Cakes and Custards of the 1860s — Part One

The holidays are in full swing and now is the time to plan menus and treats for our friends and families.  This is a two part collection of cake and custard recipes from the November 1861 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Throughout the Civil War, Godey’s Lady’s Book carefully maintained a policy of not discussing the war and acting as an island of normalcy for American women.

This collection of recipes appeared in an issue dedicated to spreading the idea of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

These are the cake recipes.  The next post will contain the custards featured in the same article.


SCOTCH SHORT-CAKE — Take a pound of Zante currants, and, after they are well picked and washed, dry them on a large dish before the fire or on the top of a stove. Instead of currants, you may use sultana or seedless raisins cut in half. When well dried, dredge the fruit profusely with flour, to prevent its clodding while baking. Have ready a teaspoonful of mixed spice, powdered mace, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Sift two quarts of flour, and spread it to dry at the fire. Cut up a pound of the best fresh butter, put it into a clean saucepan, and melt it over the fire, shaking it round, and taking care that it does not burn. Put the flour into a large pan, and mix with it a pound of powdered white sugar. Pour the melted butter warm into the midst of the flour and sugar, and with a large spoon or broad knife mix the whole thoroughly into a soft dough or paste, without using a drop of water. Next sprinkle in the fruit, a handful at a time, stirring hard between each handful, and finish with a heaped teaspoonful of spice, mixed in a large glass of brandy.

Scotch Shortbread Fingers

Scotch Shortbread Fingers

Strew some flour on your paste-board, lay the lump of dough upon it, flour your hands, and knead it a while on all sides. Then cut it in half, and roll out each sheet about an inch thick. With a jagging-iron cut it into large squares, ovals, triangles, or any form you please; and prick the surface handsomely with a fork. Butter some square pans, put in the cakes, and bake them brown.

For currants and raisins, you may substitute citron cut into slips and floured. This cake will be found very fine, if the receipt is exactly, followed. In cold weather it keeps well, and, packed in a tin or wooden box, may be sent many hundred miles for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, or New Year’s.

This cake will be greatly improved by adding to the other ingredients the grated yellow rind of two lemons and their juice. For the brandy you may substitute a wineglass of rose-water.

RICE WAFFLES — Take a teacup and a half or a common sized tumblerful and a half of rice that has been well boiled, and warm it in a pint of rich milk, stirring it till smooth and thoroughly mixed. Then remove it from the fire, and stir in a pint of cold milk and a small teaspoonful of salt. Beat four eggs very light, and stir them into the mixture, in turn with sufficient rice flour to make a thick batter. Bake it in a waffle-iron. Send them to table hot, butter them, and eat them with powdered sugar and cinnamon, prepared in a small bowl for the purpose.

EGG PONE — Three eggs, a quart of Indian meal, a large tablespoonful of fresh butter, a small teaspoonful of salt, a half pint (or more) of milk. Beat the eggs very light and mix them with the milk. Then stir in gradually the Indian meal, adding the salt and butter. It must not be a batter, but a soft dough, just thick enough to be stirred well with a spoon. If too thin, add more Indian meal; if too stiff, thin it with a little more milk. Beat or stir it long and hard. Butter a tin or iron pan, put the mixture into it, and set the pan immediately into an oven, which must be moderately hot at first and the heat increased afterward. A Dutch oven is best for this purpose. It should bake an hour and a half or two hours, in proportion to its thickness. Send it to table hot and cut into slices. Eat it with butter or molasses.

HOMINY CAKES — A pint of small hominy or Carolina grits, a pint of white Indian meal, sifted, a saltspoonful of salt, three large tablespoonfuls of fresh butter, three eggs or three tablespoonfuls of strong yeast, a quart of milk. Having washed the small hominy and left it soaking all night, boil it soft, drain it, and, while hot, mix it with the Indian meal, adding the salt and the butter. Then mix it gradually with the milk, and set it away to cool.

Corn Cake by Muy Yum

Corn Cake by Muy Yum

Beat the eggs very light, and add them gradually to the mixture. The whole should make a thick batter. Then bake them on a griddle in the manner of buckwheat cakes, greasing or scraping the griddle always before you put on a fresh cake. Trim off their edges nicely, and send them to table hot. Eat them with butter. Or you may bake them in muffin rings.

If you prefer making these cakes with yeast, you must begin them earlier, as they will require time to rise. The yeast should be strong and fresh. If not very strong, use four tablespoonfuls instead of two. Cover the pan, set it in a warm place, and do not begin to bake till it is well risen and the surface of the mixture is covered with bubbles.

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