We flipped through the pages of Aunt Lou’s recipe binder and came across a recipe, written in fountain pen I might add, with a simple title that just said $200 Cake. I said to my husband “we need to try this!” $200 seems like it would have been a small fortune for a cake during those times. Aunt Lou didn’t put a date on this recipe so I am going to have to make a guess at the approximate date of the recipe, just for my own geeky food history quest for knowledge. Well, it was written in fountain pen, that’s a clue. The ball point pen was widely introduced in the 1950’s. I am going to take an educated guess and go with 1940 just to keep it simple. I ran this through the CPI inflation calculator to try to get an idea, in today’s dollars, what this cake is worth just for fun. So here you go, a cake in 1940 that was $200 would be valued at $3,341.66 in 2014! Wow, that would rank up there with cakes made by Chef Duff!
Given the amount of stains on the page it looks like Aunt Lou made this cake more than just a few times. We were presented with a small challenge: it just had a list of ingredients and at the bottom “#325” which I took to mean 325 degrees. The only other indication of any type of procedure was a small line drawn between “2 teas baking P, 1 vanilla and 2 egg whites stiff”. So we got down the task of trying to make the $3,341.66 cake. Pretty simple I guess! Cream the butter and sugar first, then add the egg yolks. 1 cup of water and then the cake flour. This made a very sticky, gluteny (is that even a word?) almost like a runny pizza dough type batter. We set that aside in a separate bowl and whipped up the egg white mixture. We then combined the two mixtures and it came out looking like a pretty nice smooth cake batter. We actually made it 2 times and the second time I added 1 more teaspoon of vanilla. It made a nice addition!
The cake turned out, as cakes go, heavy but not too much and with a nice smooth texture. The density is somewhat lighter than that of a pound cake, and heavier than your typical store bought sheet cake. I made a simple whipped cream frosting with purèed strawberries.
I mentioned earlier I made this cake 2 times to test it out. The first one I made I took to my office and shared with my co-workers and they loved it. The prevailing comment by my academic colleagues was that ” it’s taste and texture was what cake is supposed to be.” Someone also said it reminded them of eating strawberry shortcake in a “cake” version. The second cake I sent to my husband’s office; they also liked it and said the same thing,” it reminded them of a cake version of strawberry shortcake.” Personally, from a Latin American point of view, I think this cake recipe would make a very good Tres Leches cake which by the way, I will be posting soon. Maybe a $200 Tres Leches cake! Buen provecho!
Aunt Lou’s $200 Cake Recipe
Here is a 100+ year old family recipe for an old fashioned traditional cake. This from scratch recipe is east make and makes a nice homemade dense white cake that is really flavorful.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 egg whites
Whipped cream frosting:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup sugar super fine or powered sugar
- 4 Tbsp strawberry pureé
- Beat the sugar and butter until well combined.
- Add egg yolks until fully combined.
- Add the water and flour and beat slowly until combined and the batter is smooth and sticky, set aside.
- In a separate bowl beat the egg whites, baking powder and vanilla until you have stiff peaks.
- Fold the egg white mixture into the batter until smooth and consistent.
- Aunt Lou writes: "If seems thin, add a little flour."
Pour into 2 or 3 nine inch cake pans evenly distributed and bake at 325 for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Whip the heavy whipped cream until very thick.
- Add the powdered sugar.
- Add the strawberry puree.
- Whip until thick and stiff.