If you consider recipes based on long-forgotten common knowledge — using some outmoded measurements (coffee cups, “small” cups) — a fun challenge, look back to newspapers from the 1800s for baking ideas! Here are a six cake recipes contributed by readers and published in the St Paul newspaper in the middle of 1887.

Ribbon fruit cake

Two and one-half cups sugar, 1 sweet milk, 4 eggs, 1 teaspoonful cream tartar, half full soda, 4 cups flour. Reserve one third this mixture and bake the rest in two loaves of the same size. Add to the third reserved 1 cup raisins chopped fine, 1/4 pound citron, 1 cup of currants, 3 tablespoonfuls molasses, teaspoonful each of all kinds of spices. Bake in tin the same size as other loaves. Put three together with a little icing or currant jelly, placing fruit layer in the middle; frost the top and side – Mrs E L Wordworth, Amboy, Minn.

White fruit cake

One-half cup butter, 1 cup white sugar, beaten to a cream; 3 eggs, with whites and yolks beaten separately. Beat the yolks with butter and sugar, and 1/2 cup sweet milk, 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoonful baking powder. Sift part of flour and baking powder in cake, add whites of eggs beaten lightly, 8 cups of raisins drenched in flour, then add rest of flour. Flavor to taste. – Miss Coolidge, Augusta, Wis.

Almond cake recipe

One and one-half cups of sugar, 1-1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sweet milk, 1/2 cup of corn starch, between 1/2 and 2/3 a cup of butter, 1-1/2 teaspoonfuls baking powder, whites of 8 eggs beaten to a stiff froth; flavor with bitter almonds. Cream butter and sugar together; add corn starch, then the milk, a little at a time; stir baking powder well into the flour and sift in. Add the whites of eggs last. This is splendid if care is taken not to get it too stiff. – Mrs A N Gilman, St Paul

Orange cake recipe

Two-thirds cup butter, 2 small cups sugar, 1 cup milk, 3 teaspoonsful baking powder, the yolks of 5 eggs, 3 small cups flour. Bake in jelly tins. Whites of 3 eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, juice and grated peel of 1 orange, sugar to consistency. Put this between the layers, with white frosting on the top. – Miss Libbie Tellett, 227 Pearl Street, St Paul

Dolly Varden cake recipe

White part: 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup butter, 1 cup milk, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoonfuls baking powder, 1 teaspoonful lemon essence.

Dark part: 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup butter, 1 cup molasses, 2 cups flour, 1 cup each of raisins and currants (raisins stoned and floured), 2 teaspoonfuls of baking powder, 1 tea spoonful vanilla essence, 1 teaspoonful of different spices. Cake in layers; when cold, spread with chocolate. – Miss Ella A M Sell, 1570 Hillside Avenue North, Minneapolis

Grand Duke cake recipe

Two cups sugar, 2/3 cup butter, 1 cup milk, 3 cups flour, 3 eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder. Bake 1/2 hour hour in jelly tins. To the rest add 1 coffee cup chopped raisins, tablespoonful molasses, 1/4 pound citron, chopped fine, 1 teaspoonful cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoonful cloves, 1/2 teaspoonful allspice, tablespoonful flour. Bake in layers and spread with jelly between. – A E White, West Fourteenth Street, Minneapolis

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About this story

Source publication: St. Paul Daily Globe. (Saint Paul, Minnesota)

Source publication date: June 05, 1887

Filed under: 1880s, Dessert recipes

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One Response

  1. Justine

    I was just wondering how any of these measurements are “long-forgotten common knowledge — using outmoded measurements”. I don’t see it. Of course, I’ve also been baking with Mennonite recipies all my life, so these measurements don’t seem strange to me. The only things that I could see as an issue to the average human today is “sweet milk” (just normal whole milk, unspoiled), and what citron is. (It is actutally it’s own kind of fruit, but you can use whatever kind of candied or dried fruit stuff you’d usually put in a cake.)

    Everything else is the same. What’s so long forgotten about baking from scratch?


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