The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, June 12, 2017

Historic Cooking: Moss Rose Cake, ca. 1948.

Orange flower water.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I recently had a birthday, and as I have been doing for the past several years, I decided to make my own birthday dessert.  My family means well, but for most of my life they always got me those cakes from the grocery store bakery section, which always tasted stale and chemical-y, and I really dislike them; I would always be "forced" to take home the extra cake (usually about 3/4 of the cake, because my family doesn't love grocery store cake, either) because "It's *your* birthday cake", and it would sit in my fridge for over a week as I tried to get my housemates to eat some of it, but it would end up in the trash ... Despite the slight transgression of birthday protocol in making my own birthday cake, I would rather make my own; I like to bake, and when I bake, I get to decide what to make, plus, I know that it's freshly baked, rather than freshly taken from the freezer ...

Anyway, my niece is also a budding foodie and baker, and she bought me a vintage cookbook (ca. 1948) for my birthday a few years ago; the result of her purchase is that I try to have the cookbook with me when I go visit my parents' house, whenever my niece is also there, and we try to choose a recipe and bake it together.  She likes making cake (we made a Devil's Food Cake, before).  This time around, I decided I wanted something lemon for my birthday, and couldn't decide between a lemon pie -- like I made last year for my birthday -- or a sponge cake with lemon curd filling (but I haven't had good luck with sponge cake; last time the cake broke in half when I tried to get it out of the pan).  We thought this recipe sounded interesting, and as a bonus, you don't have to separate the eggs!  Here is the original recipe:

Moss Rose Cake
2 c. sifted cake flour 
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
½ tsp. almond extract 
1 c. hot milk

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together 3 times.  Beat eggs, add sugar gradually and beat until thick enough to hold a soft peak.  Add flavoring.  Fold in flour mixture in small amounts and add hot milk gradually, mixing quickly until batter is smooth.  Turn into lightly greased cake pans.  Bake in moderate (350°F) oven 30 minutes.  Makes 3 (8-inch) layers.  

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)