by Gennie Truelock
All About Home Baking
I have taken baking for granted. Prior to the Safer at Home order, I enjoyed making things for family, friends, and coworkers, but now baking has taken on an entirely new meaning. To be able to create something comforting from a set of ordinary ingredients not only provides me with a sense of accomplishment, it has connected me to that rich line of other at-home bakers, who, during their own times of uncertainty, found ways to bake up a little bit of happiness.
For inspiration, I have turned to a special book of recipes, All About Home Baking, published in 1933 by the General Foods Corporation. General Foods has a long history that includes many names that are still familiar to us today. While it came into existence in 1929, General Foods was initially founded as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895 by C.W. Post, a student of another famous cereal manufacturer, John Harvey Kellogg. After Post died in 1914, his daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, took the helm. She and her husband, Edward F. Hutton, acquired other brands throughout the 1920s including Jell-O, Swans Down Cake Flour, and Calumet Baking Powder. However, it was the 1929 acquisition of frozen-food maker, General Foods Company, owned by Clarence Birdseye (yes, that Birdseye), that brought about the creation of the General Foods Corporation, a consolidated powerhouse of products.
In 1932, General Foods released its first cookbook. Dedicated to “The American homemaker,” they published five more editions over five years during a time when America was in the midst of the Great Depression and things were looking rather bleak. Their books gave people economical tips and tricks to create tasty treats. So, in this time of economy and improvisation, I thought it would be fun to share one of their recipes with you. I hope it inspires you, bringing you a bit of joy, something a little sweet, and that it reminds you that just like the rough times that people have faced in the past, we will get through this.
Let’s start at the beginning
The first recipe in the book, a Calumet One-Egg Cake, seems like a great place to start. This economical recipe uses only one egg (hence the name), and only half a stick of butter. So if you are short on provisions and want something sweet to snack on, this may be the cake for you. All the recipes in this post have been transcribed as originally written. I have included suggestions for substitutions that I needed to make.
Notes on ingredients and possible substitutions
Although I like to think that I am a well-stocked baker, I often don’t have the proper ingredients on hand, which over the years has helped me get creative in looking for ways to substitute or make home versions of ingredients that I don’t want to go to the store to get. This recipe was no exception. I don’t keep cake flour on hand, and since this isn’t the time to head to the store to pick up an item or two, I decided to make my own. To make enough cake flour for this recipe you will need:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
For each cup of flour: remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace the removed flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift together.
Now comes the really important part: Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture together at least 4 more times. This will give the flour the airiness that it needs to make a light and fluffy cake.
I also ran out of milk…but luckily, I had a can of evaporated milk on hand and was able to make my own. Just mix equal parts water and evaporated milk together. Store any unused milk in the refrigerator.
Make the frosting
This recipe calls for Clever Judy frosting. I didn’t have the unsweetened chocolate to make the frosting, so I made the buttercream recipe instead and grated chocolate over the top. Both recipes are listed below, so take your pick!
Clever Judy Frosting
- 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 egg or 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup of milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 to 4 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate, melted
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
Combine ingredients in order given, beating with egg beater until blended. Place bowl in pan of cracked ice or ice water and continue beating until the right consistency to spread (about three minutes). Makes enough frosting to cover tops of two 9-inch layers, or top and sides of 8 x 8 x 2-inch cake, or about 2 dozen cupcakes.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk (about)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Dash of salt
Cream butter; add part of sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Add remaining sugar, alternately with milk, until of right consistency to spread. Beat after each addition until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Makes enough frosting to cover tops of two 9-inch layers, or top and sides of 8 x 8 x 2-inch cake, or about 2 dozen cupcakes.