Today I spent the afternoon with my friends from the former Seagram Museum. They liked the Devils’ Food cake from yesterday. I had planned to make Mrs. E. F. Seagram’s Date Cake from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book this morning, so that I could bring it to our gathering. However, a closer look at the recipe revealed some potential problems. I decided not to risk friendship by bringing this cake.
I started by separating two medium eggs. I mixed the yolks with the sugar. The first problem was deciding the amount of molasses. I think a slash is missing between the 1 and 3 in the published recipe, so I added 1/3 cup of molasses to the egg and sugar mixture. Next I added the flour. I thought if it didn’t mix in well then I’d rethink the molasses measurement. Another problem was untangling the description of boiling water, soda, cold water, and pounded dates. I decided to add the soda to the boiling water, and to add the pounded dates to the boiling water too. I chopped the dates, and then pounded them with my meat tenderizer. They were still lumpy but I wasn’t sure how “pounded” dates would appear. I let the dates soften a bit in the boiling water and mixed well. Then I poured everything into the other mixture and stirred well. It looked like cake batter but I now faced another decision. I didn’t think I had enough batter for three jelly pans. What did this direction mean? I suddenly wondered if it was to be baked in tin cans the way Boston brown bread and some of the loaves of childhood memory were baked. Not having any idea what a “jelly tin” would look like, I decided to go ahead and put all the batter on my cookie pan/jelly roll pan and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
Mrs. E.F. Seagram was Edna I MacLaughlin before she married Edward Frowde Seagram. She was born in 1880 so she was twenty-six when the cook book was published and she had her third child that year too. Edward came from a prosperous family. The 1901 census shows him living with his parents, two brothers and a butler and a cook in Waterloo. At that point he is a bookkeeper but by the 1911 census he and Edna have four children, a governess, and two domestic servants living in a home on King street in Waterloo and Edward is now listed as a manufacturer. The couple is of English heritage and belong to the Anglican (Church of England) denomination. The Seagram company produced whisky at a factory at the corner of Erb and Caroline for many years. The Seagram Museum was located in a former barrel warehouse and told the story of the company and the manufacturing history of beverage alcohol.
The cake was a disappointment and I’m not sure how to correct my mistakes. My choice of baking pan is probably the main reason but it also has a strange texture and the molasses flavour dominates. It reminds me a little of gingerbread minus the ginger. I would try making the cake again as an experiment but there are better Date Cake recipes. I wonder if it is meant to be a jelly roll style cake with the dates as a filling? It might be worth trying that as an experiment. If it works it would be unique and could be quite delicious. Until I work out the details for Mrs. Seagram’s Date Cake I’m not recommending it.
Yolks of 2 eggs, 3 heaping tablespoons of white sugar, 1 cup and 3 tablespoons of flour sifted, 1 3 cup of molasses. Mix thoroughly then add 2/3 cup boiling water, rounded teaspoon of soda, dissolve in cold water 1 cup of pounded dates, pour in three jelly tins, bake in quick oven.