(The first entry in this series gave four recipes for holiday breads and cookies.)
Many years ago, my grandmother exchanged recipes with her neighbors in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Many have the name of the housewife who shared her treasured recipe, and a few were from her own mother (that is, my great-grandmother). We still have these recipes copied out in my mother's handwriting.
The problem is that at times the instructions are scanty. Such as, no temperature or time given for baking a cake. Well, geez Louise, everyone knows how to tell when a cake in done, right? It's the same directions, over and over, 350 or 400 degrees, 30 or 35 minutes unless you divided the batter into three layer tins, then it is about 20 minutes.
And the other problem is that so many younger women never even had home economics classes, so they have absolutely NO IDEA what the abbreviations or instructions mean. So I repeat the following basic instructions from the last time I ran a Recipe Exchange article. The recipes given here do not use yeast but I include info about using yeast anyway.
A capital T – like so – means Tablespoon. Also tbsp, also tbs.
A lower-case t – like so – means Teaspoon. Also tsp.
BEAT means to mix vigorously.
FOLD means to GENTLY mix the ingredients. You usually use a spatula instead of a spoon for this operation. Insert the spatula down into the bowl and lift up the mixture, folding it over onto the top of the mass of floury goodness. Do this just enough to more or less create an even distribution of ingredients, because some ingredients like a whipped mixture should NOT be beaten or they lose volume.
GREASING TINS: Baking tins should be greased before you pour the cake mix into them. This means using a small brush to apply margarine or butter to the inner surfaces of the tins; sometimes you also dust flour over the grease, too. Alternatively, you can just spray them with Pam, or cut circles of baking paper to fit your pans.
YEAST: Some of these recipes use yeast. If it is used in a dough, then you will have to let the cookies (such as the horns) sit on the baking sheet while they rise. Otherwise, it does not mean that making the recipe will take took much longer than one using baking powder or baking soda. Method: pour the packet of yeast into a little bowl of warm water, maybe a quarter cup. The water should NOT be hot; too hot water will kill the yeast before it can grow. You want the water to be just lukewarm. Add a bit of sugar and flour to feed the yeast beasties. When it looks bubbly, you know that it is growing and ready to be added to the rest of the ingredients. Happy yeast, happy bread and cookies. They have quick yeast now, too, which is much faster – but check your package label well.
A word about letting the dough rise. We used to set the covered bowl on a window sill that was getting sun. Alternatively you can set it inside the stove where it will not catch drafts. Stove should be off or at lowest setting.
TESTING FOR DONENESS: Some of you may have trouble knowing when items are done. Cookies will be pleasantly browned on top. Cakes are tested by sticking a toothpick into it; it if comes out clean instead of coated with batter, it is done. Loaves are similarly tested by sticking a clean knife into it, because you have to reach deeper inside. Cakes and loaves should also pull away from the edges of the pans.
The Good Part
Here are some mom-tested chocolate cake recipes.
Red Devils Food Cake
½ c. butter/margarine 2 eggs 1 and ½ c. sugar
½ c. sour milk mixed with 2 t. baking soda
½ c. cocoa 2 c. cake flour 1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla 1 c. boiling water
Cream together the butter and sugar; add eggs.
In separate bowl: Combine and sift together the cocoa with the cake flour and salt.
Combine dry and wet ingredients. Add the vanilla and boiling water.
Makes two large layers.
BAKE at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 min.
Grandma's Chocolate Cake
1 c. milk 4 large T. cocoa 2 eggs
2 T. butter 2 c. sugar 1 c. milk
2 c. flour 2 t. baking soda ½ t. vanilla
Stir the 1 c. milk and cocoa together over heat until thick. Take OFF heat –
Add eggs one at a time, stirring constantly. Add the butter. Cool.
When cooled add the sugar, milk, flour, baking soda, and vanilla.
BAKE at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 min.
Mom's Chocolate Cake
2/3 c. butter/margarine 2/3 c. cocoa
1 and 2/3 c. sugar 3 eggs
1 and ½ c. cold water
2 c. Gold Medal flour OR 2 and ¼ c. Soft A Silk flour
1/3 t. baking powder 1 and ¼ t. baking soda 1 t. salt 1 t. vanilla
Mix cocoa and water together. In separate bowl: Cream together the butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. In separate bowl: Mix dry ingredients together. Combine dry ingredients with the sugar-butter-eggs. Then mix the cocoa-water alternately with flour.
BAKE 350 degrees F. for 30-35 min. Let cake cook in pan 10 min. before removing.
Chocolate Layer Cake (with Coffee)
2 c. sugar ½ c. butter/margarine
2 eggs ½ c. sour milk
1 c. cold coffee ½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda 2 squares bitter chocolate
2 and ½ c. flour
Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.
In separate bowl: Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
In separate bowl: Alternate mixing flour, coffee, and milk portions into bowl. Add melted chocolate.
POUR into 9 inch pans.
BAKE at 350 degrees for 30-35 min.
When cool, remove from pans and spread frosting between layers and all around.
The South Milwaukee Recipe Exchange: Holiday Special
The South Milwaukee Recipe Exchange: Chocolate Treats
The South Milwaukee Recipe Exchange: 7-Minute Frosting & More
The South Milwaukee Recipe Exchange: Rhubarb
The South Milwaukee Recipe Exchange: Danish Kringle