Sunday, January 29, 2023

Yellow Velvet Cake: or, Ill-advised adventures in food coloring

Red velvet cake has bothered others in the house ever since we made the Saint Patcaken. The excessive use of food coloring has apparently haunted their visions as they drift to sleep. Every now and then, when someone sees me using a bit of coloring to make some icing look more festive, they'll say something like "At least you're not adding enough food coloring to make a red velvet cake!" I have seen them shudder when we pass the cake stand at the grocery store if red velvet is on display. (They don't think it's noticeable, and I choose not to say anything.)

"What would happen," I was asked one day, "if you made red velvet cake but with yellow?"

Red Velvet Cake
1 oz red food coloring
4½ tsp cocoa powder
¼ cup shortening
1 beaten egg
¾ cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk, sour cream, or Guinness*
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp vinegar

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" round pan.
Cream shortening, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder, and sugar. Then add the beaten egg. When mixed, stir in the food coloring. Beat well. Add the flour alternately with the Guinness. Add vanilla and beat well again.
Stir in the vinegar. (Even if you used a mixer to make this, get out a spoon and stir in the vinegar by hand.)
Pour into the pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

*You may think that Guinness sounds out-of-place in this recipe, but it's really good.

Adapted from "'Recipe of the Week,' Mrs. Cagle's Red Velvet Cake," Denton [Texas] Record-Chronicle, June 16, 1960 (p. 12) via Food Timeline

Before we proceed, I want to note that I have simplified the recipe. First of all, I omitted the whole business of making a paste out of food coloring and cocoa powder. That step only served to give us more chances to accidentally splash food coloring all over the place. Second, I omitted the step of stirring the baking soda and vinegar together, then hastily stirring the fizzing foam into the cake batter.

Anyway, let's get to the shortening and sugar! It amuses me that a cake famous for its color starts off as white as copy paper.

And now, let's bring out our star ingredient: a whole bottle of yellow food coloring! This was surprisingly hard to find. Most stores have large bottles of red and green (and also black, which surprised me), but it seems like no one wants to purchase massive quantities of artificial yellow dye.

As you may have surmised, we are not just adding a drop or a spoonful of yellow dye to this cake. I didn't want to. You see, we already knew what would happen if we added a few drops of yellow to the cake batter: we'd get a yellow cake. We wanted to know if we dumped in an entire red velvet's worth of artificial yellow!

It turns out that if you use enough yellow food coloring, your baked creation turns orange. I don't know if it's possible to recreate this vivid and bright shade of orange with actual orange food coloring. I love the filmy yellow residue clinging to the sides of the bowl, making all of this look even worse.

You should know that when I tasted this orange stuff, I instantly recognized that unmistakable red velvet flavor. I always thought red velvet cakes get there flavor from the tiny allotment of cocoa powder. It turns out that artificial food coloring is a key component of that distinct red velvet cake flavor. 

After I had the flour mixed in and the cake ready to get into the pans and bake, I noticed that the batter looked wrong. Well, it was going to look wrong anyway because no one wants a yellow velvet cake. But the texture looked wrong. It looked more like a cookie dough than cake batter. 

Then I checked the recipe and realized I forgot the buttermilk. (Well, we're using sour cream instead since we already had it on hand.) I was just so stunned by the food coloring that I forgot to add the rest of the ingredients to the cake.

Look at those pure white swirls commingling with the traffic-cone orange of the cake!

You know what this color reminds me of? Well, you know those huge boxes of Crayola crayons? The ones that have like 100 crayons in them? Well, one of the colors you'll sometimes find in those extra-large boxes is called "macaroni and cheese." And it more or less looks like this.

And so, having gotten all the ingredients into the cake batter, we were ready to bake!

We were curious about what kind of cake we would get both with and without cocoa powder. However, none of us wanted to track down all that yellow food dye again just to repeat the experiment. And so, after we got about half the batter into the pan, we added cocoa to the rest. It turned our batter from a hilariously cheesy orange to what a lot of news articles called the world's ugliest color a while ago. You know this color is ugly because official trade publications called it "opaque couché," apparently hoping that slapping some French on top would make it look better.

Who knew chocolate could make something look worse? Never try to predict the unpredictable ways of artificial dyes.

The cake looked odd after baking. It browned on top, as cakes tend to do. But browning makes such natural golden colors, which clashed with the proudly artificial orange of the cake below.

I thought about putting yellow icing on top of that, but that was vetoed by others who wanted to see if the yellow would bleed through. After all, the cake had successfully dyed the paper we used to line the pan.

After dressing the cake, it looked so innocent. You'd never guess that it contained enough dye to festively tint at least fifty cakes if you're smart enough to avoid dumping out the whole bottle all at once.

The cake tasted fine, of course. I think sour cream makes it a little better than buttermilk did, though I think Guinness is better than either of those. (I would have never believed that beer improves the cake before I tried it for myself.) But enough about flavor, we came here to see coloring used in proudly poor taste! Here are representative samples both with and without cocoa powder. (You couldn't taste the difference between the two.)

The cake tasted fine. If you ignore the whole bottle of food coloring, you have an ordinary and very nice cake. I don't know anyone who thinks red velvet cakes are bad, because they're not. 

But the real star of any red velvet cake is the food coloring. I actually like that insane orange a lot. It makes the cake look kind of like Cheetos. And while the yellow dye didn't penetrate the icing, it left stains on the plate.

Reactions to the cake were... interesting. At first people kind of backed away from the cake. It reminded me of the response when a friend brought a lot of pudding to a party in an industrial-sized mayonnaise jar. No one could explain why, but they nevertheless didn't want it.

However, after a day or so, people made their first daring incisions into the cake. And they discovered that... it tastes perfectly fine. Kind of like how a lot of people have to  recover from learning how sausages are made, everyone eventually got over the stunning and unnatural color.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure in food coloring as much as I did! And if you have any ideas for the prodigious amounts of blue dye that we had to buy because it was in the same box as the yellow, please share!

Friday, January 27, 2023

Date Cream Pie: or, The simple pleasures that were cheap at the time

I wanted to rescue this recipe from the obscurity of a near-illegible scanning job.

Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, February 2 1934 morning edition, page 5

Date Cream Pie
2 eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
Pinch salt
1⅓ cups milk
½ cup chopped dates
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon extract
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 baked pie shell*

Heat oven to 300°.
In the top of a double boiler, blend sugar, flour, and salt. Add the milk and the egg yolks, beat well with a whisk until thoroughly mixed. Set over simmering water and cook until thick and creamy, stirring frequently.
Add dates, vanilla, lemon, and butter. Mix well, and pour into the pie shell.
In a clean bowl, mix egg whites and powdered sugar. Beat until soft peaks form, then spread over the pie.
Bake 30 minutes. Let cool before serving.

*¾ cup flour and ¼ cup butter will make just the right amount of dough for this recipe.

"Helping the Homemaker," Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, February 2 1934 morning edition, page 5

Apparently dates were cheaper in the 1930s than they are now. Recipes from the time use dates as any other dried fruit, not as an expensive delicacy. I doubt "Helping the Homemaker" would have printed a pie recipe that would cause the homemaker to dip into next week's grocery money for this week's dessert.

We purchased one of the softer varieties of dates for this recipe, thinking that no one wants hard chunks of dried fruit in their custard pie. Perhaps I overthought this, because I couldn't chop the dates. They turned into a paste instead.

Setting aside our, um, "chopped" dates, we find ourselves making a boiled custard to put them in. I made a mistake at this point. I thought I would add the egg yolk separately from the milk so that I could ensure that it was completely broken up and mixed in. In theory, instead of having bits of unmixed egg floating in the milk and dodging the spoon, we would have everything completely beaten together.

Unfortunately, the egg yolk and sugar turned into little hard clods that no amount of spoon-bashing could fix. It looks like I dropped a lot of yellow putty into the pot, doesn't it?

Fortunately, we could fix our mistakes with the help of modern-day appliances! Someone in 1934 may have needed to throw this out and start over, but we in the 21st century have cheap blenders. Furthermore, we have a dishwasher to put all the blender parts in. After a thirty-second motorized detour, the blender broke up the yolk clods and we were ready to continue the recipe as if our ineptitude never happened.

And now, it was time to bring on the title ingredient! After all, without dates it's just a cream pie. I thought the clumps of mashed dates would naturally break apart as they got heated up. However, they needed a lot of spoon-persuasion to mix with everything else.

After we got past our relatively minor self-inflicted errors, the date cream custard cooked up really nicely. First, it took on this lovely brown sugar color:

Then, it thickened up so well that it put the "cream" in "cream pie." At this point, I did wish I had chosen dates that were firm rather than extra-soft. It would have been nice to have intact date pieces in the custard. Instead, the dates practically dissolved in the pie as it cooked, leaving only skin flecks floating in the cream.

Sooner than I thought, our date cream was ready to go into the pies. Inspired by fellow Pieathlete Taryn from Retro Food for Modern Times, who loves making tiny pies instead of big ones, we got out the cupcake pan instead of a pie pan. If you haven't looked at her blog, you should. She always has such nice recipes, and she makes cooking them an entertaining read.

You will note that to prevent my miniature pies from sticking to the pan, I removed the empty shells after baking, popped them into paper liners, and then put them back into place. That way, the tarts could weld themselves to their containers all they wanted. They would have to cleanly come out of the pan no matter what happened in the oven.

At this point, we had only to prepare the crowning touch for these little pies and then bake them. I have to credit the writers of "Helping the Homemaker." Had we purchased chopped dates instead of cutting them ourselves, and had we also not needed a blender, this entire recipe would have only required two bowls, one wooden spoon, and an eggbeater. 

The recipe tells us to spread the meringue "roughly" over the pie filling. I'm not sure why they didn't want anyone to spend any time making artistic swirls and peaks out of the meringue. Maybe they just wanted to bless the homemaker with a written excuse to just get the pie in the oven as quickly as possible.  Or maybe they didn't want you to feel bad if your meringue-spreading skills were not good. "Helping the Homemaker" wants to make your life easier, not make passive-aggressive snipes at your cooking skills.

I have to say, I like these 1930s pies where the meringue is a thin layer crowning the top instead of a big foamy cloud that practically has nothing to do with the pie beneath it. Mrs. George O. Thurn did the same thing in her custard rhubarb pie recipe from the same year as today's cream of dates. 

The meringue baked into a lovely golden color. I liked the look a lot, even if it goes against current snowy-white meringue aesthetics.

Don't the little pies look cute gathered on a plate?

And to my delight, the custard set firmly enough to cut through it. I've previously mentioned that I don't like pies that are too runny to cut. These are not merely custards in edible bowls, they are sliceable pies!

These tasted a lot more complex than the medium-length ingredient list suggests. You would think I put cinnamon and a little molasses, and a delicate balance of other spices in them. You might taste these and think that the preparation was a lot fussier than "put everything on the stove and stir for a while." The pies tasted a lot like something one might have gotten from one's grandmother who got it from her grandmother. 

If you feel like being extra-fancy, I think these would be really good in puff-paste shells instead of plain pie crust. (Obviously, bake them before filling them.) If dates get cheap again, we will be making more date cream pies!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Two Hour Rolls: They really live up to the name!

We had a bread emergency.

Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, 1928

Two Hour Rolls
1 cake or envelope yeast
½ cup warm water
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup milk
2 tbsp shortening
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water to make sure it foams to life. Set aside.
Scald the milk, remove from heat.* Then add the shortening and stir until melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool until it won't kill the yeast.
Mix the yeast and the milk. Then sift in half the flour. Beat until smooth. Sift in the salt and remaining flour. Beat well; do not knead.
Roll out to ¼- to ½- inch thickness. Cut with a biscuit cutter. Set on a greased baking pan.
Allow to rise one hour.
Heat oven to 375°. Bake the rolls 20 minutes, or until nicely browned.

*We recommend pouring the milk into a large mug, and then scalding it in the microwave. All you have to do is let the milk cook in the microwave until it bubbles around the edges.

Mrs. Bryant Nowlin, Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, 1928

I had promised I would make rolls. However, the bread dough never rose. It's like the yeast all died as soon as I mixed it in. After an hour of waiting, during which the dough didn't even get slightly puffy, I dropped it in the trash. It landed with a very final-sounding thud. This brings us to Mrs. Bryant Nowlin, whose recipe claims that I can make yeast rolls in two hours. 

I would like to note that this all the recipes on this page are for bread made as quickly as possible without using baking powder.

Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, 1928

I love how utilitarian this recipe sounds. These days, yeast bread is a special and loving undertaking, but in the late 1920s it was still just "how we make bread." And so, if you just wanted bread quick but didn't trust those newfangled baking powders, you could (hopefully) get yeast-raised bread at the last minute.

At any rate, we set the yeast in a little glass of warm water to bring it to life and then went about the business of scalding the milk. I know Mrs. Bryant Nowlin says to use shortening, and I'm sure most sensible ladies of the time would agree that it's more scientific and pure. But we at A Book of Cookrye have been obsessively saving beef fat with no plans for its use. Also, beef fat just makes really good bread.

Meanwhile, the yeast had shown some hesitation at first. I began to wonder if it was dead. But after a few uncertain minutes, it finally foamed and fizzed to life. This is why you always test your yeast before you dare proceed with the recipe!

Having confirmed that all our microscopic friends were ready to raise the bread, we could proceed with our second attempt at the staff of life* in one night.

Mrs. Bryant Nowlin defies all bread convention by expressly telling us not to knead. Also, we are instructed to omit the entire business of letting the dough rise, punching it down, and letting it rise again. Instead, we skip right to the part where you shape the dough into rolls barely after mixing it. Well, the recipe title promised us two-hour rolls, not half-a-day rolls. You don't get that by carefully incubating the dough all day.

On the other hand, I can barely imagine trying to shape the dough into rolls when it still looks like this.

To my surprise, the dough handled surprisingly well. I thought it would crumble and rip into pieces, but instead it rolled out without tearing.

Because I have my doubts when someone tries to put yeast on a tight schedule, I set a timer for precisely sixty minutes as directed in the recipe to see if I could trust the directions. Sure enough, our rolls had risen into perfect little poufs.

Incredibly, our two-hour rolls were ready two minutes early! That's right, from start to finish, we only needed one hour and 58 minutes to turn raw ingredients into delicious bread. I've never had yeast bread this quick before. Yeast bread is almost always something you plan the day before (if not earlier), not something you just whip up for the heck of it. 

I'm usually suspicious of recipes where the selling point is speed. Usually, they're adequate if you're hungry but a bit disappointing. However, the two hour rolls were unexpectedly good. I thought they'd be bland since we didn't give the yeast a whole day to do its yeasty business, but they were flavorful anyway. Mrs. Bryant Nowlin definitely knew what she was doing.

While it's true that these aren't as good as Elizabeth's Rolls, they're still pretty good. I don't just mean "they'll do in a pinch," these are just really delicious bread. The entire pan disappeared before I had a chance to make croutons out of the stale leftovers. They didn't even have time to go stale.

*Did you know the phrase is "Bread is the staff of life?" I always thought it was "Bread is the stuff of life." Clearly there is an archaic definition of "staff" that I don't know about.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

One-Egg Cake: or, Economizing never tasted so good!

The cost of eggs this last winter made it almost prohibitive for the housewife of moderate means to do much baking, yet most folk just love a bit of homemade cake. Therefore I am giving you a recipe for a one-egg cake.

...Aside from the fact that food columnists no longer assume that only housewives bake at home, that recipe introduction hasn't aged a bit since it appeared in 1919.

One-Egg Cake
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp shortening
2 cups sifted flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp flavoring of your choice
¾ cup water

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a loaf pan or two 8" round pans.
Place all ingredients into a bowl. Beat with a whisk until well mixed.
Pour into the pan(s). If baking a layer cake, spread the batter a little thinner in the center and a little higher on the sides.
Bake until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 20 minutes for round pans. The cake will not turn as golden as you may expect, so check it even if it still looks too pale to be fully baked.

To make a raisin cake, spread ¾ cup raisins on top of the cake when it's ready to put into the oven. Then dust it lightly with flour (sprinkle a very little bit through a sifter). The raisins will sink into the rising cake and distribute themselves as it bakes.
Instead of raisins, you can use any of these: ½ cup currants, 1 cup finely chopped nuts, or ½ cup finely chopped candied citron.
If making a layer cake, Mrs. Wilson suggests spreading the bottom layer with jelly and then sprinkling coconut on it, and then topping the stacked cake with more jelly and a thick layer of coconut. Or, you can use finely chopped nuts instead of coconut.

Note: To halve this recipe and make a small cake, beat the egg well, then measure out half of it. You can refrigerate the other half of the egg for up to two days, or freeze it. (Thaw it in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.)

Source: Ask Mrs. Wilson, Philadelphia Evening Ledger, April 23 1919, p. 12

ONE-EGG CAKE RECIPE GIVEN BY MRS. WILSON  Batter Can Be Used to make Delicious Fruit Cake With Mocha Icing, Shortcake and Boston Cream Pie  By MRS. M. A. WILSON (Copyright 1919 by Mrs. M. A. Wilson. All rights reserved.)  The cost of eggs this last winter made it almost prohibitive for the housewife of moderate means to do much baking, yet most folk just love a bit of home-made cake. Therefore I am giving you a recipe for a one-egg cake. This cake may he baked in the loaf-shaped pans as a layer or a devil cake and thus makes for splendid variety. Place in the mixing bowl Three-quarters cup of sugar, One egg, Four level tablespoons of shortening, Two cups of sifted flour, Four level teaspoons of baking powder, One level teaspoon of flavoring, Three-quarters cup of water. Beat hard to mix for five minutes. Pour into prepared loaf-shaped pans and bake in a moderate oven for thirty-five minutes. To prepare the pan, grease thoroughly and then dust well with flour, then pour in the batter. To make a raisin cake: Spread three-quarters cup of raisins on top of the cake when it is in the pan ready to put in the oven. Dust lightly with flour. The rising dough will distribute the raisins through the cake. One-half cup currants, One cup of finely chopped nuts, or One-half cup of finely chopped citron may replace the raisins. Or this cake may be baked in a tube pan and then cooled and split and filled with custard, and then iced with chocolate icing. For a layer cake, grease the layer-cake pan, line with plain paper and then grease again. Now divide the dough into the two pans and spread the mixture higher on the sides, leaving the center shallow. Bake in a moderate oven for eighteen minutes. Put the layers together as, follows: Spread one layer with jelly and then sprinkle with cocoanut lightly. Now place the top layer in position and then spread the top, then cover thickly with cocoanut. Finely chopped nuts may be used in place of the cocoanut. Boston Cream Pie. Bake the cake in layers and then cool and prepare a filling as follows: One cup of milk, Four level tablespoons of cornstarch. Dissolve the starch and then bring too a boil. Cook slowly for  five minutes and then remove from the fire, and add One well-beaten egg, One teaspoon of vanilla. One-half cup of sugar. Beat well and then cool, and spread between the layers. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Fruit Cake: Put through the food chopper One-half cup of raisins, One-half cup of prunes. One-half cup of peanuts, One-half cup of apples. Add to the cake batter with Four level tablespoons of cocoa, One level teaspoon of cinnamon, One-half level teaspoon of allspice, One-half level teaspoon of nutmeg. Beat to thoroughly mix and then bake in the prepared loaf-shaped pan in a slow oven for forty minutes. This cake may be made into a mocha cake by baking in layers and then preparing in the following manner: Spread one layer with jelly and then put the cake together, then cover with mocha icing. Mocha Icing one cup of XXXX sugar, One tablespoon of cornstarch, One tablespoon of cocoa, One tablespoon of butter, Two teaspoons of mocha extract, and sufficient boiling water to make the mixture spread. Beat hard for five minutes and then spread on the cake. Spiced Drop Cakes: Prepare the cake mixture and add Three tablespoons of cocoa, One teaspoon of cinnamon, One-half teaspoon of nutmeg, One-half teaspoon of allspice. Beat to mix and then fill well greased muffin pans half full of the mixture, adding a few currants to each muffin. Bake in a moderate oven for twenty minutes. Ice with chocolate icing made as follows: Chocolate Icing: One-half cup of XXXX sugar, Four tablespoons of cocoa,  One tablespoon of cornstarch, One tablespoon of butter, and sufficient boiling water to spread.  For Shortcake: Bake the cake in an oblong pan in a moderate oven. Cool, split and fill with crushed fruit, and top with a meringue made as follows: Place in a bowl White of one egg, One-half glass of jelly. Beat until very stiff and then pile on the cake. Dust lightly with cinnamon.
Philadelphia Evening Ledger, April 23 1919, p. 12

While a lot of Mrs. Wilson's columns suggest that she had very strong opinions about the Right and True way to prepare food, she was definitely looking out for everyone whose purses had gotten a bit lightweight. She ran a half-page of suggested variations under the recipe so that everyone could have the cake they wanted without using up all the eggs.  In case you weren't in the mood for a one-egg Boston cream pie, fruitcake, or shortcake, she even had little cake-drop spice cookies. Mrs. Wilson may have been powerless against high grocery prices, but she absolutely would not let the bills get between her readers and a good dessert.

I wanted to try the one-egg cake as all the people subscribing to the Evening Public Ledger would have tasted it in 1919, but I was leery of using shortening instead of butter. Shortening tastes like nothing and has an unnaturally long shelf life. I went online and poked through a lot of old books, trying to find some period-correct justification for using anything but that scientifically white miracle fat. But ultimately (and because shortening was cheaper anyway), we went with the shelf-stable option. 

I should note that since I am halving the recipe, this is not a one-egg cake but a half-egg cake. I don't even mind splitting eggs in half anymore. After one does it enough times, the task of beating an egg in a small cup and then measuring out half of it becomes quick and easy.

Here I started to wonder whether I would regret following this recipe to the letter. We're supposed to dump water into this. While it certainly will do the job of turning these ingredients into a nice, fluid cake batter, water literally tastes like nothing unless the pipes in your walls need a good cleaning. Was I currently resurrecting written proof of how bland the food was in home economics class before the Jazz Age?

The use of shortening and tap water instead of butter and milk may seem like an attempt to modernize baking by moving away from those old-fashioned farmhouse ingredients and toward modern, scientific ones. Or maybe dairy had gotten as expensive as eggs. After all, the war had barely ended and there was a pandemic on.

Like Louise Bennett Weaver would direct readers to do for her spice cake recipe, Mrs. Wilson has us just put everything in the bowl all at once and then give it the cement-mixer treatment. I decided that a whisk would probably make this faster. Was I ever right! We had this completely beaten together in about thirty seconds.

At first I was unsure of what to do here. Mrs. Wilson directs us to "Beat hard to mix for five minutes." But we had this mixed in about one-tenth of the time. Were we supposed to beat the snot out of the cake batter for another four and a half minutes to develop the texture or something? Then I thought about how Louise's spice cake took a similarly long time because I used a spoon instead of a whisk. Perhaps Mrs. Wilson didn't think everyone following her recipes at home had whisks. They may have been more associated with whipped cream and other frivolities than everyday cooking, and therefore a somewhat rarer find in the average kitchen of 1919.

I do not think I have the forearm strength that Mrs. Wilson lacked. You can't convince me that with a whisk instead of a spoon, Mrs. Wilson couldn't have this cake batter beaten completely smooth in less time than it takes to crack open the one egg required for the cake. Does she look like someone whose arms gave out halfway through a recipe?

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, December 5 1918, page 12

I gave the batter a careful tasting and... it was a lot better than I expected. Given that this cake contains shortening and tap water, I thought it would be hopelessly bland. Instead, it tasted like a very good cake. I should stop doubting Mrs. Wilson.

Perhaps because it contains no milk, this cake stayed very pale the whole time it baked. That may be another reason Mrs. Wilson used water instead of dairy. A lot of cookbooks in those days had helpful tips on how to keep your cake from browning too much on the outside, such as putting the cake pan in a larger pan full of sand. Apparently people cared a lot about that at the time. This cake almost didn't brown at all. In fact, it looked like one of the cakes from a microwave cookbook instead of something I baked at 350°.

I should have baked this in a smaller pan--- say, an 8" one instead of the 9" pan that I used. It's true that the cake is a bit domed on top, but Mrs. Wilson did say to "spread the mixture higher on the sides, leaving the center shallow." Unfortunately, I didn't see that instruction until it was too late. 

I was going to top this cake with the icing from the graham-coconut cake since I like it a lot, but it uses an egg white. I didn't want to defeat this cake's entire purpose for existing by cracking open another egg to ice it. Instead, I chose to top this cake with cinnamon icing. It uses zero eggs, meaning that this entire cake, including the icing, contains just half an egg.

Also, to be quite honest, I was dead certain that a cake made with shortening and tap water would be the blandest thing I've ever served for dessert. I figured the cinnamon icing would help make up for what I was quite sure the cake lacked.

To Mrs. Wilson's credit, this cake was delightfully light and fluffy when we cut into it.

Upon tasting this cake, it was.... unexpectedly delicious. I was not prepared for this cake to taste as good as it does. And I know I'm not the only one who thought so. Others tried some of the cake and told me that I need to type the recipe onto a card and keep it on file. Even if we weren't economizing on eggs, it's really good.

After all, the cost of eggs these days has made it almost prohibitive for anyone on a tight budget to do much baking, yet most folks just love a bit of homemade cake. Therefore I definitely recommend this recipe for a one-egg cake.