Monday, September 22, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #9: Frugal Housewife

9. The Frugal Housewife September 21 - October 4
Throughout history, housewives and housekeepers have kept a close eye on their budgets and found creative ways to pinch pennies while providing delicious and nutritious food. Create a dish that interprets one historically-documented method of frugal cooking.

Birthday cake
The Challenge:
The Frugal Housewife

The Recipe: (where did you find it, link to it if possible)

Actually, it's a recipe that my Mom got from my Aunt Bev way back when (meaning, before I was born!). The picture of the recipe above is from here (you need an open library account to see it). The book is The Time Reader's Book of Recipes: Two Hundred and Thirty Favorite Recipes of the Women who Read Time By Florence Arfmann.

The Date/Year and Region:
Most people call this a Depression Era cake but I found no evidence of that. The earliest I could find was 1947. The book above is from 1949 (republished in 1951). It makes *sense* that I might be a WWII recipe (no eggs, no milk, due to rationing) but I didn't look for it past this book.  Actually, I found something from the BBC that states it is a WWII recipe.

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)
Since this is later that I usually do, I just followed the directions. :-) Although, I cooked it for 40 min rather than 30 - it wasn't done at 30 min.

Time to Complete:
The cake itself was done in under an hour. It takes all of 3 minutes to whip up the ingredients together. The time consuming part is cooking it.

Total Cost:
It was all stuff I had on hand; cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, all purpose flour, olive oil (rather than shortening), vanilla extract, and white vinegar. I think these are pretty common to most household kitchens and part of a regular "supply".

How Successful Was It?: (How did it taste? How did it look? Did it turn out like you thought it would?)
I've made this cake several times and, as always, it was delicious. Everyone who tried it, loved it.

How Accurate Is It?: (fess up to your modifications and make-dos here)

I feel sort of bad about using this one for the HFF because a) it's not 15th/16th Century which I wanted to stick to and b) it really is something I make all the time. Today was my Mom's birthday. I knew my brother was making cheesecake - which I can't have (Dairy) and I was pretty sure Oldest Nephew couldn't have (Eggs). So, instead, I made this. No eggs, no dairy - just a nice vegan chocolate cake that is absolutely delicious. (Oh, and for Oldest Nephew's sake, it also didn't have peanuts ;-) And no corn so *I* would get sick. He gets worried about all the allergies!)

Both myself and Oldest Nephew (he's six) got to have the eggless, dairy free, rich chocolate cake (as did quite a few other people at the party). It tastes like a chocolate cake should and people are always surprised when I tell them it's vegan. I do use a butter flavored olive oil (no real butter in it) to help give the cake a bit of richness.

The icing is a bit on the modern side, I think - it has coconut oil solids rather than butter in it. It was necessary since I really can't have dairy. However, the rest of it is perfectly normal going back to at least the Edwardian era - confectioners sugar (corn free), vanilla extract, almond milk (common replacement for milk going back centuries), cocoa powder, and the coconut oil solids (coconut butter).

Sorry for the bad picture - I only had my android on me when Mom blew out the candles - with Oldest Nephew's help, of course!

Because all the ingredients are items that most people have around the house all the time and keep well, it's been considered a "frugal" choice. Basically, it cost nothing because I use flour for other things, the salt- well, who doesn't have salt?-, the cocoa powder I use for my Hot Chocolate, and the olive oil as well as the vinegar are items I use in other things as well. Actually, I use the olive oil in everything. It's delicious on toast with a bit of cinnamon and sugar. :-)


  1. Wacky cake is a big favorite in our family! Super rich and easy to make!

    1. I love it. :-) It makes life easy at work as well since there is always an office party that needs cake and we have a few vegans in the office. I recently found a variation that is gluten free was as well - just use rice flour rather than regular flour.