To continue my slight journalistic theme from the last post, today’s recipe comes from a book called “Good food. A cookbook for modest households”, though the book is in Finnish so obviously the name is too. The original was published in 1910 by major Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat as a “present book”, probably a freebie to those who subscribed to the newspaper. The cover of the book says it’s a modified translation, but I couldn’t find information about what language it was translated from, and who may have originally written it.
Based on the recipes in the book, a modest household 100 years ago could expect to cook with a variety of meats and vegetables, as well as mushrooms and berries. Many recipes, including the one I try here, calls for jam. Indeed, the book contains more recipes for jams, jellies and preserves than it does for meat or fish. Finland has a strong tradition of foraging, and jams and jellies would have been the preferred method of storing produce before freezers showed up to help.
My lovely, lovely roleplaying group was coming over for a game, and since one player had his birthday I decided to try my hand at a 100-year-old cake. Recipe. 100-year-old cake recipe.
4 dl cream or sour cream
The rind of 1/4 lemon
2 tblsp powdered sugar
3 sweet and 2 bitter almonds
1 1/2 dl fine wheat flour(1)
Whisk yolks with sugar for 20 minutes. Whisk cream and add to batter with the lemon rind, peeled and ground almonds and flour. Whisk the egg whites until they are hard and add to the batter. Butter a mold and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Pour the batter into the mold and bake in a good warm oven for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with jam.
(1) Interesting side-note: the Finnish original uses a now-obsolete word for wheat, “nisu”. It seems, though, that “nisu” is also Estonian for wheat.
Here’s what you need. Bitter almonds are not easy to find, so I substituted more sweet almonds, and a few drops of essence of bitter almonds.
I started by doing a whole lot of whisking. One hundred years ago I would either have had some impressive whisking muscles, or, if my household wasn’t too modest, a maid with some impressive whisking muscles. As it is, I have an electric whisk. With impressive muscles.
What interested me in this recipe was the tiny amount of both sugar and flour – not that I object to either, it was just non-professional curiosity. There was an awful lot of cream in comparison to other ingredients.
So anyway, whisk away and mix the batter, finishing off with the beaten egg-whites. When beating egg-whites, make sure all your utensils are clean and dry, and be advised that you’ll get a better result if you use a metallic mixing bowl rather than a plastic one. There’s some sort of chemistry involved, I don’t quite know, I’m not that sort of scientist.
In this cake, it’s the egg-whites that are supposed to make it fluffy, so be sure to carefully fold them into the batter, and when you place your cake mold in the oven do so gently so you don’t jostle the mold and don’t slam the oven door. When you take all these precautions into account, your cake will, like mine, look wonderfully fluffy when it’s baking, and then immediately fall flat when you pull it out.
No butter and bread crumbs in my cake mold, I use a silicon one.
No, seriously, Mrs. Hindle can not make a egg-white-fluff cake to save her life. But that will not stand in the way of continued efforts! Especially since, despite a certain deflatedness, this cake turned out very tasty indeed. Not overly sweet, since there was so little sugar, with a nice flavour of bitter almond. Perfect when served warm with jam.
The birthday hero wasn’t actually going to join us, but then I sent him this picture of the cake and he jumped in the car and showed up.