Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brown Sugar Cake

Several days ago I had a conversation with my Mom that went something like this.

Me: Well, it's that time of year again, Ma. My Birthday's coming up. This week as a matter of fact.

She: Oh, God. (pause) Time got away from me. (Smile)

Me: That's OK. No big deal.

She: Well, it is and I'll make you a cake. I'll make you a Brown Sugar Cake*. It's so rich and delicious.

Me: (pause/thinking) Oh, OK. That's really sweet, Mom.

I know this conversation of ours went out of her consciousness within a few minutes. She won't remember my birthday and I doubt Dad will remind her unless he remembers to glance at the date on the NY Times and makes the connection. I won't remind her either. She'll just feel bad that she didn't bake that cake, or buy a card, or do something. But, I tell myself, it's OK.

I haven't actually had this brown sugar cake in some time; maybe thirty years or more. It's quite good although the recipe is so like all those oldies but goodies in her recipe box. Important details like how long to bake the cake are left out (guess nobody really worried about this; they just knew) and "butter the size of an egg" was a common way to add shortening to the batter. Who needed a stick of butter conveniently wrapped in paper marked off in tablespoon increments? I love these old recipes so I'll share it below. Check out the icing...better make 50 percent more than the recipe calls for or you'll not have enough to frost the cake! Oh my.

Brown Sugar Cake (circa early 1940's)

2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/8 cake (or square) bittersweet chocolate

Dissolve the chocolate in 1/2 cup boiling water. Beat egg yolks and egg whites separately and then add egg whites to the yolks. Mix all ingredients together and bake in 3 layers at 325 degrees (for how long???) Who knows?

2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
butter the size of an egg

Cook slowly together until mixture forms a soft ball in cold water (238 degrees on candy thermometer). Remove from heat and beat until spreading consistency. Can be diluted with a little cream if it becomes too hard to spread.

Now the kicker: make 1 1/2 times this amount to frost the cake recipe above!!!

....recipe comes from Mrs. Herrick who was the organist at the Methodist Church in Bolivar, NY in 1943. She gave the recipe to me (my Mom) and we use it for birthday cakes. Very rich and delicious.


  1. Wowweee, that looks delicious!

  2. This looks scrumptous, though I would never have the patience to follow all the steps. I have a few recipes with sparse directions written in my great aunt's handwriting ~ priceless.

  3. Recipes at least in our family seem to provide some ground to stand on.


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