Birthday Cake!!

Birthday cake
Cakes were eaten to celebrate birthdays long before they were called “birthday cakes.” Food historians confirm ancient bakers made cakes (and specially shaped breads) to mark births, weddings, funerals, harvest celebrations, religious observances, and other significant events. Recipes varied according to era, culture, and cuisine. Cakes were usually saved for special occasions because they were made with finest, most expensive ingredients available to the cook. The wealthier one was, the more likely one might consume cake on a more frequent basis.

The birthday cakes we enjoy today are inventions of the 19th century. These were enjoyed by middle and upper classes. People with less money and poorly stocked larders also made birthday cakes. Their were not quite the light, fluffy iced concoctions served by their wealthier contemporaries. In all places and times, cooks blessed with creativity and “make do” spirit generated some pretty fine foods in the name of love. This was also true in War time.

The practice of eating cake on a regular basis by “average people” became possible in the 19th century. Why? The Industrial Revolution made many baking ingredients more affordable (mass-production) and readily available (railroads). It also introduced modern leavening agents, (baking soda, baking powder), a variety of cheaper substitutions (corn syrup for sugar; margarine for butter), and more reliable ovens.

Cake history expert Simon R. Charlsey makes this observation:

“Birthday cakes might still in the nineteenth century be of the same kind [as wedding cakes], but as their use spread, their composition became typically simpler. For preference of the child or other person celebrating, or of the cook, or whatever the confectioner had used for a decorated shop cake.”
Wedding Cakes and Cultural History, Simon R. Charsley [Routledge:London] 1992 (p. 61)

“The dominant English culture in America shaped birthday patterns for some time. Colonial birthdays were enjoyed by privileged adults, who feasted well, or at the very least, shared a glass of wine and a small slice of fruitcake with friends. Children’s parties echoed the adult formats…In the new age of democracy, birthdays did not remain class-limited. As the nineteenth century progressed, a number of factors reshaped the events. The growth of industry, elevated urban material standards, and emering middle class culture amde more elaborate birthday celebrations increasingly attractive. Changing notions of the nature of childhood stimulated a new style of young people’s parties…Ice cream and cake became defining elements, whether after a meal or as the centerpiece of a party…Although fruitcakes and rich, yeasted cakes were the traditional English festive cakes, the modern form of birthday cake originated in American kitchens in the mid-nineteenth century. In contrast to their European counterparts, American women were active home bakers, largely because of the abundance of oven fuel in the New World and the sparsity of professional bakers. By the late 1800s, home bakers were spurred further by several innovations. The cast-iron kitchen stove, complete with its own quickly heated oven, became standard equipment in urban middle-class homes. Women in towns had more discretionary time, compared to farm-women, and they had an expanding social life that required formal and informal hospitality. Sugar, butter, spice, and flour costs were dropping. Improved chemical leavening agents, baking powder among them, enabled simpler and faster baking and produced a cake of entirely different flavor and texture. A cake constructed in layers, filled and frosted, became the image of the standard birthday cake. One observer of the early 1900s compared bubbly soap lather to “the fluffiness of a birthday cake” and snowy, frost covered hills to iced birthday cakes…Writing on birthday cakes began with professional bakers and caterers, who were proliferating in growing cities. The cakes of the late 1800s were decorated with inscriptions like “Many Happy Returns of the Day” and the celebrant’s name, a tradition that continues into the twenty-first century. Sometimes the cake was home-baked but then decorated by a specialist…The phrase “Happy Birthday” did not appear on birthday cake messages until the popularization of the now-ubiquitous song “Happy Birthday to You” (1910). Cookbook authors began to recommend decorating with birth dates and names and offered instruction on how to make colored frostings…By 1958, A.H. Vogel had begun to manufacture preformed cake decorations. Inexpensive letters, numbers, and pictorial images, such as flowers or bow, with matching candleholders were standard supermarket offerings.”
Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, Volume 1 (p. 99-100)

“Small, colored candles became an integral part of the American birthday cake. An American style guide of 1889 directed, “At birthday parties, the birthday cake, with as many tiny colored candles set about its edge as the child is years old, is, of course, of special importance.” The modern use of candles on a special cake may be connected to the German tradition of Kinderfest, dating from the fifteenth century, a time when people believed that on birthdays children were particularly susceptible to evil spirits. Friends and family gathered around protectively, keeping the cake’s candles lit all day until after the evening meal, when the cake was served. The candles were thought to carry one’s wished up to God. This German observance was brought to colonial Pennsylvania and was later reinforced by the influence of British-German fashions from Queen Victoria’s court.”
ibid (p. 99)

American cookbooks bear this out. In the last quarter of the 19th century, we find a veritable explosion of simple cake recipes. Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book [1871] contains several of these items. Many have inventive names. Curiously? None of them are called “birthday cake.” The recipes provided by Mrs. Porter that are most like today’s birthday cakes are: “Silver cake,” “Gold cake,” and “Little Folks’ Joys.”

“Little Folks’ Joys

One cupful of white sugar, one cupful of rich sour cream, one egg, two cupsful of flour, half a teaspoonful of soda, and flavor to taste; bake about half an hour; nicest eaten fresh and warm.”
Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, Mrs. M.E. Porter, 1871 , [Promentory Press:New York] 1974 (p. 242)

“Birthday Cakes

Into a pound of dried flour, put four oucnes of butter, flour ounces of sugar, one egg, a tea-spoonful of baking powder, and sufficient milk to wet to a paste. Put in currants, and cut in cakes. Sprinkle colored caraway seeds on top, and bake them a light brown.”
Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, Mrs. J. C. Croly [Aemrican New Company:New York] 1878 (p. 203)

“Birthday Cakes for Children.

One and one-half cups of sugar, a half-cup of butter or clarified drippings, two eggs, one cup of milk, two cups flour, one teaspoon baking powder, one-half teaspoonful of vanilla. Beat together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then the flour, baking-powder and nutmeg sifted together. Place in small well-greased tins and just before putting into the oven drop a few seeded raisins on top of each cake. Spread on the top a few drops of boiled icing and on top of these some colored candies or cinnamon drops, as they are favorites with the little folks. Aunt Mary.”
The Blue Ribbon Cook Book, Annie R. Gregory [Monarch Book Company:Chicago] 1906 (p. 258)


Devil ???

Where the devil?

According to the food historians the practice of “devilling” food “officially” began sometime during the 18th century in England. Why? Because that was when the term “deviled,” as it relates to food, first shows up in print. The earliest use of this culinary term was typically associated with kidneys & other meats, not stuffed eggs:

“Devil…A name for various highly-seasoned broiled or fried dishes, also for hot ingredients. 1786, Craig “Lounger NO. 86 ‘Make punch, brew negus, and season a devil.'”
Oxford English Dictionary (the 1786 reference is the first use of this word in print. Words are often part of the oral language long before they appear in print).

“Devil–a culinary term which…first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments…The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell…Boswell, Dr Johnson’s biographer, frequently refers to partaking of a dish of “devilled bones” for supper, which suggests an earlier use.”
The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (pages 247-248).
[James Boswell lived from 1740-1795, Dr. Johnson’s biography was published in 1791]

“Deviled…Any variety of dishes prepared with hot seasonings, such as cayenne or mustard. The word derives from the association with the demon who dwells in hell. In culinary context the word first appears in print in 1786; by 1820 Washington Irving has used the word in his Sketchbook to describe a highly seasoned dish similar to a curry. Deviled dishes were very popular throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, especially for seafood preparations and some appetizers.” —The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (pages 110-111)

“Around 1868, Underwood’s sons began experimenting with a new product created from ground ham blended with special seasonings. The process they dubbed “deviling,” for cooking and preparing the ham, was new. But best of all, the taste was unique. Soon thereafter, the “Underwood devil” was born.”
History of the Underwood Company

Many early 19th century devilling recipes were for meat and other items:

Devilled Biscuits…Butter some biscuits on both sides, and pepper them well, make a paste of either chopped anchovies, or fine cheese, and spread it on the biscuit, with mustard and cayenne pepper, and grill them.”
The Jewish Manual, by A Lady [London:1846] (p. 98)”Devilling, Or broiling with cayenne, is also a good expident to coax the palate when you have relics of poultry of game. Fish can likewise be “devilled,” or egged and fried with a small piece of butter and bread crumbs, mixed with a little dried tyme, marjoram, and fresh parsley crumbled and chopped very fine.”
The Dinner Question, or How to Dine Well and Economically, Tabitha Tickletooth, [London:1860] (p. 51)

Recipes for deviled eggs have changed with time, probably a result of culinary fads and ingredient availabilty. Compare the following:

“Devilled Eggs

Boil six or eight eggs hard; leave in cold water until they are cold; cut in halves, slicing a bit of the bottoms to make them stand upright, a la Columbus. Extract the yolks, and rub to a smooth paste with a very little melted butter, some cayenne pepper, a touch of mustard, and just a dash of vinegar. Fill the hollowed whites with this, and send to table upon a bed of chopped cresses, seasoned with pepper, salt, vinegar, and a little sugar. The salad should be two inches thick, and an egg be served with a heaping tablespoonful of it. You may use lettuce or white cabbage instead of cresses.”
Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery, Marion Harland [Scribner:New York] 1882 (p. 246).[1894]
“Eggs, Devilled

If to be served hot, boil the eggs hard, and quarter or slice them, then lay them in a stewpan with enough gravy to cover them. Gravy a la Diable will be found excellent; but a plainer one can be made on the same principle by using a cheaper stock. A few drops of anchovy sauce is an improvement. Serve as soon as the eggs are hot throught, sith strips of dry toast, or put croutons round the dish.(p. 594)

Gravy a la Diable
Required: half a pint of clear brown stock…half an ounce of arrowroot, a tablespoonful of claret, a teaspoonful of French mustard, a dessertspoonful of Worcester sauce, and a little soluble cayenne, with salt to taste, and a few drops of soy. Mix the thickening with the claret, and the rest of the ingredients, and boil for a few minutes. Serve with kidneys, steaks, &etc., or with grilled fish. For a hotter sauce, increaes the Worcester sauce, or boil a few capsicum seeds in the gravy.” (p. 85)
Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book, Lizzie Heritage [Cassell and Company:London] 1894.

“Devilled Eggs

Boil eggs twenty minutes and when cool shell. Cut into halves crosswise and remove the yolks without breaking the whites. Put the whites of the same egg together, that they need not get separated. The yolks may be put in the bowl. Whe all are cut, rub the yolks to a c ream with melted butter, add a little made mustard or sauce from the chow chow bottle a little pickle or pilces and salt and paprika to season. Fill the mixture into the whites, put the halves together as they belong, and as if preparing them for the picnic basket fasten together with a couple of little Japanese wooden tooth picks before wrapping in waxed paper. The picks serve as handles in eating. If they are to be put on the home table press the halves together and arrange on a bed of cress or lettuce. For a change, finely minced meat highly seasoned is often added to the yolks. The devilled mixture that will be left over makes a spicy filling for sandwiches. Another way of using devilled eggs is to spread the yolk mixture left over on a shallow baking dish, place the eggs on it and cover with a thin cream sauce, veal or chicken gravy. Sprinkle with buttered crumbs and bake until the crumbs are delicate brown. A grating of cheese may be incorporated with the crumbs, if desired.”
New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [New York Evening Telegram:New York] 1908 (p. 28-9).

“Deviled Eggs.

Remove the yolks from six hard-cooked eggs and force therm through a fine sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt, one teaspooonful of dry mustard, one-half teaspoonful of freshly ground, black pepper, one teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce, one-and-one-half tabelspoonfuls of chopped parsley, and at least a tablespoonful of mayonnaise. Beat well wtih a fork till it forms a firm paste, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Fill the white halves. using a pastry tube and garnish wih chopped parsley or tiny strips of pimiento.”
Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes With a Key to the Cocktail Party, James Beard [M. Barrows:New York] 1940 (p. 54)

“Deviled Eggs

Prepare: Hard-cooked eggs
Shell the eggs, cut them in halves, remove the yolks. Crush the yolks with a fork and work them into a smooth paste with:
Mayonnaise, French dressing, cream or butter
Season the paste with:
A little dry mustard (optional)
Fill the egg whites whith the paste and garnish the eggs with:
Chopped parsley or chives
Sliced olives, anchovies, capers, etc.
The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer [Bobbs-Merrill:Indianapolis] 1946 (p. 92).

Deep-fried deviled eggs

This departure from the usual is fun to do and fine to serve. After you have prepared your deviled eggs, dip them in fork-beaten egg, then roll in fine bread crumbs. (And this can all be done in the morning.) When cooking time comes, place the eggs in a frying basket (this is essential), and deep fry at 365 degrees farenheit until brown. Serve at once.”
Martha Deane’s Cooking for Compliments, Marian Young Taylor [M.Barrows:New York] 1954 (p. 133).


Carrot Ale ?!?

Carrot Ale?
Why not!

Carrot Ale
Take the water of twelve gallons, carrots twenty-four pounds, treacle four pounds, bran two pounds, dried buck-bean four ounces and yeast a quarter of a pint. Cut the carrots into thin slices, boil them in the water for an hour (making up the waste in boiling by the addition of a little water), strain it, mash up the bran with the carrot water, stir it well to prevent its clotting, add the treacle, let it stand for half an hour, strain and boil the strained liquor for a quarter of an hour with the buck-bean. Finally strain it, and set it aside to cool; when of a sufficient temperature add the yeast, and tun as you would malt beer. This will be found an agreeable and cheap beverage. The cost the above quantity will be about 3s. 6d.—The New London Cookery (c. 1827)”
English Wines and Cordials, Andrew L. Simon [Gramol Publications:London] 1946 (p. 130-131)