Today I got together with some friends who used to work at the Seagram Museum (closed officially 15 years ago this month). In honour of this occasion I made the recipe for Chocolate Cake (p. 202) submitted by Mrs. E. F. Seagram, Waterloo for the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Mrs. Seagram suggests a Boiled Icing (p. 216) so I made the one contributed by Mrs. G. Bergmann.
Mrs. E. F. Seagram is likely Toronto born Edna I MacLaughlin who married Edward Frowde Seagram. I think they must have married sometime between the census in 1901 and the birth of their first child in 1903. In the 1901 census Edward Seagram lives with his parents and two younger brothers plus a couple named Richardson who are the butler and cook for the family. The family religion is listed as Church of England (Anglican). By the 1911 census Edward and Edna have one daughter and three sons. Their King street (Waterloo) household includes a governess and two female domestic servants. The family heritage is listed as English and one of the female servants emigrated from England. They are all Anglican except for the governess who lists her heritage as Irish and religion as Roman Catholic.
The technique for making the cake was fascinating. I’ve never made one quite like it. I grated one square of unsweetened chocolate into a small saucepan. Then I added the egg yolks and milk and started the burner. I stirred as the chocolate melted and everything mixed together. I wasn’t sure exactly what “thick” would look like but I stopped when I started to see the bottom of the pan as I stirred. I was afraid of burning it. I slowly add the rest of the milk, and then the melted butter to the mixture in the saucepan. I really wasn’t sure whether I was to do the rest of the mixing in a bowl but decided to stick to the saucepan although I removed it from the heat. Things foamed a bit when I added the soda. The flour mixed in well and finally the vanilla. I poured the batter into a greased cake pan and baked in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
As the cake neared completion I started the boiled icing. I’ve never made this style of icing before so it was another new experience. I added sugar and boiling water to a small saucepan and turned the heat up quite high. I stirred a bit and then left it to continue to simmer. I checked it every so often by dipping the spoon into the syrup and pulling it out. I stopped cooking when the sugar syrup dropped from the tip of the spoon in threads as well as a drop. While it was cooking I’d used a fork to whip up the egg white a bit. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the next instruction. I anticipated cooked egg whites and that is pretty much what happened. I gradually poured in the egg white. Things foamed a bit. I took it off the heat and stirred and stirred. I added the vanilla which turned everything a bit grey and the threads of egg white didn’t really mix in well. It did thicken and there were only a few lumps. I decided to go ahead and spread it on the cake. It hardened as I was spreading.
I was a bit hesitant to take the complete cake since the icing was so strange. Nearly everyone (children and adults) tried the cake and most ate all of their piece. In fact at least one person asked for the recipe. The general consensus was “it’s not too sweet”. The icing was very sweet but the cake had just a hint of chocolate. The cake had a dense texture but not gooey or fudgy. I wouldn’t say this was my favourite cake but it travels well and suits a variety of palates. It is another recipe that a modern cook could use for experimentation. This is a quick cake to make as grating the chocolate was the most time consuming part of the recipe. It is always nice to have minimal clean up too.
The Seagram’s were a well to do family and quite prominent in the area. Is this a cake for company or a cake served to the family or even the children? Is it a recipe from a cook or from Mrs. Seagram’s own family?
Yolks of 2 eggs, 1/2 cake chocolate, 1/2 cup of sweet milk, grate the chocolate, add eggs and milk, boil gently until thick and stir contantly [sic], then add another 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 small teaspoon soda, 1 1/2 cups flour sifted, 1 teaspoon vanilla, bake in a moderately quick oven and ice with a white boiled icing.
BOILED ICING 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup of boiling water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, white of 1 egg. Mix sugar and water. stir until it boils. Boil without stirring till it hairs and drops from tip of spoon. Beat gradually into it the egg white, add flavoring and beat until thick enough to spread.