Previously, I showed you photographs of the worn and ragged Rumford Cookbook that served as my grandmother’s journal and recipe collection. She evidently never cooked out of the book, but used it to record family events and geneologies and favorite recipes which consisted almost totally of desserts! Now I know where I get my sweet tooth.
It is a precious thing to have this book with my grandmother’s writing scribbled throughout, but to make it even more special, my father, who will be 84 on July 4th, wrote a book about his early life in Missouri and his experiences in Germany during the WWII era and it includes the story of the Rumford Cookbook. Dad’s book is a volume of memories that I can pass on to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a way that my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles will never be forgotten. They will always be alive in words and photographs.
Here is an exerpt from the book that I thought you might enjoy:
According to the old saw, some people eat to live, meaning they aren’t particular about what they eat or how it is prepared. Well, I think it is fair to say my family “lived to eat.” We enjoyed food!! It may not have been prepared in a fancy way, but it was fixed with love. Don’t ask me why but the folks said “fixed” instead of “prepared” as in “I’ll have supper fixed directly.” Mom, Grandmother Hightower and other members of the family prided themselves on being good cooks and well they should. Light rolls were high and light. Fried catfish was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Steak was tender enough to cut with a fork. And who could stop with just one piece of red devil’s food cake with fudge icing?
1/2 cp butter
2 cups sugar
5 tsps cocoa
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 eggs, separated (beat whites to fluffy)
1/2 cup milk (I used half and half)
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup nuts
2 1/2 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 squares chocolate
2 cups sugar
2 tbsps syrup (I assume Karo White but I used plain old pancake syrup and it was great)
1/2 cup milk (I used half and half)
2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar to thicken if needed
Cream sugar and butter until fluffy
Separate eggs and place egg whites into a bowl to be whipped.
Add yolks to the sugar and butter mixture and mix
Add potatoes and beat
Add cocoa and milk and mix thoroughly
And nuts..I used English walnuts, but pecans would be great too.
Add the flour that is mixed with the baking powder. Now here, I will caution that because of all of the different flour types, the 2 1/2 cups may be too much with certain types. If you grind your own wheat and are using a soft, white wheat pastry flour, you will definitely not need the full amount. I suggest that you add the flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until the consistency is smooth and not too dry. This batter is not a thin batter like we are used to with boxed cakes. It is almost the consistency of whipped icing.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fluffy
Fold in the egg whites with a spatula by gently turning the batter over on top of the whites again and again until the egg whites are incorporated into the batter.
Divide the batter equally between two greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Test with a toothpick or sharp knife to make sure it comes out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Check at 30 minutes and if it is not quite done add a minute at a time.
Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool
Meanwhile, place two squares of Baker’s Chocolate into a 1 1/2 quart saucepan.
Add sugar and milk or half and half and stir, with a whisk, over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and, continually stirring, as the chocolate melts and the mixture comes to a low boil.
Stop stirring mixture and allow to boil for 2 full minutes.
Remove from heat and add butters and vanilla. Stir until butter is melted and incorporated. Cool until the icing becomes hard. Stir to whip to spreadable consistency. If you want a thicker spread then you feel you are getting, add powdered sugar, 1/4 of a cup at a time until you reach the consistency you want.
I like to place my bottom layer of the cake onto a piece of wax paper. Then, I can slide the cake onto a cake plate after I am finished icing, for a nice, clean look. Ice the top of the bottom layer of the cake with a thick layer. Place the top layer of the cake onto the bottom layer and make sure they are centered on top of one another.
Ice the tops and the sides of the cake
Garnish with a strawberry or chocolate shavings.
Of course, I had to use my vintage cake cutter that I found at an antique store. It is just like the one that I grew up with that my mom used to cut her cakes. It beats a knife to smithereens!! The cake is tasty, especially with strawberries and the longer it sits, the more most it seems to get. Next time, I’ll do the Red Devil Food Cake that Dad talked about and we will see what it is like!
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