• Ashley Margaret Waterman

American Cakes: 1650–1799

Every week for the past several weeks, I've baked a cake. You've seen my results from gingerbreads and the king cake, but so far, I've baked eight cakes from this cookbook. Although it's been fun spending time in the 16 and 1700s, I'm ready to move onto cakes that don't use ginger, mace, or molasses.

Before I move on to 1800–1869, I want to show off the five cakes I haven't blogged about yet.

After the king cake, theres a 17th-century cheesecake. Since I can't have dairy, I opted not to make the cheesecake. This was probably good idea because even if I could have dairy, I don't need to eat a whole cheesecake!

Out of all the cakes from 1650–1799, the Moravian Sugar Cake was my favorite--and was consumed the quickest. This image does not do the cake justice. It looks burnt here, but those dark streaks are a delicious brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter topping.

The Moravian sugar cake is an early coffee cake. Baked with a potato in the batter, this cake is the perfect compliment to your afternoon--or morning--coffee.

Don't be deterred by this cake's prep time. The book lists the prep time as four to five hours. This is mainly because the cake rises three times. You can accomplish a lot during the prep time for this cake and at the end of the day, this cake was worth it.

Although I've eaten my fair share of pound cake, I'd never made one. I went out and bought a 10" tube pan just to make this cake (there are other cakes in the book that call for a tube pan as well, so it was money well spent). Pound cakes literally have a pound of each of the main ingredients. My secondhand KitchenAid didn't seem quite big enough to contain the entire cake batter, but it made it through. I decided to make this cake gluten-free. I used my favorite gluten-free flour blend and added 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum. I baked the cake for an hour and twenty minutes and believed it was done after poking the top. This was not the case. The pound cake was still a bit soggy in the middle. Since it's such a deep pan, cakes in tube pans tend to take longer. Had I left it in for another ten minutes, I believe this would have been the perfect gluten-free pound cake. Despite its slightly undercooked center, my coworkers still enjoyed slices the following day.

My least favorite cake from this time period was the Harriott Horry's Water Cake. It underwhelmed. I'd never heard of a water cake. Made mostly of sugar and eggs, I'm not sure if the cake was underbaked, or if it's supposed to have a slightly custard-like texture. I couldn't get past the slight rubberyness of the cake, although it worked well in small pieces for a tea sweet.

A take on carrot cake, the penultimate cake of this time period was Fraunces Tavern Carrot Tea Cake. A standard carrot cake without the cream cheese frosting, I enjoyed this cake for breakfast. Topped with a little bit of powdered sugar, it was just the right sweetness to begin my morning. If you're using a vegan butter, consider adding less for this cake. It was a little too oily and took about 20 minutes longer to bake than the recipe said.

The final cake in this period is Martha Washington's Great Cake. Large fruitcakes were often referred to as "great cakes"--cakes full of dried spices and dried fruit. Soaking the dried fruit in alcohol first was desirable. I'm not sure how great I consider this cake. It tasted all right, but the white wine and the spices mixed together were off-putting. Perhaps my tastebuds are fatigued from these spices and ready for something new. I was happy to finish this time period and start moving into cakes that looked a bit more appetizing and, eventually, get covered in frosting.

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