Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oneth By Ferry and Twoeth By Tree (AKA Two Early American Cakes)

The Path to the World's Largest
Spruce Tree (Lake Quinault, WA)
This past weekend was a time of remembrance for me.  A time to revel in the rightness of nature and the smallness of we humans.  It was also a time for cakes and fruit and the wanderings of a mind tuned to the rain.

As I began the quick .3 mile jaunt to the World's Largest Spruce tree on the brink of rain weary Saturday morning, I was reminded of Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken (1920).  The path that lay before me gave me the choice of walking straight through large mud puddles, avoiding said mud puddles by a much stomped upon side path that was almost as muddy, or taking the often tree branch and bracken-filled less wet but still muddy path. And I?  Well, I did indeed choose the one less traveled by.  Why? The answer is
simple: I acknowledged the fact that despite others before me not choosing this path, I could indeed trod this bracken-filled path and be all the merrier because of it. (Not to mention the fact that my shoes ended up less muddy than those people who boldly barreled through the mud zone or those who trod on the almost equally as muddy path others before them did).  I rebelled just a teeny bit and ended up with a few scratches, not too muddy shoes, and a new appreciation for going against the grain.  The pic to the right is not the world's largest Spruce tree, but his much smaller but still beautiful companion.  I am posting a pic of this tree not because I did not take a pic of the tallest Spruce, but because I am sure that this tree doesn't get as much acclaim as his forest fellow.  Everyone needs their fifteen minutes of fame!

The hike through the trees and the beach at Kalaloch to follow brought me back to a sense of self and nature that I had been lacking for a few months.  It also brought Strawberry Shortcakes made in the Colonial way with fresh sweetened berries and a dollop of my version of Devonshire cream.  These cakes were eaten on paper plates under the raised trunk of the car while coastal rain beat a sideways tattoo. And alas, I failed to take a pic of them before they were devoured.  But never you worry, the recipe for them can still be found here: A Colonial Shortcake with Soured Cream and Berries.

Port Gamble's Main Street

Since I was inspired this weekend by Colonial/Early American recipes, I didn't stop with just shortcake.  The adventure to beautiful Port Gamble, Washington that I took on Sunday put me in the mood for cherries as they rhyme with ferries and I spent a lovely time on two ferries.  Silly, I know!

I don't know who created the first George Washington Cherry Cake (or Federal Cake to some), or even if this cake was indeed something the great GW loved.  Nonetheless, the idea that GW was intrigued by cherries and rode famously across the Delaware on the prow of his boat makes me think of spongy cake with tart berries. Remember, I never said I was normal...
My Own Historic (or not) Crossing
of Puget Sound!

George Washington Cherry Cake Inspired Ferry Cake (Early 1800s)

*This recipe is an amalgamation of three different Washington or Federal Cake recipes found in various cookbooks and other helpful Colonial/Early American baking tips. See Honey Cakes' Cookbook Bibliography for more information on these classic cookbooks: Antique Cooking: All Recipes Over 100 Years Old (1980), Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts (1773), The American Frugal Housewife (1832), The American Housewife (1841), The White House Cook Book (1887), and The Cookery Blue Book (1891).

This cake has a light and feathery feel with a spongy top and a center that feels airy due to the use of Baking Soda (saleratus) instead of Baking Powder.  Enjoy it plain, but if you feel you need some sweet icing, then follow this classic recipe for Vanilla Cream (1860).

To Make the Cake:

2 3/4 cups evaporated cane juice or coconut sugar
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps fresh ground nutmeg
4 farm fresh eggs, beaten
2 cups soured raw milk (I soured my raw milk with 1 tsp Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
4 cups organic unbleached flour
1 cup dehydrated organic cherries (cut in half)
1 cup dehydrated organic cranberries

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; add eggs and beat well.  Add soda and spices and blend until smooth. Next blend in flour and sour milk alternately until a smooth and airy batter forms.  Fold in the cherries and cranberries.

Fill a greased 17" x 10" glass pan or two greased and floured 9" round pans with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes depending on the pan(s) used.  The cake should be slightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean when the cake is finished.

Remember to take time and enjoy this cake and the wonders nature has to offer!

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