I decided to try this recipe today because it seemed like a good winter recipe and I was intrigued by the name of the contributor. It seemed a very modern way to list a married woman’s name. Mrs. Helen Krug Arnott contributed the recipe for Fruit Cream Cake (p. 190) and several other recipes for the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. So who was she?
Using the 1901 census and 1911 census plus the Generations website, I think Mrs. Helen Krug Arnott was the wife of Dr. William J. Arnott a physician whose Arnott Institute for Stammers was located on Frederick Street in Berlin. In the 1901 census Dr. and Mrs. Arnott are living in Berlin along with their nine month old son Stewart K. and their servant Kate Reiber. Mrs. Arnott’s name is listed as Ellen B. but by the 1911 census her world has changed dramatically. She is now listed as Hellen Arnott living in a ten person household in Tavistock. There’s Fred and Jane Krug who are likely her parents plus her brother and sister, a 93-year-old grandmother named Hellen Stewart and (H)Ellen B. Arnott’s three young sons Stewart (10), William (8), and Frederick (4) plus a servant. Mr. Krug is the owner of a general store. Mr. Krug was born in Germany and Mrs. Stewart was born in Scotland and everyone except the servant lists their religion as Presbyterian.
What happened to Dr. Arnott? How did a 31-year-old new mother and wife in 1901 become a 41-year-old widow living with extended family by 1911? What was her life like in 1906 when she submitted this recipe? Her youngest child was born that year. Was her husband still living when the baby was born? A picture of his institute was published in 1906 in a special booklet promoting 100 years of Berlin. Why is her name listed as Mrs. Helen Krug Arnott in the Berlin Cook Book? Why list her own first name not her husband’s as most of the other married women have done? Why include her maiden name? Is she newly widowed? I don’t have answers to any of these questions yet but Mrs. Helen Krug Arnott’s Fruit Cream Cake is good.
The recipe is essentially a fruit cake. I made it in a square cake pan but it might suit a loaf pan too. I creamed a tablespoon of butter (my estimation of butter the size of an egg) with the brown sugar and then added a medium egg. I decided to try making “sour” cream by adding 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the cup of cream. As mentioned in earlier posts, milk or cream could sour naturally in the past but this doesn’t happen with milk products today. I mixed the dry ingredients and the dried fruits together and then added them to the liquid mixture. The amounts of raisins and currants seemed quite large but it mixed together well although I was worried they might overpower the rest of the flavours. The cake batter/dough smelled wonderfully spicy as I spooned it into a greased cake pan. I baked it for about 50 minutes in a 350 degree F. oven. I might try a slower (lower temperature) oven next time and bake about an hour.
The resulting cake was a nice tasting spiced fruit cake. I like raisins and currants so the amount was just right for me however, some modern cooks might want to cut back to just a cup of each. I did not ice the cake and I’m not sure what type of icing would complement it. I think it would be nice on its own served with ice cream in a modern household. In 1906 or 1912 this would be a good basic family cake or perhaps served as part of a winter tea or coffee party.
FRUIT CREAM CAKE
1 egg, 1 cup brown sugar, butter size of an egg, 1 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon soda, 2 cups flour 1 1/2 cups raisins, 1 1/2 cups currants