I’m not sure what to expect from a recipe called Poor Man’s Cake. It was contributed to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book by Mrs. M. F. Zarnke. This cake has only a tiny bit of butter and some milk and no eggs. It is a typical recipe for the months when dairy products are in short supply or are expensive to buy.
I think Mrs. M. F. Zarnke might be married to Frederick M. and that the initials were reversed as a typographical error in the cook book. Frederick likely used his middle initial to distinguish him from his father, also Frederick. Frederick M. Zarnke is married to Catherine and they have a daughter Mamie H. and a son Charles (or Carl). The 1901 census has their surname spelled as Zanke and shows that Frederick was born in an urban area while Catherine was born in a rural area. In the 1911 census the couple are in their 40s and live with the children at 339 King street West. Frederick M. is a piano maker in a piano factory as he was in 1901, and the family are all listed as Ontario born with German heritage and Lutheran religion.
I creamed the butter and sugar and then added the milk. I used 1 cup of 1 % milk with a teaspoon of vinegar added to create sour milk. I used a heaping tablespoon of butter but then I use regular cutlery for measuring. I use the same teaspoon used for stirring coffee and the same size tablespoon I use for eating soup. I measure with a set of cups that I also use for coffee and tea. Standardized measuring cups were available but a woman my age would probably follow a more traditional style of cooking which made use of everyday things. I mixed the flour and soda together and added the chopped raisins to the flour so that they wouldn’t stick together or sink in the finished cake. I mixed everything together and spooned the cake batter into a greased cake pan. The oven was preheated to 350 degrees F. and I took the baked cake out of the oven after ___ minutes.
This plain economical cake would be suitable for an everyday meal in 1912. It is sturdy enough to pack a slice in a lunch bucket if you were unable to return home for the noon meal. It could be dressed up with some sort of icing but otherwise it is quite plain. It tasted good just not exciting. There’s a sweetness to it that was a bit unexpected in such a plain cake. A modern cook might want to add some spices to add some additional flavour to Poor Man’s Cake. I’m not sure if I’ll prepare this cake again but it is a good recipe to have on hand if I need to make something and don’t have eggs or much butter available. Mrs. Zarnke probably found this a handy cake with two growing children and a hungry husband to feed and possibly a tight budget as well.
POOR MAN’S CAKE
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped raisins, 1 cup sour milk, butter the size of an egg, 1 teaspoon soda, about 2 cups flour.