October 10 is National Angel Food Cake Day….a cake made by beating tons and tons of egg whites at ridiculously high speeds…perhaps if homemakers had stopped using so many eggs after the Civil War, there wouldn’t have been food rationing during World War 1…oh wait, those eggs would probably have been rotten by then anyway…
After the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and consumerism brought cooking at home to a whole new level.
Mass-produced bakeware, cooking stoves, and cooking utensils, such as mechanical egg beaters changed the domestic scene forever.
Bakeware such as cake pans were often given away as promotions for consumers shopping for furniture and other big-ticket items.
One special pan given away at this time carried a label saying “Angel”.. .and perhaps laid the foundation for our next cake—Angel Food Cake—to be created.
October is National Book Month, and cookbooks are among my favorite treasures to look for in antique stores and other places like Half Price Books. You can learn so much about a given timeframe or era by the books published during this time.
Looking for articles about Angel Food Cake for this post led to my finding the following five books to add to my collection of cherished antique cookbooks such as my grandmother’s White House cookbook first published in 1887…that I just discovered might be worth $800.
Anyway, the two cookbooks next to be added to my already overcrowded bookshelf are…
Published in 1881, this cookbook is the oldest known cookbook written by a former slave.
Abby (maiden name unknown) was born in 1832 and grew up in the plantation kitchens in South Carolina.
She married Alexander C. Fisher, and the couple had eleven children.
By the end of the Civil War she and her family gained their freedom.
In 1877 the Fishers relocated from Mobile to San Francisco where her talents as a cook and caterer soon were in high demand among the city’s upper class. Her reputation and award winning delicacies enabled the Fishers to open their own business listed in the San Francisco directories as “Mrs. Abby Fisher & Company” and later as “Mrs. Abby Fisher, Pickle Manufacturer.”
Abby Fisher expertly blended African and American cultures by combining the foods and spices from two continents. Her unique dishes with their distinctive flavor represented some of the best Southern cooking of the day.
At the insistence of her friends and patrons to record her “knowledge and experience of Southern cooking, pickle, and jelly making” Mrs. Fisher authored a cookbook.
Since she could neither read nor write, her recipes were carefully described to writers who compiled them in the cookbook under her name.
This cookbook contained the first published recipe for Silver Cake…a early form of angel food cake.
The Boston Cooking School opened on March 10, 1879. The school was modeled after the teaching of cookery at London’s National School of Cookery.
The mission of The Boston Cooking School was “to offer instruction in cooking to those who wished to earn their livelihood as cooks, or who would make practical use of such information in their families.”
But The Boston Cooking School also offered free cooking classes to Boston immigrants and nutrition classes for students at the Harvard Medical School.
Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln began teaching at the school in November, 1879 and later became the school’s first principal.
In 1884, Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking was published primarily for use as a textbook.
In 1891, Miss Fannie Merritt Farmer became principal.
In 1896, the first edition of Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book was published and quickly became an American classic, making the school world famous.
The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884, had a recipe for “Angel Cake” mentioning the name for the first time.
Angel food cake is usually baked in a tall, round pan with a tube up the center that leaves a hole in the middle of the cake—similar to a bundt pan But without fluted sides. The center tube allows the cake batter to rise higher by clinging to all sides of the pan.
The angel food cake pan should not be greased. The fact that the pan is not being greased will help the cake hold to its shape until cold, without falling.
2. Make the batter.
—Place 1 ½C egg whites in a mixing bowl.
—Let sit at room temp 20min.
—Add 1-1/2tsp cream of tartar…1tsp vanilla…1/2tsp almond extract
—Beat at high speed.
—Gradually add 1C sugar.
—Beat until sugar dissolves and eggs form stiff peak shapes.
—Sift together 1 1/4C powdered sugar…1C flour.
—Sift in the flour and sugar mixture slowly, while still beating on low.
3. Bake the cake.
—Spoon the batter into an ungreased, 10″ tube pan.
—Remove any air pockets by cutting through the batter with a knife.
—Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.
—Turn pan upside down for the cake to cool.
—Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan.
4. Serve and eat.—Angel food cake should be cut with a serrated knife, as a straight-edged blade tends to compress the cake rather than slice it.