My birthday was yesterday, so I guess this is technically a post-birthday cake. I whipped it up for brunch this morning for myself, the friend whose house I’m crashing at, and a couple of law school friends in the area. Baking this marble cake took my mind off the splitting headache I woke up with post-celebration. Ah, cruel eld; I am definitely not as resilient at 27 as I was in college.
I don’t actually have any of my collection with me at the moment, but before I left Massachusetts for New York I had the foresight to snap pics on my phone of a few recipes I was interested in. Most of these came from The Gay Nineties Cook Book, which I bought as a birthday present for myself when scouring Gloucester antique shops on a rainy day last week. It’s not up on the Collection page yet, so don’t bother looking. I don’t remember the exact publication date, but I know it’s from sometime in the 1940s, which exponentially increases its cool factor: not only are the recipes over a century old, they were collected for posterity about 70 years ago. Historicity squared!
Even more excitement: if you look at the snapshot of the recipe below, you’ll see it is a “favorite of Emile Zola” – historicity tripled! You might also notice some differences between the directions here and the ones I’ve written out below. It’s (nearly) my birthday so I’m going to drop the facade and brag a little: it actually often takes some work to translate the concoctions I dig up into clear 21st-century formulas. That deduction, however, is the best part of the process. Where’s the fun in just following instructions?
The cake, as you can see, is a really basic one: cream butter and sugar, add flour, leavening, milk, and eggs. Use of beaten egg whites (instead of whole eggs) makes it a little special. I was bored (or possibly still had alcohol in my system) and decided to try the upside-down test on my egg whites (a la the Top Chef Just Desserts relay race challenge). It worked, and was awesome to behold.
As you can see above, the recipe really gets hazy when it comes to actually marbling the cake. I called upon vague memories of other multicolor baking endeavors and used a 3-layer system: vanilla, chocolate, vanilla.
And then run a knife through it all to create the desired marbling. I got a nice pattern on the top, but I need to work on my vertical marbles.
I got pretty into the whole “Gilded Age” thing when setting this up for serving – both literally, in that I used a gold-patterned platter, and aesthetically. Geometrically arranged strawberry garnish? So à propos.
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light cream (or plain non-Greek yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. flour
4 egg whites
2 oz. dark chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour an 8×11-inch pan (or a 9-inch cake pan).
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a medium bowl, then add the cream and vanilla and mix until smoothly blended.
3. Sift (or whisk) the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mix thoroughly.
4. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix one third of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remainder.
5. In a small bowl, add one third of the batter to the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.
6. Pour half the remaining vanilla batter into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly with a rubber spatula. Dollop the chocolate batter across this surface and smooth it gently, without mixing it into the first layer. Dot the last of the vanilla batter on top and smooth that gently as well. Run a butter knife through the layered batter, zig-zagging cross-wise then length-wise, to swirl the chocolate and vanilla. Do not swirl too much or the batters will be mixed rather than marbled.
7. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Strawberry Sauce (Adapted from The Food Network)
1 qt. strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Combine ingredients and simmer over medium heat until the mixture bubbles vigorously and the strawberries start breaking down.