[Historical Food Fortnightly is a year-long challenge series for those interested in historical foodways, or the study of how food, culture, and traditions have intersected throughout human history. Every fortnight a new themed challenge will be featured. As a participant, I take each challenge, select a relevant recipe, and prepare a historic dish. Please follow along, or join in yourself!]
I’ve taken this recipe from the 1896 Capitol Cook Book, which was heavily “adapted” from the White House Cook Book, published 1887. Peach Cakes do appear in the White House Cook Book, so technically this recipe dates to 1887. But for such a significantly named cook book, I’m a little sad about the results.
7. Pretty As A Picture (March 25 – April 7) If you’re a fan of cooking competition shows (like I am!), you know how the saying goes: we eat first with our eyes. Make a dish that looks just as spectacular as it tastes. Extra points for historically accurate plating – and don’t forget to post pictures!
(From The Capitol Cook Book)
As soon as I finished incorporating the egg whites, I could tell there were going to be problems. The yolks, sugar, and flour made a thick, cookie-like dough. But once all the whites were added, the batter became very thin, like for a cake. It was too thin to hold any shapes, despite the recipe instructing to spoon it into half-peach shapes. I baked them anyway, but decided to do some testing with adding extra flour to the batter. All were baked at 190C for 10 minutes in my convection oven (except the cupcakes, which were 15 minutes).
225g flour — 225g flour in cupcakes — 325g flour — 425g flour
In the end, as Mr. Man aptly put it, “this recipe is fundamentally flawed.” Now, to be fair, perhaps it was my measuring or mixing, but this recipe sadly just wasn’t a success. The cakes themselves were a bit eggy tasting and bland. And they had a very odd texture. The one with 325g of flour was the best, but none of them were very nice. The frosting was a bit difficult to work with and too sweet, and in the end they just didn’t look like peaches at all. It would have been fine if they were only ugly, but they didn’t taste very nice either. The peach jam I bought was lovely, though.
- I used four large eggs instead of five.
- I baked in a small convection oven.
- I used an electric hand mixer to mix with.
The Capitol Cook Book, 1896