention Princess cake..my only theory is that, as with a lot of stuff in the pastry world, it's green because of tradition. They do A LOT of stuff just out of tradition, even though it makes no sense otherwise!"


Larsen'sSwedish Cultural Center

 

Princess-ish cake from Larsen's

Second Stop: The Experts
We figured if anyone would know, it would be the good Nordic population of Seattle!
Unfortunately, the mystery only deepened with a call to the Swedish Cultural Center, where they had not a clue as to why the green-hued cake persists; however, they did point us in the direction of Larsen's in Ballard as a spot to pick up a particularly delicious one.
While the employees at Larsen's were friendly, unfortunately they were unable to shed further light upon the cake's color. "Maybe it was the princess' favorite color," one employee muses; "maybe it was the colors of her wedding flowers" adds another, referencing the fact that it's frequently topped with a pink flower.
Last-ditch: The Internet
Just when we were beginning to despair, we found a very informative bulletin board on chowhound.com that answered some of these questions--one user's comments in particular were very helpful. Turns out, the confection's invention may hold the answer.

Original princess cakes
Remember how that cookbook writer invented the recipe for three princesses in the 1930s? Well, as it turns out, "it appears that Åkerström had not one, but three different princess cakes, one for each of the princesses. They were very elaborate cakes, not terribly suited to the home baker. Astrid's cake most closely resembles the princess cake in its current form." (Cakes pictured, above). As it turns out, the article continues, "Annika Larsson, a baker at the Grillska Konditoriet in Stockholm, is credited with combining features from the three cakes and creating the princess cake that has become a tradition--that is to say, the green one. It appeared in Finland not long after it became popular in 1930s Sweden and has remained a traditional cake ever since, particularly for graduation and end of school year parties."
While this doesn't completely answer the question of why the cake is green, it does shed some light on the subject and leave it open to some guesswork. Perhaps when Annika was combining the best aspects of each cake, she simply preferred the green hued one as a matter of personal preference. Perhaps she had a surplus of green dye and it was done for more practical reasons. 
Of course, we like to think maybe it was something truly poetic: perhaps green was a color caught on with the Swedish audience because it represented the hope of spring, like the first gentle blades of grass coming up in the cold, dark winters.
But whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: the Princess cake is certainly iconic, and we certainly feel happy whenever we see the green-hued confection turn up on our table.

 

P.S. Wanna try to make the Princess Cake? A fantastic recipe can be found on Tartelette, as well as some seriously beautiful pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Nov072008

Cookies So Nice, They Baked Them Twice: Musings on Biscotti, Mandelbrot and More!

Chris made the cutest biscotti ever
(The mini biscotti pictured was made by ace Seattle Pastry Chef Chris Jarchow!)


What in the world is a twice-baked cookie?

 

To discover the real meaning of the twice-baked cookie, you've got to start with the biscuit. In terms of etymology, "biscuit" means "twice cooked"--and acording to John Ayto's book An A-Z of Food & Drink, "its name reflects the way in which it was once made. The originl biscuit was a small flat cake made of wheat flower, sugar, egg yolks, and perhaps a little yeast. It was intended for long keeping, so to dry it out it was returned to the oven for a while after the initial cooking process had finished". The signature hard texture and long shelf life has endeared the twice-baked cookie to seafaring voyagers, teething babies, and lends itself quite nicely to dunking in sweet wine.

In the United States, the term "biscuit" refers to something else these days, but the concept of a twice-baked cookie is still very much alive. To Americans, the most famous example is probably the Italian version, biscotti. It's arguable, but our theory for its preeminence is that it grew in popularity with the coffee-house revolution that hit the US in a big way, in which biscotti was a common food to be offered.

Interestingly enough however, many different cultures boast some variation on this biscuit--and so we've prepared a small primer on some of the twice-baked cookies out there for you. (Note: If you want to read more about it, check out this article too!).

 

Biscotti by the Italian Woman at the Table

Biscotti: While in Italy, biscotti is a kind of catch-all phrase for cookies, in North America, we think of it as a long, dry, hard twice-baked cookie with a curved top and flat bottom designed for dunking into wine or coffee. The name biscotti is derived from 'bis' meaning twice in Italian and 'cotto' meaning baked or cooked. Generally, what separates biscotti from other variations is that it frequently gets its fat solely from eggs and nuts--often it does not contain oil or butter. Of course, these days there are all sorts of variations, so this is not a hard-fast rule. Here's a link to a delicious recipe.

 

Beschuit met Muisjes
Beschuit met muisjes: In this Dutch version, which translates to "biscuits with little mice", a twice-baked bread not unlike the rusk (below) is characterized mostly by its garnish: according to Wikipedia,

They are spread with butter (or margarine) and the muisjes (lit. 'little mice') are sprinkled on top. These muisjes are sugared aniseed balls. They are sold in a mixture of two colours: White and pink. In 1990 a new mixture was introduced: white and blue, and it has become a custom, but not a universal one, that the latter (blue) are served when a boy is born, and the former (pink) for a girl. When a child is born in to the royal House of Orange, orange muisjes are sold.

 

 

Croquets de carcassonne (or biscotte): This is the french variation on biscotti; from what we could find, the major difference seems to be that biscotte contains butter (and plenty of it!). While we couldn't find the reasoning behind the name Croquets de carcassone, it did have a nice ring to it, so we included it! Here's a recipe.

 

Marla's Mandels
Mandelbrodt (also known as Mandelbread, Mondelbrodt, Mondel bread, and probably more that we've missed!): Never heard of it? No surprise. As our foodie crush Arthur Schwartz writes, "Isn't it ironic? It used to be that biscotti were explained as Italian mandelbread. These days, mandelbread is explained as Jewish biscotti." While mandelbrodt shares similarities to biscotti, it is not the same: unlike biscotti, which gets its fat primarily from eggs, mandelbrodt will generally contain oil as well. And while nuts are common in biscotti, they're a key ingredient in mandelbrodt, which literally translates to "almond bread". If you're curious, you can buy some via mail-order at marlasmandels.com (photo above); also, you can find a recipe here!

Lulu's Mondel Bread
Paxemadia (or biskota): In this Greek version, from what we can gather, the main variation here is with spices--one informative biscotti recipe posting suggests that you could make a biscotti recipe into the Greek variation by adding "a flavor mixture of 1/4 cup flour mixed into 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seed, 1 tablespoon crushed anise seeds, 2 tablespoons grated orange peel, 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel; and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts."

Rusks: Like the term "biscuit", "rusk" seems to be more of a concept, with all sorts of different cultural variations, from long, slender versions to small rounds to toast-shaped versions. Like Mandelbrodt, the rusk differs from biscotti in that it will often contain an added fat--oil, or sometimes butter. One thing seems certain though: more than any other variation, the Rusk seems to be attached to seafaring culture--Swedish recipe books and John Ayto's book (referenced above) both refer to it as a cookie that accompanied naval officers and sailors on long voyages. Here's a recipe.

Sukhariki: The Russian term also seems to be a catch-all, referring to any type of crispy bread, from more crouton-esque variations to sweetened ones. Here's a hazelnut variation.
Zwieback
Zwieback: Per Wikipedia, the name comes from German zwei, meaning "two", and backen, meaning "to bake". This is the only variation in which we saw recipes that called for yeast, and indeed, this would be in keeping with it sometimes being referred to as "zwieback toast". Of course, this is not to be confused with Russian Mennonite Zwieback, which is more like a roll. More than any other variation, we associate this one as a baby's toothing snack. Most notably, however, we have to say, zwieback certainly takes the cake when it comes to cultural references. here are just a few:

  • In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer the Smithers", the character Smithers remarks to his boss Mr. Burns, "...I've alphabetized your breakfast. You can start with the waffles, and work your way up to the zwieback."
  • In the 1991 classic film Doc Hollywood, when Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox) first arrives in Grady, nurse Packer tells him there is Zwieback and Vitamin C in the cabinet.
  • In "Dear Mildred", an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H, Radar O'Reilly compares his first days with Colonel Potter to visiting summers with his prim-and-proper aunt; "You can't dunk your zwieback in your Bosco."
  • In her song "Caving In", Kimya Dawson sings that she is "just a piece of zwieback toast getting soggy in a baby's aching mouth."

 

 

Sunday
Sep142008

Behind the Sweetness: Stories and Lore Behind Popular Baked Goods

Cake History: Stories behind the Sweets

History of the Pop Tart
What a Fruitcake: History of a Holiday Icon
It's so Cold in Alaska: History of Baked Alaska
Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star: History of the Twinkie
Happy Cakes: Including a History of the Gateau Basque
Of Madeleines and Macarons: A Faceoff and Some History
Love is in the Eclair: The History and some Trivia behind the French Treat
In Defense of the Coconut Macaroon: History of (And an Ode to) an Ugly Cookie
Pie in the Sky: Demystifying Sweet Pies
Pie Story: An Epic Journey to find the Nesselrode Pie
Cookies So Nice, They Baked Them Twice: A Primer on Twice-Baked Cookies


Sunday
Sep072008

Parlez Beignet? An Exploration of New Orleans' Famous Treats

September 6, 2008: Beignets in Seattle
Our beignet story began with a brow wax. Now, generally "brow wax" and "delicious pastry" aren't things that go together--but it turns out, the aesthetician was originally from New Orleans, which inevitably led to a discussion about the best sweet stuff in the Crescent City. She waxed poetic about one specialty in particular--the beignet. (Cakespy Note: To avoid potential embarrassment later--it's pronounced "ben-YAY"--in your Frenchiest voice possible, please.)

What's a beignet? The answer may differ depending where you are in the world.


Beignet
The word beignet itself comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning "to raise", and according to our French dictionary, the literal translation is "fritter". If this seems simplistic, there's a reason why--according to this site, "In France, beignet is an umbrella term for a large variety of pastries made from deep-fried dough with fruit or vegetable filling". However, though French in origin, the beignet's legend seems to lie in New Orleans, so we like this definition (from What's Cooking America) best:
Beignets, a New Orleans specialty, are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter or 2 inches square. After being fried, they are sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings. It is like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. Beignets are the forerunners of the raised doughnut. When you hear people in New Orleans say, "Goin' fo' coffee an' doughnuts," they mean coffee and beignets. In 1986, beignets became the Louisiana State Doughnut.
And certainly, even if you've never tried a beignet, you'll recognize it as looking like a cousin to many other treats--at moments close to, but not quite the same as--doughnuts, zeppole, funnel cake, pączki, buñuelos, boules de Berlin...the list goes on.

But back to that pivotal brow wax.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet
Turns out, the N'awlins-bred aesthetician wasn't pining over the fried treats, for she had found beignets right in Seattle--in the unlikely spot of the Center House in the Seattle Center. The Center House, under the shadow of the Space Needle, isn't much of a destination--it's more of a mall-type food court, not exactly a foodie mecca--but as she had learned, this little spot makes their beignets using the same mix (note: though the thought of a mix might scare off some, the ingredients were decidedly tame--Enriched wheat flour, enriched barley flour, milk, buttermilk, salt, sugar, leavening (baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast) as Cafe Du Monde, which is probably the most famous of the beignet joints in New Orleans, having garnered mentions in Jimmy Buffet songs and in John T. Edge's donut book, if you're into pastry name dropping (we totally are).

When we went to Cafe Beignet on a Saturday afternoon, there was no line, and we watched the young employee roll out, shape and then fry the beignets to order. Now, we've never been to New Orleans so we don't really have a point of reference--but we can say that our beignets, taken piping hot to go and liberally dusted with a cinnamon-sugar topping, tasted hot, fried, sugary--that is to say, in our estimation, pretty delicious.


In Seattle? See for yourself at Cafe Beignet, Center House, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA; (206) 441-0262.

Not in Seattle? We found this recipe (below) which we're gonna try next time, or you could buy the Cafe du Monde mix at cafedumonde.com.


Beignets
Beignet Recipe
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature & beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
* Use just enough vegetable oil to completely cover beignets while frying.

Using a mixer with a dough hook, place water, sugar, salt, egg, butter, evaporated milk, flour, and yeast in the bowl. Beat until smooth. If using a bread machine, select dough setting and press Start. When dough cycle has finished, remove dough from pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. form dough into an oval, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled (3 to 4 hours) or overnight.

To prepare dough, remove from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares.

In a deep fryer or large pot, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees F. Fry the beignets (2 or 3 at a time) 2 to 3 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown on both sides, turning them in the oil with tongs once or twice to get them evenly brown; beignets will rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to puff. NOTE: If the beignets don't rise to the top immediately when dropped into the oil, the oil is not hot enough. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

NOTE: The dough can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator - it actually improves with age; just punch down when it rises. Dough can also be frozen; cut and roll, or shape doughnuts before freezing.)

Makes 18 beignets.





Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Aug312008

Love is in the Eclair: Some Sweet History, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

The Eclair
Until this month, eating an éclair was a matter of walking down to Le Panier and grabbing one of the delectable confections. But all of this changed with our most recent Daring Bakers Challenge (suggested by Meeta and Tony) which was to make Pierre Hermé’s éclairs. Now, admittedly we haven't made éclairs before but this recipe seemed like rather a quirky one (check it out here).

But like we always do, during all of those between-steps moments we had to do something to keep ourselves from eating the unfinished masterpieces, so we turned to discover a bit more about the sweet treat. Here's what we discovered, along with our little helper above (who we like to call Pierre Eclair):


Eclair
What is an éclair? To those who may have grown up eating the version peddled at Dunkin' Donuts, you've been living a lie. That is what would technically be referred to as a "long john"--basically a doughnut dressed up like an éclair. Not that we'd turn our nose if offered a box of them.

 

Likewise those of you who have sampled the "eclair" by Cadbury and Co. are also not eating the French pastry--these confections are a caramel coating around a chocolate center.

Eclairs, Fairway, NYCEclairs at Caffe Roma, NYC

No, a true éclair is a
"long, thin pastry made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with icing.
The dough, which is the same as that used for profiterole, is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside. Once cool, the pastry then is filled with...pastry cream (crème pâtissière), custard or whipped cream, and topped with fondant icing."

Of course, if that seems a bit long, this definition for the éclair seems rather succinct: according to the Chambers English Dictionary, an éclair is “a cake, long in shape but short in duration.”

 

Where do they come from? Like a sweet mirage, the eclair's origins are hazy. According to foodtimeline.org, "The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs but provide little if any details regarding their origin. This probably means the eclair is a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture that perhaps Antonin Carême (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to éclairs."

Beautiful Eclairs at St. Honore BoulangerieEclairs at Piancone's in Bradley Beach, NJ
But wherever they may have come from, they caught on fast. They'd jumped the pond by 1884, garnering a writeup and recipe in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. You can find the original American recipe here.

Eclair 

Why are they called "eclairs"?: Like the riddle about the Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. In An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto muses that "The primary meaning of eclair in French is 'lightning', and one (not very convincing) explanation advanced for its application to these cream-filled choux-pastry temptations is that it was suggested by the light gleaming from their coating of fondant icing". Well, John might not be impressed, but we rather like the Frenchy, film-noir image that gives us--the film's hero, shot in dark, moody tones, walks into a bakery, and upon encountering the eclair for the first time, is blinded by the flash of its glossy veneer, and then completely struck by that first taste.

 

 

Enough already, how did they taste?: Full disclosure? We didn't think that these were the tastiest of recipes for the first-time éclairmakers--they tasted a little too eggy for our liking, our custard was maybe a little runny. But, they say Hermé is the best (and we believe them), so it's exceedingly possible the fault was on our end. Only one way to find out--you can check out all of the entries at daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com. We think that this website did a wonderful job on them--and the recipe is posted there too!


 

Tuesday
Aug262008

C'est Bon: The Famous Bonbon Cookies of 1955-1960

Bonbon cookies
1955-1960 was certainly an eventful series of years. Sputnik I was launched; Alaska and Hawaii were proclaimed the 49th and 50th states; Truman Capote published the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, which would later be made into a film by the same name.

And during these years, there was one cookie that spoke to the times more than any other: the Bonbon Cookie. At least that's what Betty Crocker says. And other than the fact that she's not actually...well, real, she's never led us astray. According to her Cooky Book (1963), the treats are described as being real trailblazers on the cookie frontier:


Bonbon Cookies from Betty Crocker

 

"candy-like cookies in vogue--women were fascinated by these beautiful and delicious cookies which were baked as cookies, served and eaten as candies. Excitement over Bonbons brought more candy-cookies, Toffee squares and Cream Filberts, for example"


And if that doesn't pique your interest, the photos in the book will (above)--in pastel tones worthy of Marie Antoinette's court, these are without a doubt cookies for ladies, a pinkies-out affair. We had to make them. Turns out, they're amazingly easy--and rather delicious.
 
Chocolate innardsBonbon Cookies being made
A few notes:
  • They are rather on the sweet side--so for those who like a less-sweet cookie, you might want to leave off the frosting, or opt for a more savory filling for the cookies, such as chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut; we used chocolate chips, but then again we're not scared of sweet cookies.
  • In keeping with the spirit of this dainty cookie and the era from which it harkens, we elected to make ours Tiffany Blue, garnishing them with white sugar pellets in white to offer the same color palette as that iconic box with its white bow. We found that adding a drop or so of green with two or three drops of blue food coloring reached the signature tone nicely.
  • To attain the desired round Bonbon shape, we used a small ice cream scoop to spoon out our dough; while in the scoop we inserted 2-3 chocolate chips, pressed them down, and then reformed the dough over it to secure the filling.
Here's the recipe:

Bonbon Cookies in Tiffany Blue
Bonbon Cookies
Created by Mrs. Joseph J. Wallace, Whitehall, Montana

For the Cookies:
  • 1/2 c. soft butter 
  • 3/4 c. sifted confectioners sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • food coloring if desired 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Possible fillings: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, cherries...choose your own adventure!
For the Icing:
  • Mix 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tbsp cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and food coloring (if desired).
Heat oven to 350. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and food coloring (if using), thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend in flour and salt. If dough is dry, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. cream. Wrap a level Tablespoon of dough around filling.. Place 1" apart on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 min. Cool; dip tops of cookies in frosting; decorate with another topping if desired. Makes 20-25 cookies.
Thursday
Aug212008

Ice Dreams: Ruminations on the Ice Cream Cone Cupcake

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Growing up in suburban New Jersey in the late 80's/early 90's, a kid's coolness in school could easily be determined by what treat they brought in for their class party on their birthday.

There were the poor things who brought in a homemade cake. These kids were definitely not awesome--who would spend time baking cake from scratch when they could be watching Full House? Of course, these were probably the tastiest of the treats, but no self-respecting child of the 80's would have admitted it at the time.
Then there were the ones who brought in Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins: artificial, sugary, and a crowd pleaser. Of course, extra points to the parents who got extra chocolate glazed ones. Nobody liked to be the kid left with the last sad-looking crushed unglazed munchkin.
But then--in the hallowed light of major coolness, were the ones who brought in the coveted cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.

Cupcakes baked in ice cream conesOh no!
A phenomenon in the late 80's, it appears these cones are making a comeback. They're cropping up in bakeries and on websites, and though part of us says "too soon!", part of us also thinks "welcome back!". But it got us wondering--what's the deal with these cupcakes? And so we dug out our old Debbie Gibson cassettes and got to some sleuthing and sweet soul searching on the subject:

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why in the world would you bake a cupcake into an ice cream cone?
Um, because it's, like, awesome? In retrospect though, we suspect it's the ease of cleanup that was the main lure: no messy cupcake wrappers hanging around and being dropped on the floor like a waiting banana-peel joke.
Where do they come from?  
We can't say for certain, but we suspect that this was a phenomenon that came from the back of a box of cake mix, since they were usually prepared the same way (with a rainbow-chip funfetti style cake). On a recent hunt in the grocery store, it seems that indeed, the recipe does appear on the back of Betty Crocker's "Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix". 
Cakespy Note: Additional research has revealed two tidbits: one is that the recipe has also appeared on the back of ice cream cone boxes; the other is that previous to their 80's heyday, the cone-cakes had enjoyed a bit of vogue during the 60's...but once again, the origins are hazy. 

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why are they so awesome?  
You may remember the late 80's as a time of a distinctly synthetic glitz, and we believe that this was part of the ice cream cupcake's coolness. It had the look: it was bright and colorful, but then again, it had a hidden secret. It looked like an ice cream cone! But when you bite into it...it's cake! What can we say, children of the 80's were easily impressed.

Cupcakes
Where can I buy them?  
As previously mentioned, these cupcakes are enjoying a bit of a comeback. We predict that soon you'll be seeing homemade versions cropping up in hip bakeries; we hear you can currently find them at Treats Truck in NYC.
How do I make them?
Some will tell you that the best ones are made from scratch. In terms of taste this may be true, but if you want to make a truly authentic, late 80's / early 90's ice cream cone cupcake, it's all about the mix and as many artificial colors and flavors as possible.

Here's the recipe (and picture, left) we found on the Betty Crocker site. (Cakespy Note: We copied the recipe below as it was posted on the Betty Crocker site; however, when baking them ourselves, we just put the batter directly in the ice cream cones and it worked out fine).


Ingredients:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® party rainbow chip cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix box
24 flat-bottom ice cream cones

 

 

Directions:
1 to 2 containers Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy frosting (any flavor)
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter (1 heaping tablespoon each). Place ice cream cone upside down on batter in each cup.
3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean (cones may tilt on batter). Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove paper baking cups. Generously frost cake with frosting, and decorate as desired. Store loosely covered.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Follow High Altitude directions on cake mix box. Fill cones about 1/2 full to make 36 to 40 cones. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

 

 

 

Saturday
Aug162008

Not Joe Mamma's Cookies: Legend of the Joe Frogger

Joe Frogger
We love the Seattle Public Library. Not only is it a feat of architecture (designed by Rem Koolhaas) and a fantastic place for people-watching, but we find some of the best literary gems there (including arguably the best cookbook ever-- Cooking in WetLeather, a biker cookbook with the tag "Ride Safe, Eat Dangerously"--but we digress.)

Proper Joe FroggerLove Cookie
Our most recent discovery though was the first edition print of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, which, packed as it is with recipes and little historical tidbits, led us to the legend of the Joe Frogger.



What is a Joe Frogger? According to Betty, they are "famous molasses cookies made long ago by old Uncle Joe of Marblehead, Mass. The cookies are as plump and dark as the little frogs that lived in the pond near Joe's cottage." Not too sweet, and with a crisp texture, they are a solid cookie indeed (picture of a "proper" Joe Frogger above left--we've taken liberties with the shapes of the others in this writeup).

But a little bit of further digging revealed a life as rich in history as the cookie is plentiful in molasses. Joe Brown, aka "Black Joe", was born in Massachusetts 1750 to a black mother and Native American father--a time when most wealthy Marblehead families still owned several slaves. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find much about his youth, but it is speculated that by the time he reached manhood he "must have been gainfully employed for his name does not appear as one of the black "drifters" forced out of Marblehead in 1788, when...Town Meeting ordered all former slaves to find work or leave". 
Joe clearly had it going on though--he married a woman 22 years his junior, Lucretia Brown, and he even bought property in the area, a house on Gingerbread Hill (!). It was a lengendary spot, converted to a rooming house which was one of the few places in town where whites and blacks mixed freely. And oh, did it have a colorful reputation (from Marblehead Magazine)--
according to Marblehead Historian Joseph Robinson, "a more uncouth assemblage of ruffians could not be found anywhere." It would not be surprising if the term "Down bucket!" originated here, that fearful Marblehead expression warning those below that the contents of the chamber pot where about to be flung out a bedroom window.
Just thinking about these antics makes us hungry--and that's where the famous molasses cookies come into the picture--they were the tavern's signature food item.
Joe Froggers
But the Joe Froggers themselves were only named after Black Joe--they were not actually his invention. The cookie was apparently dreamed up by his wife Lucretia (aka "Aunty Crese"). The cookies, which keep for long periods, were named for her husband and the amphibians who lived in the pond by the house; because they keep for a long time, the cookies were an ideal choice for travel and were frequently taken on fishing trips and even longer sea voyages. There was also a lesser-known variation, the "Sir Switchels" which were popular too, described as a "thirst-quenching blend of water and molasses, which a touch of vinegar to cut the sweetness."

Cuppie has identity crisisCuppie is a cookie?
Unfortunately it's better to be the one the cookie's named after rather than the namer--while Black Joe has an impressive gravestone and is a part of Marblehead lore, Lucretia's resting place is not known (though apparently she does get a mention in the novel The Hearth and Eagle by Anya Seton. )

 

 

But perhaps the Marblehead Magazine sums it up best: 

 

Still, as long as frogs continue to hatch in Marblehead ponds and the aroma of gingerbread fills Marblehead kitchens, the lives of Black Joe and Aunty 'Crese will be as sweetly remembered as the taste of their warm Joe Frogger.


We used Betty Crocker's version (which is vegan!); it can be found below, or in the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. 

 

Joe Froggers


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup Shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups Gold Medal Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

Directions: Mix well shortening and sugar. Stir in molasses and water. Measure flour by sifting. Stir dry ingredients together; blend into shortening mixture. Chill dough several hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured board. Cut in 3-inch circles. Sprinkle with sugar. Place no a well-greased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on baking sheet a few minutes before removing to prevent breaking. Store in covered cookie jar. Makes 3 to 4 doz. cookies. Note: if you use self-rising flour, omit salt and soda.
Two additional notes: A few questions have come up as a result of this article. The first one is, are Joe Froggers delicious? Well. They're an old school cookie, very spicy and molasses-y, and not too sweet. We'll admit it openly though--we liked ours better with a dab of frosting on top.

The second question is "Why does Cuppie look so sad?". Well, you see, he's having a moment of identity crisis--"am I a cookie...or a cupcake?". It's a poignant moment indeed, speaking to all of those who have ever felt like the proverbial square peg.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jul302008

Tale of Two Confections: The Difference Between Cake and Gâteau, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Gateau Peanut
It's the end of the month again, which brings certain things: rent is due, the calendar must be changed...and the Daring Bakers Challenge. This month, the assignment was to make a Gâteau Filbert (a challenge suggested by Mele Cotte). What is a Gâteau Filbert? Well, on first impression, it seemed to be a pinkies-out way of saying "Hazelnut Cake". But it made us wonder--is there a difference between a gâteau and a cake? It seems that we intuit differences between them--to us, a gâteau is something fancy from a French bakery, whereas cake is what your momma makes for your birthday. You can't make a gâteau from a mix...right? But is there really a difference, or is it just translation? We took some time to tackle the issue, on several criteria. (Of course, if you just wanna bake already, please continue on to find the recipe link below).

Step 1: We started old-school--by consulting the dictionary. Here's how they're defined:

 

Cake: a sweet, baked, breadlike food, made with or without shortening, and usually containing flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, eggs, and liquid flavoring


Gâteau: a cake, esp. a very light sponge cake with a rich icing or filling.
OK, so it seems there is a difference, albeit a subtle one. (Of course, it bears noting that when consulting a French dictionary, the definition becomes a bit more complex--for it seems that cake translates not only to gâteau but galette as well--the gâteau generally accepted as a raised cake, frequently with icing, whereas galettes are generally flat, crusty and sometimes filled--also including crepe or cookielike varieties.)

Step 2: Culturally Speaking...we soldiered on in our journey, and found the following nuggets in An A to Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto:

 
Cake. The original dividing line between cake and bread was fairly thin: [in] Roman times eggs and butter were often added to basic bread dough to give a consistency we would recognize as cakelike, and this was frequently sweetened with honey. Terminologically, too, the earliest English cakes were virtually bread, their main distinguishing characteristics being their shape--round and flat--and the fact that they were hard on both sides from being turned over during baking...
Gâteau. English borrowed gâteau from French in the mid-nineteenth century, and at first used it fairly indiscriminately for any sort of cake, pudding, or cake-like pie...Since the Second World War, however, usage of the term has honed in on an elaborate 'cream cake': the cake element, generally a fairly unremarkable sponge, is in most cases simply an excuse for lavish layers of cream, and baroque cream and fruit ornamentation....
Step 3: Etymologically Yours...also from Johnny A.'s book, we learned the respective histories of each moniker:
 
Cake is a Viking contribution to the English language; it was borrowed from Old Norse kaka, which is related to a range of Germanic words, including modern English cook.
Gâteau is the modern French descendant of Old French guastel, 'fine bread'; which is probably of Germanic origin.
Perhaps the more direct Germanic lineage of the word "Gateau" would explain why of the two it seems more closely related to the torte?
Step 4: In which we show cute pictures. By now you're probably drowsy, so maybe it's more effective--or at least more interesting--to illustrate the point with pretty pictures of each (Left, layer cake; right, gâteau):

Posterior View (nice behind!) of Vegan CakeL'Opera
Step 5: Denoument. And finally, before we decorate our gateau, our intuitive thoughts (read: might not be accurate, so feel free to offer alternative views) on this important issue:
  • It seems to us that while a Gâteau is a cake, a cake is not necessarily a gâteau.
  • Cakes are more likely to have a buttercream frosting, whereas gâteaux are more likely to have a rich buttery between-layer ingredient, and generally has a thinner icing.
  • Like many French things, a gâteau is just fancier. At least, we've never seen a Gâteau Funfetti in the cake mix aisle.
  • Alas--a gâteau takes longer to make, and goes stale quicker. Not that we have any problem getting it into our bellies before it goes stale...
  • Regardless of name or origin, both are exceedingly delightful.
An Expanse of DeliciousGateau
Step 6: Fin. Our cake--er, gâteau--is made. OK, so we broke some rules, trying to combine aspects of both the cake and the gâteau. First, ours were mini--but this is just 'cos small things are cute. We decorated them with fancy little fan-thingies we bought at the gourmet grocery, but of course, in the spirit of celebrating diversity in cakes, we decided to forgo the filberts, instead using an all-American topping of peanuts to go with all of that chocolate. The filling/praline topping, which you may notice is conspicuously absent, ended up coming out a little bit...shall we say runny (our fault), though we're certain it will taste great if poured over the finished product or perhaps dipped au jus style--because it was a bit dry without. You can find the recipe here and other versions of it here.

 

 

 

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