Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 15
With all of us getting organised for the holiday festivities and baking preparations – there is always more baking down over the holidays, I thought it apt to share the chapter on cakes.
The chapter on Cakes reads:
“Whether it’s a blue ribbon at the fair or appreciate ah’s from the family, a perfect cake wins approval enough to give its creator a warm glow of pride. And what is a perfect cake? Why, everybody knows.
To begin with, the perfect cake looks right – whether round or square or loaf-shaped, it’s the shape it was meant to be, without cracks or humps or dismal depressions. The crust is golden brown, not burned but thin and crisp. And when you cut into it, you find it’s feathery light (unless it’s a fruit cake, meant to be freighted with goodies), and moist and mellow, with a texture like velvet.
Everybody knows a good cake, but not everybody can make one – that is the common opinion. Aunt Jane just as a knack, Mrs. Green has a gift for it, other people have good luck. Actually, of course, you don’t need gifts or luck, but the right equipment, including good recipes, and a laboratory degree of accuracy in doing what the recipes tell you to do.
Cake-making is a game you play by the rules. Try to cheat the recipe ever so little, and it’s likely to make a big difference; or at least enough to explain why your last cake was almost too solidly independent, why today’s attempt turns sulky and clings to the pan. These variations in temperament aren’t due to a witch in the oven, but – perhaps – to measuring cups and spoons that aren’t standard. Or do you fail to sift before you measure? Perhaps you thought that a foolish direction? But flour, especially cake flour, packs down under its own weight. Unless you sift first, you cup holds more, and that little more may ne the cause of coarse-textured cake with a cracked top and a tough crust.
Then it may be that you aren’t a good mixer of cake batter; you may beat at the wrong time. Beating should be done before the dry and liquid ingredients are combined. After that decisive step is taken, stir gently to blend but don’t beat unless the directions actually specify beating or you may have a coarse, dry cake with tunnels.
What it all comes to is this: you can make a good cake if you try. Give the matter your very best attention – it’s worth it.
Correct size and shape of baking pan is important. The capacity of the pan is exactly right when the baked cake fills the pan but does not bulge at the rim. Some cakes are more adaptable than others and may be baked in various types of pans, with suitable adjustments in baking temperature and time. Generally speaking, thin layer cakes and sheet cakes are baked at a higher temperature for a short time, to prevent drying out. Thicker cakes require lower temperature and longer baking time to insure even baking throughout.
Prepare the pans before mixing the cake. For butter cakes only the bottom of the pan should be greased. Better volume is obtained if the sides of the pan are very lightly greased or not at all. A piece of waxed paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan may be placed in the greased pan if desired; the top of the paper need not be greased. Pans for sponge cakes should not be greased at all unless the cake is to be baked in layer pans or a sheet pan, when the pan should be greased on the bottom only and lined with waxed paper. Do not fill pans more than two-thirds full.”
This lovely chapter is packed full and talks about selection of ingredients from flour to leavening, shortening, sugar, eggs and liquids with very specific instructions on how to mix and bake your cake and how to cut a cake for a crowd, with graphics on how to cut a tiered (traditionally a wedding) cake. There is even a paragraph on caring for your cakes after baking and there are 50 pages of recipes for cakes and frostings. My favourite part of this chapter is the 12 pages on cake decorating. 🙂