Today is St. Patrick’s Day and so I felt I needed a recipe with some sort of Irish connection. The 1906 Berlin Cook Book has a recipe for Irish Stew but it requires mutton and I have yet to find a source for sheep meat. None of the contributors to this cook book have obviously Irish names. More often these women have ancestors from Germany or Scotland. The potato is often considered the staple food of Ireland but I’ve made many of the potato recipes already. However, there is one unusual potato recipe — Potato Carmel Cake — so I’ve decided to try it. This recipe was submitted by Margery C. Groff of New Hamburg, Ontario.
It should be easy to locate Margery C. Groff since her full name is used but I had difficulty finding her in either the 1901 or 1911 census. She submitted 5 recipes under this name and probably she’s also Margery E. Graff who contributed another recipe to the Berlin Cook Book. She doesn’t appear in the census under either surname. I even tried a search in the 1891 census but she’s not there. Who is this woman? I’m assuming she’s unmarried since she’s using her first name. Is she a young girl or is she a mature woman? Is she someone’s housekeeper and they forgot about her when the census taker came round or didn’t know how to spell her name? Was her street or home missed by the census in New Hamburg? I find it hard to believe this person is forgettable as her recipes for things like lady fingers and pressed veal are very specific.
Miss Groff has included very clear instructions with this recipe too. I began by peeling and chopping some potatoes so that I would have the 1 cup of hot mashed potatoes. While the potatoes cooked I creamed the butter and sugar together and separated the 4 medium eggs. It is easiest to separate eggs when they are cold and I don’t use any fancy gizmo. I added the egg yolks and milk to the mixture and stirred. For anyone new to historic cooking, it is important to know that sweet milk is simply fresh milk rather than sour milk. I used skim milk today.
I set a small saucepan, containing 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, onto a burner set to the lowest temperature. This is the moment I miss wood fired cook stoves as they usually had a place to warm or melt things like butter and chocolate. While the chocolate melted I continued adding the cinnamon and cloves to the batter. Next I mashed the potatoes and added them to the mixture. While waiting for the chocolate I started whisking the egg whites. The whites whisk more easily if they are at room temperature.
I added the melted chocolate and then sifted in the flour and baking powder. Finally I added the egg whites and some chopped walnuts. I poured the batter into two greased round cake pans and baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
I let the pans cool a little on a rack and then turned out the cake layers. I had to sample a bit right away as the spicy spell was enticing. The texture of the cake is great. The taste is nice and the chocolate flavour is mild. There is no sign of potato once it is baked and I’m not sure why the cake is called carmel [sic] (caramel). There is a carmel cake recipe just above which doesn’t have potatoes but does have a brown sugar based icing. Perhaps this cake is to be iced the same way. The cook book also has recipes for caramel frosting and caramel icing but neither was submitted by Miss Groff. I’ll have to try one on top of the cake but for now it is quite good plain.
POTATO CARMEL CAKE
2/3 cup butter, 2 cups of white sugar, 2 cups of flour, 1 cup mashed hot potatoes, 1/2 cup sweet milk, 4 eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup of grated chocolate or 2 squares melted, 1 cup of English walnuts, chopped fine, 1 teaspoon each of cloves, cinnamon, (nutmeg, half as much if preferred). Cream, butter, sugar and yolks of eggs, add the milk, the mashed potatoes, spices and chocolate, sift baking powder in the flour and beat the whites of eggs to a stiff froth. Stir the sifted flour into the batter and lastly beat in the whites of eggs. The nuts are added just before the cake goes into the tins.