Cottage Chat: Back to Basics White Cake from 1942

April 22, 2013

The other day I was combing through some cook books, looking for new recipes and I came across a masterpiece of a cook book that I had bought before I opened The Cottage:  The Betty Crocker Cookbook of All Purpose Baking, published in 1942!  It boasts 220 of the best tested recipes from the thousands of recipes in the gold medal file.

Although this is an out of print book, I do find the best ideas and recipes tend to evolve from older cookbooks. Back in the day, baking recipes were just simpler, easier, and a lot of times, tastier.

I started thumbing through the book looking for a better version of a white cake.  In my experience, white cakes tend to dry out very quickly and it’s hard to get the right moisture. So the quest is to find a moist white cake using the Betty Crocker 1942 first edition cook book.

The chosen is a “Butter Cake”, and in this particular recipe, stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the batter. Ugh, sounds like a mess, but OK.  This would certainly make the batter very fluffy and very white. But what about moist? I remember my grandmother always used to tell me when making a cake you always want to use half butter and half shortening and sure enough when I checked with Crocker, that’s what this recipe calls for: half shortening and half butter. So that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to try it just like the recipe says. But first we need to begin whipping the egg whites into the billowy, cloudy air they will become. Thank you, KitchenAid.

I decided to upgrade some of the main ingredients: Plugra Butter, King Arthur Flour, Vanilla Bean Paste and Large Organic Brown Eggs.

Back to Basics White Cake from 1942
Grease and flour 3-9” cake pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten, save and freeze the yolks for later use.

Stiffly beat the egg whites until peaks appear and hold, set aside.

Sift flour, powder and salt together in one bowl, set aside.

Beat the butter, shortening, sugar and vanilla until white and light, about 5 minutes.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix gently.

Fold in beaten egg whites, until just mixed and pour equally into your three pans and place in center of oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until center is firm and springs back. Cool completely.

Frost with desired icing and decorate with fruits. I used a cream cheese and cool whip blend for the frosting, very light and tasty.

Notes from the Testing Kitchen:

  • What I noticed right off the bat was that the batter did not appear to be very white. But it was!
  • This is a MOIST white cake! Quest achieved!
  • White frosting enhances the whiteness of the cake.
  • The cake crumb is large and delicate.
  • The center was slightly raised after baking, go ahead and trim it so your layers can stay level.
  • Definitely use fresh fruit, either between the layers or on top, it is spectacular!

Let me know how yours comes out, and remember, even if it doesn’t look good, it will taste great!

C U next time!


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