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Baking in America : traditional and contemporary favorites from the past 200 years / Greg Patent.

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  • ISBN: 0618048316 :
  • Physical Description: viii, 552 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
  • Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, [2002]

Content descriptions

General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. 528-535) and index.
Citation/References Note:
LJ 10/15/2002
PW 10/07/2002
Subject: Baking > United States.


America's love affair with baking stretches back only two hundred years, yet
in this relatively brief period we've developed a large and varied tradition
rivaling that of countries that have been around for thousands of years. Where
did all these recipes come from? I became fascinated by this question as I
leafed through Seventy-Five Receipts, for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats in
the cozy wood-paneled rare book room of the Los Angeles Public Library.
There, in the earliest American baking book, written in 1828 by Eliza Leslie
("A Lady of Philadelphia"), an unusual recipe called Indian Pound Cake
grabbed my attention:

Eight eggs.
The weight of eight eggs in powdered sugar.
The weight of six eggs in Indian meal, sifted.
Half a pound of butter.
One nutmeg, grated—or a tea-spoonful of cinnamon.

Stir the butter and sugar to a cream. Beat the eggs very light. Stir the meal
and eggs, alternately, into the butter and sugar. Grate in the nutmeg. Stir all
well. Butter a tin pan, put in the mixture, and bake it in a moderate oven.

Pound cake, a traditional English cake normally made with fine
white flour, had been transformed into something new by the substitution of
an authentic American ingredient, cornmeal, known at the time as Indian
meal, for the flour. And it was flavored with an entire nutmeg to boot.
Intrigued, I wondered what the texture would be like. And would the nutmeg
overwhelm the flavor? I couldn't wait to get into the kitchen to find out.
My first attempt didn't work because the regular supermarket
cornmeal I used was too coarse, making the cake heavy and gritty. When I
switched to fine cornmeal, however, the cake had a deliciously complex
texture, tender yet a bit toothsome, the nutmeg adding a marvelous aroma
and a not-too-strong spiciness. I was hooked. I searched through other
nineteenth-century cookbooks and found many more Indian pound cake
recipes. Some were flavored with rose water, or with brandy, or both. Rose
water, the distilled extract of rose petals, contributed a floral aroma and
flavor, and when I added brandy as well, the taste was exquisite. (Try the
recipe on page 180 and you'll see what I mean.)
Baking the almost two-hundred-year-old recipe made me feel an
unexpected kinship with Miss Leslie. It was as if she were with me in my
kitchen. Past and present coexisted. What other treasures, I wondered,
might I find by delving into old cookbooks? Would I be as successful at
resurrecting them as I had been with the Indian Pound Cake?
In reading rooms from Los Angeles to Cambridge,
Massachusetts, I pored over historic cookbooks, diaries, pamphlets, and old
newspapers. My research stretched from the earliest American cookbook,
American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons—fittingly published a mere twenty
years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence—through the first
decade or so of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, a cooking contest inaugurated in
1949 that illustrates the ingenuity of American cooks during the last half of
the twentieth century. I discovered that from the beginning, American women
had created an extraordinary variety of savory and sweet baked goods. Over
and over again, I encountered recipes for breads and desserts I had never
heard of before:
Composition Cake, Silver Cake, Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Rolls, Boston
Cream Cakes. Why, I wondered, had these delicious-sounding recipes
disappeared from twentieth-century cookbooks? I decided to bake them to
see for myself.
I soon found that these extinct recipes are as appealing and
contemporary today as they were a hundred or more years ago. The Boston
Cream Cakes were a revelation: crisp sugar-glazed cream puffs with an
especially tender interior and filled with a rich, velvety baked custard flavored
with a vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Made from a buttery, sweet yeast
dough, the Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Rolls have an especially light and tender
The old cookbooks I spent my days with were much more than a
rich source of recipes. Many contained advice on how to shop, design,
furnish a kitchen, and manage servants. And, at a time when medicine was
in its infancy, almost all cookbooks gave medical advice and provided recipes
for the sick room. These cookbooks were windows on how people lived, and
as I baked my way through the recipes, I discovered I was at the same time
retracing history.
Like their British ancestors, Americans were terrific bakers,
expanding on centuries-old traditions that had been established in Europe.
(Just how much Americans used to bake is clear from the fact that in 1900,
95 percent of all flour in America was purchased for home use, compared to
just 15 percent in 1970.) Equipment in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
American kitchens was primitive by today's standards—the rotary egg beater
wasn't invented until 1870—yet somehow these women managed to make
everything we do today: yeast breads, quick breads, all kinds of cakes,
cookies, pies, and tarts, even cheesecakes. In that first slim volume of sixty-
four pages, for example, Amelia Simmons included more than fifty recipes for
baked goods, demonstrating that baking was the primary culinary tradition of
this country.
Unlike previous cookbooks, which were merely reprints of books
printed in England and featuring English ingredients and cooking methods,
American Cookery presented American ingredients and addressed the needs
and desires of the American housewife, with recipes "adapted to this country
and all grades of life." Miss Simmons's message was implicitly democratic:
anyone can do this. Each of the approximately 250 recipes I've included in
this book shows the hallmarks of American baking that she set forth:
simplicity, straightforwardness, and experimentation.
Some of the oldest recipes I found, those for sweet and savory
breads, date to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when baking
was done almost exclusively in a brick oven alongside the fireplace. These
breads were nearly always leavened with yeast. One of the most popular
loaves of the period, Third Bread, a crusty, dense bread, was made with
equal amounts of wheat, rye, and cornmeal. The substitution of cheaper rye
flour and cornmeal for most of the wheat was common practice. Wheat
remained expensive until the 1860s, when wheat growing and milling became
established in the Midwest. Wheat, Rye, and Indian Bread (page 66) is my re-
creation of the old staple Third Bread. Another example of American
ingenuity in the kitchen is Rice Bread, a delightfully chewy loaf, in which
some of the costly wheat flour was replaced by rice, which was plentiful in
the South's Low Country.
Early cookbooks also revealed many delicious examples of sweet
yeast breads. Election Cake, a yeast cake made with raisins and dried
currants that dates back to the 1600s, was so good that it was supposedly
used to bribe voters. In my version (page 118), I've kept the traditional dough
but improvised by adding a variety of dried fruits not available to our
ancestors. Who knows, you might be able to swing a few votes for your
favorite candidate with it!
Mildly spiced nonyeasted loaf cakes, packed with dried currants,
raisins, and citron, sweetened and made dark with molasses, were also
extremely popular in nineteenth-century American homes. The poet Emily
Dickinson was renowned for her Black Cake, a delicious confection that I've
resurrected in the fervent hope it will restore fruitcake's good name (see page
206). Doughnuts—balls of deep-fried sweet yeast bread dough—are a
venerable tradition that came to us from the Dutch. One quintessentially
American doughnut that I happened upon, called Little Pittsburghs, were
great favorites with the hungry miners of Leadville, Colorado, who paid a dime
apiece for them and gobbled them down with glasses of dried-apple cider.
From the time American Cookery appeared in 1796 to the mid-
1800s, American bakers, showing a zest for saving time that continues to
this day, experimented with various chemical leaveners. The first was pearl
ash (potassium carbonate), then came saleratus (sodium carbonate) and
baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). When baking powder arrived in the late
1850s, yeast breads rapidly gave way to quick breads, and the traditional
leaveners, eggs and yeast, were abandoned in favor of chemical ones. An
advertisement in an 1856 edition of the Boston Daily Evening Transcript
touted the virtues of baking powder, called "nutritive yeast powder" by its
"We introduce this new article to the public with the greatest confidence that
it will be found the best and cheapest to rise bread, hot biscuits, griddle
cakes, and all kinds of sweet cakes, gingerbreads, etc. Bread made with this
powder requires no saleratus or soda, and no time to rise."
Is it any wonder baking powder proved to be irresistible to the
harried housewife?
Over time she exercised her penchant for experimentation by
incorporating produce from her garden—carrots, pumpkin, zucchini—into
quick breads. She also aried her breads by adding dried currants, raisins,
coconut, or fresh berries to loaves and muffins. Dense fruit cakes, which kept
well, were now shunned in favor of cakes made puffy and light with the
newfangled leaveners. Even old-fashioned pound cakes were "improved upon"
by cutting back on the eggs, reducing the beating time, and lightening their
textures with baking powder or baking soda.
The invention of baking powder as well as other innovations in the
kitchen made possible the rise of tall, glamorous layer cakes. At first glance,
these fancy cakes would seem to be at odds with the American spirit of
simplicity seen in the plainer loaf cakes and pound cakes of earlier eras, but
they are the culmination of the American fascination with speed and ease.
The chocolaty, fluffy Devil's Food Cake I found while leafing through a
promotional pamphlet for shortening and the light, tender Orange Chiffon
Cake that was created by an ingenious California insurance salesman in the
1920s show that by the twentieth century, the American kitchen had taken a
giant leap forward.
Time-saving kitchen equipment and utensils like electric
refrigerators, freezers, ovens with reliable thermostats, and especially electric
mixers allowed women to bake many more cakes than they had in the past
and make them taller and fluffier too.
One such cake, the classic Lady Baltimore Cake, a spectacularly
high three-layer cake spread with a sugary walnut filling between the layers
and frosted with a billowy, white icing made by beating egg whites and sugar
over boiling water, became a favorite in Charleston, South Carolina, in the first
decade of the 1900s. Another impressively tall and delicious cake I found, the
four-layer Chocolate and Gold Ribbon Cake, a prize winner originally called
Regency Ribbon Cake from the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1955, is filled and
frosted with a luxuriously smooth chocolate icing. You'll find both these
cakes in this book.
When it came to ingredients, American bakers again proved
themselves to be innovators rather than hidebound traditionalists. Instead of
making her piecrusts with simple mixtures of flour, butter, and water, Amelia
Simmons added eggs. And rather than confining herself to the traditional
English pie fillings of apples, apricots, cherries, gooseberries, lemons, and
oranges, she boldly incorporated the new fruits and berries she found in
America: cranberries, currants, grapes, peaches, quince, and pumpkin.
Since then, of course, the variations dreamed up by American bakers in both
crusts and fillings—from Hazelnut Streusel Sweet Potato Pie to Blueberry
Pie with Amaretti Crust—have confirmed the national love of experimentation.
The willingness of the American baker to embrace new ingredients
intensified in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is nowhere more
apparent than in the cookie recipes that began to proliferate then. The most
famous example is the all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie, invented in the
1930s by an enterprising innkeeper named Ruth Wakefield, who tossed
chopped chocolate into her cookie dough when she'd run out of walnuts.
(Until the 1880s, chocolate was almost exclusively used as a beverage in the
home.) Oatmeal and peanuts, two of our most beloved additions to cookies
today, were originally used for animal feed until the Civil War. Since Ruth
Wakefield's time, cooks have outdone her by incorporating a host of new
ingredients into chocolate chip cookies: candied ginger, white chocolate,
macadamia nuts, and crushed candies.
Though American bakers have always been unusually open to
new products, whether cream cheese or coconut, our baked goods have
never lost the charming straightforwardness that has characterized them
since the beginning. Old cookbooks abound with simple fruit desserts that
show a frugal determination to use what was on hand. The same creative
spirit motivated early cooks to stir stale bread crumbs into a mixture of
stewed spiced apples for a brown Betty or top fruits with a simple mixture of
flour, butter, sugar, and oats for a crisp, or with biscuit dough for a cobbler.
And who but an American baker would think of baking a pineapple cake in a
cast-iron skillet, then upending tradition by turning the whole thing upside
In selecting recipes from old cookbooks and pamphlets, I paid
close attention to recipes that appeared repeatedly in many sources by
different authors. That, I felt, was a good indication of a recipe's popularity
and intrinsic worth. After several years of testing, I've chosen only the best for
this book.
In re-creating recipes from the past, I looked upon them as a
blueprint or guide, a suggestion of something that might be. Cookbook
language, especially in older books, is often hard to follow, full of strange
ingredients such as "grown flour" (flour that had been spoiled by dampness
and could not be made into proper bread), or "barm" (a type of sourdough
made by adding flour to fermenting beer or ale), and measurements
like "gills," "wine glasses," and "tumblers." Often the recipes I encountered
were simply a string of ingredients separated by commas, with no mixing
details, pan sizes, oven temperatures, or baking times. Exceptional food
writers such as Eliza Leslie and Maria Parloa wrote in paragraph form, as
was the norm, but they gave specific ingredient amounts and provided
detailed directions and visual clues to guide the cook. Only a handful of
cookbook authors began a recipe with a list of ingredients followed by
instructions for preparation. Sarah Tyson Rorer, in Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia
Cook Book of 1886, set the standard for recipe writing that we still use today,
with a list of ingredients followed by the method.
As I tested, I also had to remind myself that the sugar and butter,
ovens, and cooking equipment we use today are entirely unlike those of the
past. Sugar, for example, was not the pure white granulated kind we buy
today but was likely to contain some molasses. It was solidified into cones
and had to be cut with special snippers and crushed before using. Wheat
flour was often "unbolted," or whole grain. Only after the mid-nineteenth
century did "cleaner" white flours became available because of newer milling
and sifting techniques. I was amazed, however, to see how many spices
home cooks used a hundred or more years ago. Allspice, cinnamon, cloves,
ginger, mace, and nutmeg were regularly added in far greater quantities than
they are today.

Because of these differences, making these old recipes exactly as written
was all but impossible. I've tried to be true to their spirit while filling in the
missing details. Whenever possible, I've relied on time- and labor-saving
equipment, such as electric mixers and food processors. In addition, while
many of the recipes in this book faithfully reproduce ones I encountered in old
cookbooks, others are my own creations, loosely based on those of the past.
Some were inspired by ingredients our ancestors lacked, such as dried
blueberries and cranberries or white chocolate. I hope you'll feel comfortable
enough with these recipes to conduct your own ongoing experiments in the
great American tradition of improvisation, throwing in a little something here
or there to see what happens—just as Amelia Simmons and Ruth Wakefield
would have done.

If a man, twenty-one years of age, began to save a dollar a week, and put it
to interest every year, he would have, at thirty-one years of age, six hundred
and fifty dollars; at forty-one, one thousand six hundred and eighty; at sixty-
one, six thousand one hundred and fifty; and at seventy-one, eleven thousand
five hundred dollars. When we look at these sums, and when we think how
much temptation and evil might be avoided in the very act of saving them, and
how much good a man in humble circumstances might do for his family by
these sums, we cannot help wondering that there are not more savers of one
dollar a week.
—Mrs. E. A. Howland,
The New England Economical Housekeeper (1846)

Wheat Flour, one pound is one quart.
Indian Meal, one pound two ounces is one quart.
Butter, when soft, one pound is one quart.
White Sugar powdered, one pound one ounce is one quart.
Best Brown Sugar, one pound two ounces is one quart.

Sixteen large table-spoonfuls are half a pint.
Eight " " " are one gill.
Four " " " are half a gill, or one glass.
Twenty-five drops are equal to one tea-spoonful.
A common wine-glass to half a gill.
A common tumbler to half a pint.
—Mrs. E. A. Howland, The New England
Economical Housekeeper (1846)

Most nineteenth-century cookbooks use the word "receipt" instead
of "recipe." There are Miss Leslie's New Receipts for Cooking; The Godey's
Lady's Book Receipts; Seventy-Five Receipts, for Pastry Cakes, and
Sweetmeats; and so on. How did "recipe" ultimately triumph over "receipt"?
Jessup Whitehead, author of several cookbooks in the late 1800s
and influential food columnist for Chicago's Daily National Hotel Reporter,
summed up the conflicting usage of the day in the seventh edition of The
American Pastry Cook:
Of half a dozen different articles on the grocer's shelves, four have
recipes printed on the packages while others give receipts. Of six persons
talking together, four or five will say recipe, the rest receipt. The label on the
bottle tells you that the sauce beside your plate was prepared from the
receipt of a nobleman of the county. But the nobleman's only authoritative
English cook-book uses recipe. . . . Both words are right, but which is better?
After using the word "recipe" in hundreds of pages of his column,
Mr. Whitehead eventually decided to buck the tide and opt for "receipt"
instead. His choice boiled down to the number of syllables. In Mr.
Whitehead's view, it was pretentious to use three syllables when two would
In making his decision, he cited Harpers, which had just published
a cookbook he considered especially authoritative. It made "extreme
correctness a special feature. . . . It was typographically perfect. It
hyphenated every cocoanut. It split hairs on teaspoonful . . . and adopted
receipt instead of recipe." Mr. Whitehead concluded, "There was no more
room for doubt. Higher precedent there could not be, and so, if the reader
pleases, as far as this column is concerned, we will render unto the doctors
the Latin tri-syllable which is theirs, and use only the humbler but safer
English receipt."


The practice of adding oatmeal to yeast breads had become common by the
late 1800s. Fannie Farmer's The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book
of 1896 features a recipe for oatmeal bread using water, molasses, and white
flour. I prefer milk to water, since it tenderizes the dough, and I use a mixture
of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. A little maple syrup adds just a hint of
sweetness. This bread is excellent when still warm, cut into thick slices, and
spread with sweet butter. It also makes sensational bread pudding or French

Makes 2 large loaves

2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) or old-fashioned rolled oats
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4-ounce package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 large eggs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups golden raisins or a mixture of dark and golden raisins

1. Bring the milk almost to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove from the heat
and add the oats and butter. Stir well with a wooden spoon until the butter
melts. Cool the mixture until it feels just warm to the touch.

2. If using a stand mixer, scrape the oatmeal mixture into the bowl and add
the whole wheat flour, yeast, and eggs. Beat on medium speed with the
paddle attachment for 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beater. If making the
dough by hand, transfer the oatmeal mixture to a large bowl and stir in the
whole wheat flour, yeast, and eggs with a wooden spoon. Beat vigorously
until the batter is ropy, about 5 minutes. Cover the dough tightly with plastic
wrap and let rise at room temperature until almost tripled in volume, 1 to 1
1/2 hours.

3. If using a stand mixer, stir the maple syrup, 1/4 cup water, salt, and 1 cup
of the all-purpose flour into the oatmeal mixture. Attach the dough hook and,
kneading on low speed, add the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time,
kneading well after each addition. Increase the speed to medium and knead
for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and feels firm,
smooth, and elastic. Add a small amount of additional water or flour if
necessary. If making the dough by hand, stir in the maple syrup, 1/4 cup
water, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour. Sprinkle about half the
remaining 1 cup flour on your work surface, scrape the dough onto it, and
dust the dough with the rest of the flour. Knead the dough for 8 to 10
minutes, folding it over on itself and pushing it away from you in a rhythmic
motion, until it is firm, smooth, and elastic. Knead in a small amount of
additional flour if necessary.

4. Lightly oil a 6-quart bowl, or coat with cooking spray, and transfer the
dough to the bowl. Turn to coat all surfaces. Pick up the dough and knead
briefly between your hands; it should feel slightly firmer. Return the dough to
the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until
almost tripled in volume, about 2 hours.

5. Butter or grease two 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pans, or coat with cooking spray;
set aside. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it
gently to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle the raisins over the dough and
knead them in. Cut the dough in half, and shape each piece into a loaf. Place
the loaves in the prepared pans. Cover loosely with lightly oiled (or sprayed)
plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until the centers have risen
about 2 inches above the rims of the pans, about 1 hour.

6. About 30 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, adjust an oven rack
to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

7. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and place them in the oven,
leaving a few inches between the pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the
loaves are well browned and sound hollow when you remove them from the
pans and rap their bottoms. Cool completely on wire racks, 3 to 4 hours,
then wrap airtight. The loaves can be frozen for up to 1 month.


These big, delicate, berry-filled muffins have a delightfully crunchy topping
and a hidden surprise of lemon curd in the center. They rise above the rims of
their cups, making an attractive brim. A nonstick pan works best for these.
They're delicious plain, but butter makes them even better.

Makes 12 large muffins

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
11/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/3–1/2 cup Lemon Curd (page 292)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter a 12-cup muffin pan, preferably nonstick. Set aside.

2. For the topping, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. With a pastry
blender or your fingertips, work in the butter until it is in small flakes. Stir in
the nutmeg. Refrigerate.

3. For the muffins, sift the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt
together into a large bowl. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry blender or
two knives until the pieces are about the size of small peas. Add the
blueberries and toss them in the mixture with your fingers. In a small bowl,
beat the egg lightly, then stir in the vanilla and milk. Add the milk mixture to
the flour mixture all at once, folding it gently with a rubber spatula just to
moisten the dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff.

4. Divide half the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Top each with a
small spoonful of lemon curd. Spoon the remaining batter evenly over the
lemon curd. Sprinkle the streusel mixture on top of the muffins.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and spring
back when gently pressed. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the pan onto
a baking sheet, wait for a few seconds, and slowly lift off the pan. The muffins
should all come out easily; if not, use the tip of a sharp knife to dislodge
them. Turn the muffins upright and serve at once.


This is a beautiful, mysterious cake. Part of a vanilla batter is spread in the
pan, chocolate is added to the remainder, which is poured over the light
batter. The two batters are not marbled or swirled. During baking, the
chocolate layer is "swallowed" by the lighter batter and is only revealed when
you cut into the cake. You can find malted milk powder in supermarkets,
where the dry milk is sold.

Makes one 10-inch tube cake, 12 to 16 servings

3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
21/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
7 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate syrup (I use Hershey's)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°
F. Coat a 10-x-4-inch tube pan, with a removable bottom, with cooking spray
and dust all over, including the tube, with fine dry bread crumbs. Tap out the
excess crumbs and set aside.

2. Resift the flour with the malted milk and salt; set aside.

3. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for
1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar about 1/4 cup at a
time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and
beat for 6 to 7 minutes, until fluffy and light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a
time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition. Increase the speed to
medium-high and beat for 1 to 2 minutes more. Scrape the bowl and beaters.

4. On low speed, add half the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated.
Beat in the milk, then the remaining flour, beating only until well combined.
Scrape 5 cups of the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a
rubber spatula. Add the chocolate syrup, baking soda, and almond extract to
the remaining batter and beat only until thoroughly combined. Pour the
chocolate batter over the light batter and smooth the top; do not mix the two.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 25 to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the cake is golden
brown on top and springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted
into the thickest part comes out clean. Do not overbake.

6. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Cover with another
rack and invert the two. Carefully remove the pan, cover with another rack,
and invert again to cool completely right side up.

7 Transfer to a cake plate and let stand, covered, for several hours, or
preferably overnight, before serving. Use a serrated knife to cut into thin


This version of Boston cream pie is extraordinary. The cake, a hot milk
sponge, dates to the late 1800s. It is especially tender, light, and delicate.
The layers are filled with a beautifully smooth baked cream custard flavored
with vanilla and stick cinnamon. (The recipe is from Eliza Leslie's 1851
cookbook, Directions for Cookery.) It's rich and sublime, a crème brûlée
without the sugar topping. The glaze is a silky-smooth chocolate ganache.
Serve small portions of this rich dessert at a fancy tea party or after a fairly
light meal. (The photograph is on the cover.)

Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake, 10 servings

2 cups heavy cream
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks

1 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably nonaluminum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces (3 squares) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. For the custard filling, place the cream and cinnamon stick in a small
heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream and
add the pod. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-low heat; watch closely, or
the cream may boil over. Remove from the heat, add the sugar, and stir until
dissolved. Set aside to steep for about 1 hour.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325°F.
Have ready a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate and a shallow baking pan large
enough to contain the pie plate. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

3. If a skin has formed on top of the cream, stir it back in. Strain through a
fine-mesh strainer and return to the saucepan. Heat until almost boiling.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk the hot
cream into the egg yolks; don't beat. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh
strainer into the pie plate and set the pie plate in the baking pan. Add boiling
water to come halfway up the sides of the pie plate and place in the oven.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, just until set; the tip of a sharp knife inserted
into the center should come out clean. Remove the custard from the water
bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. (The custard can be made
ahead and refrigerated for several hours, or overnight.)

5. For the sponge cake, adjust an oven rack to the center position and
preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch layer cake pan, or coat with
cooking spray. Line the bottom with a round of waxed paper or cooking
parchment. Butter the paper or coat with cooking spray and dust the bottom
of the pan lightly with all-purpose flour. Knock out the excess flour and set

6. Resift the cake flour with the baking powder and salt, and set aside.

7. Combine the milk and butter in a small heavy saucepan and set over low
heat. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high speed for a
few minutes, until thickened and light in color. On medium speed, gradually
beat in the sugar, then beat on high for 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. On low
speed, add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until incorporated. Scrape
the bowl, handling the batter as gently as possible.

8. Meanwhile, bring the milk and butter mixture to a boil. Beating on low
speed, add the milk mixture in a steady stream to the batter, taking 15 to 20
seconds to do so. As soon as the batter is smooth, scrape it into the cake

9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown color,
springs back when gently pressed, and pulls away from the sides of the pan;
do not overbake. Cool for
10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a small sharp knife around the edges to
loosen the cake, cover with a rack, and invert. Remove the pan and paper
liner, cover the cake with another rack, and reinvert to cool right side up.

10. To assemble, use a sharp serrated knife to slice the cake horizontally in
half. Carefully remove the top half and set it aside. Place the bottom half on a
cake plate, cut side up. Spoon the custard onto the cake, spreading it gently
with a small metal spatula to make a smooth layer reaching almost to the
edges. Set the top half of the cake right side up on the filling. If you want to
serve the cake soon, with an unchilled filling, leave it at room temperature
while you make the glaze; otherwise, refrigerate it.

11. For the glaze, bring the cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan
over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir briefly with a small whisk until
the chocolate is partly melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring
until melted and smooth. Set aside for a few minutes, stirring occasionally,
until thickened a bit.

12. To glaze the cake, pour all of the glaze onto the center of the cake and
carefully spread it with a long metal spatula right to the edges. Refrigerate for
a few minutes to set the glaze, or for 1 to 2 hours, or longer, until chilled.
This dessert is best the day it is assembled. Cut into portions with a sharp

Just why this classic American dessert is called a pie and not a cake has
long been a mystery. Perhaps it was because the cake layers were originally
baked in pie tins, as many cakes from the mid-1800s were. "Washington pie
plates" were often specified as the pan of choice for many kinds of cakes.
They were jelly-cake pans—round, shallow, straight-sided pans of varying
diameters, used to make thin layers of cake that were stacked together with
jam or jelly in between.
I've found recipes resembling Boston cream pie—two layers of
tender cake filled with custard and dusted with confectioners' sugar, but with
no chocolate glaze—in manuscripts and in published cookbooks from the
late 1800s. These cakes went by various names: cream cake, custard cake,
French cake, and, most commonly, Washington pie. But for that time period,
I've found the name Boston Cream Pie in print only once, in an 1878
Graniteware booklet. Over time, custard replaced the jam or jelly in
Washington pie, but the dessert retained its original name.
The addition of the chocolate glaze was a long time coming. The
first Boston cream pie with a chocolate glaze that I've found appears in 1950,
in Betty Crocker's
Picture Cook Book. It took almost 100 years before the transformation of
Washington pie into our Boston Cream Pie was complete.


These huge, crisp old-fashioned sugar cookies are enriched with a little
wheat germ. They're easy to make and a great favorite with both kids and

Makes 20 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably nonaluminum
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup untoasted wheat germ
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 large egg white
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2–3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Colored sugar sprinkles for decoration (optional)

1. For the dough, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
into a bowl. Stir in the wheat germ; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed
until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 to 3
minutes. Add the egg, egg white, milk, and lemon zest and beat in well. With
a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour mixture to form a moist dough.

3. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a rectangle
about 1 inch thick, using the plastic wrap to help you. Wrap tightly and
refrigerate for at least several hours, or overnight.

4. Adjust two oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to

5. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-x-15-inch rectangle,
checking occasionally to make sure the dough isn't sticking. With a large
sharp knife, cut the dough into twenty 3-inch squares. Carefully transfer the
squares to two ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart,
10 on each sheet.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are deep golden brown and
have cracks on top. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back
about halfway during baking to ensure even browning. With a wide metal
spatula, transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

7. For the glaze, beat the egg white in a small bowl until foamy. Add the
confectioners' sugar and 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice and beat until
smooth. The icing should be just thick enough to spread over the cookies
with a pastry brush. If it is too thick, gradually beat in droplets of lemon juice
until the consistency is right. Brush a thin layer of icing over the cookies and
sprinkle with the sugar sprinkles, if using. Let the icing set.

Copyright © 2002 by Greg Patent.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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