Any One Can Bake

Have you ever succumbed to cooking a dish from a recipe printed on the back of a can or packet of food?

Recipes and advertising are natural companions, offering food manufacturers the ideal way of highlighting their product. We often see these serving suggestions printed on the packaging of the product itself, or sometimes as attached booklets. They are also found in full page ads in magazines and sometimes whole cookbooks are dedicated to a particular brand. We’re used to it. But, every once in a while, you run across something that surprises you.

baking_powder

On my shelf, Is a curious little hardback book, published in 1929 by the Royal Baking Powder Company called Any one can Bake. A series of pages discuss topics under the rubric “Hints for Housewives”. Along with the usual (that is, how to properly set a table and such like advice) there are additional – rather specific – pearls of wisdom. These include tips on how to open a tin of Royal Baking Powder, how to properly measure Royal Baking Powder and a list of the various ingredients commonly used with Royal Baking Powder.

There are also two pages devoted to the evolution of Baking powder. In a nutshell, and according to the book, baking powder evolved from a “new portable yeast” that was first mentioned in a 1855 practical cookbook for American housewives. This was nothing more than a clever combination of Baking Soda (bicarbonate of soda) and Cream of Tartar (tartaric acid). The formula was standardized and marketed by (you guessed it) the Royal Baking Powder Company.

The book has recipes for anything that can be baked, steamed, griddled or deep-fat fried using the amazing baking powder – an ingredient we now take for granted. A number of these recipes are attributed to a Mrs. Moody, the mysterious creator of the Pecan Loaf Cake, Walnut Bars, variations on the classics Gingerbread and Doughnuts and, last but not least, her special Wonder Cake. I couldn’t resist baking one of them.

mrsmoody_cake

Mrs. Moody’s Pecan Loaf Cake
This is an interpretation of Mrs. Moody’s original rather than an exact reproduction. The cake is so good – a lighter version of a pound cake or a fruit-studded German Königskuchen. From the description of the baking pan used, it is more like a bundt cake rather than a loaf. I used a bundt-like attachment to my 9-1/2 inch diameter spring-form baking pan.

  • 1-1/2 cups butter, 12 oz.
  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2-1/4 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (Royal) Baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup Chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup Sultanas (= American Golden Raisins)
  • 1/2 cup Dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 12 cup capacity bundt or tube cake pan with butter and dust lightly with flour.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Separate eggs, putting the whites into a separate bowl and set aside. Add the yolks, one at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar.

Finely chop the zest from the orange and lemon. Add zest to the mixing bowl. Juice the orange and lemon and combine.  Measure out 1/3 cup juice and mix with the butter and egg mixture. Add the flour, baking powder and nutmeg, mixing until the ingredients are well incorporated. It will be a thick batter. Using a wooden spoon, add in the chopped pecans, cranberries and raisins.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold this into the batter before spooning it into the bundt pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Test by inserting a clean knife into the cake and it it comes out clean, it is done.

Cool slightly in pan for 10-15 minutes, then take out to cool on a wire rack.

Orange-Lemon Glaze
Not liking to waste anything, I decided to augment Mrs. Moody’s cake by making an orange-lemon drizzle icing. Or, you can simply dust with Icing sugar (= American powdered sugar) once the cake is completely cooled.

  • 1 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons juice from the remaining orange and lemon juice mix
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar (= American Powdered sugar)

Melt butter. Add in sifted icing sugar alternately with the juice. Stir until smooth. Spoon onto the slightly warm cake, not fresh out of the oven.

baking_powder_jar

Make Your Own Baking Powder
Some commercial baking powders contain sodium aluminum sulfate (read the label for the list of ingredients). To be sure to be aluminum-free, try making your own baking powder – as you need it, or in small quantities.

  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (= American baking soda)
  • 2 teaspoons of tartaric acid (= American cream of tartar)

Mix well and use immediately. It makes 1 Tablespoon (or 3 teaspoons). If you wish to make larger quantities, use the same proportions as above (1:2), but add one unit of corn flour (= American corn starch) – the same amount as the bicarbonate of soda. This addition draws off moisture and keeps the rising agent from activating.

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8 comments

  1. I’ve been making my own baking powder according to your 2:1 formula for a long time now. I never buy self raising flour, just add I teaspoon homemade Baking powder to 1 cup of flour. It only fails if the bicarbonate is getting too old. The cake sounds great!

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    • I have to admit that I have only made my own baking powder on rare occasion. I do, however, read labels very carefully. The baking powder I am using here in Northern England is simply baking soda and cream of tartar with rice flour as the agent to prevent moisture. I also never use self-raising flour, but simply add baking powder to plain flour (or what the Americans call All Purpose flour). Hope you enjoy the cake.

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  2. I also love old cookbooks, as you can probably tell. There must be a number of old Italian cookbooks, inaccessible to English speakers. If you have any information about them, I’d love to know.

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    • I love old cookbooks! Perhaps there should be an “Old Cookbooks Appreciation Society” (OCAS)? Great fodder for the historian, the anthropologist, but also just plain fun to read and cook from.

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