$200 cake? What the?
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. For an old fashioned from scratch cake recipe this was definitely one to try!
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 have another recipe for. Maybe a $200 Tres Leches cake! Buen provecho!
If you want to try some other interesting cake recipes here are some to bookmark for later. Here is another recipe from Aunt Lou for feather cake that is similar to pound cake but a bit lighter. If you want to try something a little more exotic for a baking project try this Swedish Tusendbladstarta or Swedish almond cake. If you like tropical flavors, here is a cake from the Caribbean: Jamaican toto has a wonderful coconut flavor.
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.