Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mysteriously Successful Eggless Cake

We at A Book of Cookrye have been pondering eggless cakes ever since the tragic waste of a perfectly good Diet Coke. We have one eggless cake recipe that is seriously delicious, and now we're going to try out a second.
Good Things to Eat, Rufus Estes, 1911 source

This comes to us from a cookbook written by an emancipated slave. After the introduction, he has a brief autobiography which he begins by describing the conditions in which he grew up. If anyone had justification for putting that at the beginning of their book, it's someone who spent beginning of his life in slavery. And you get the idea that he's understating a lot as you read it.

Eggless Cake
½ c shortening*
1½ c sugar
1 tsp soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
3 c flour
1 c sour milk or buttermilk
1 c firmly packed raisins

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two layer cake pans or one 9"x13" pan.
Chop the raisins, or put them in a cup and have at them with scissors, stirring them as you go so they all get snipped.
Cream shortening and sugar. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda, mix well. Add the flour one cup at a time, alternating with the milk ½ cup at a time. Mix thoroughly after every addition. Stir in the raisins, being sure to break up any clumps.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until it springs back in the center when lightly pressed.

*A lot of recipes from this time use the word shortening to refer to any solid fat. So if you prefer to use margarine or butter, go right ahead.

Good Things to Eat, Rufus Estes, 1911

On that cheerful note, on to the eggless cake!
We've seen a lot of eggless cake recipes, and most of them have very odd instructions because when you leave the eggs out of a cake, it will not want to turn out right on its own. This one has no instructions whatsoever, so we assumed there's nothing weird you're supposed to do.

In the book, he says that these recipes are the result of extensive testing over the course of his career, which we're willing to believe since he worked as a chef for most of his adult life. He was hired to cook for everyone from railroad companies to royalty. Therefore, the fact that we're apparently just taking what looks like a normal cake recipe and removing the eggs may seem daffy, but presumably it works.
We've secretly removed the eggs and replaced them with nothing! Let's see if they notice the difference...

All right, we may have said the recipe had no unusual instructions to make up for removing the eggs, but that's not completely true. We did have to chop the raisins. Who chops raisins, like, ever? We're therefore going to say the chopped raisins are the egg substitute here.
This is eggs.

Well, if nothing else, it looked like a cake batter. It did not look suspiciously runny, unnervingly curdled, or otherwise wrong. More promisingly, it tasted really good.

Furthermore, it actually turned into a cake! Seriously, look at this!

However, just because it looks like a cake doesn't mean it is one. So, we sliced it and...
What is this new devilry?

It's a cake! Seriously, it turned into a nice, surprisingly tart cake! You can tell the spices are there, but it's not a spice cake. It tastes very old-fashioned. Or at least, like our idea of old-fashioned. It's a very dense cake, but it's so divoon.
Those who are looking for vegan desserts can use margarine or vegetable shortening and serve something really good-- instead of the disappointing things people usually expect in vegan desserts. Anyone who ran out of eggs but still wants to make a cake can make this one. It's really good.

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