Pound cake is the classic spring and summer cake as it uses lots of butter and eggs. It is also a classic since it typically measures all major ingredients by the pound. Many girls would have a pound cake recipe memorized by the time they had homes of their own. Mrs. H. Rathmann’s recipe for Pound Cake on page 187 in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book is a little more moderate as it uses 1/2 pounds and includes the number of eggs to use rather than weighing the eggs. It is also a little fancier since it includes almonds and citron.
Cake recipes which are simply a list of ingredients are always a little more challenging for the historic cook. I tend to approach them using the basics of cake making at least as a starting point. The Berlin Cook Book does include some general tips for cake making on page 181 at the start of the Cake section. It states.
CAKES — Cake baking success depends largely upon the oven and the mixing. The oven should be evenly heated and not allowed to cool. Careless mixing will spoil the best recipes.
Always cream the butter and sugar, beat whites and the yolks separately; mix yolks with butter and sugar: add the milk, sift the baking powder with the flour and stir in a little at a time; then add the whites of eggs and lastly, the flavoring. Do not remove from oven until thoroughly baked.
I weighed the sugar and separated the 5 medium eggs. I creamed the 1 cup (1/2 lb) of butter and the 1 1/3 cup (1/2 lb) sugar and then added the 5 medium egg yolks. I weighed the flour and 1/2 lb equaled about 2 1/2 cups today. Weighing ingredients is the more exact way to make a cake as flour in particular can absorb moisture from the air. I sifted the baking powder into the flour and mixed in the 2 1/2 cups almonds and some citron peel (100 grams). I slowly mixed it into the wet ingredients and then whipped the egg whites. I folded them into the batter. I spooned the batter into a greased cake pan and baked in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour. It wasn’t until the cake was already in the oven that I realized I’d forgotten to add the vanilla!
Mrs. H. Rathmann’s name is also spelled Rathman in the census. Kathrine or Catherine Kraemer became Mrs. Herman Rathmann. She is among the older contributors to the cook book since she was born in 1846 making her 60 when it was published. She was born in the area but her parents were from France. Her husband Herman was born around 1838. They had at least three children, the last quite a bit later than the others. The couple is living at 91 Frederick Street along with their 37-year-old daughter Amelia in the 1911 census. They are all German and Lutheran and speak both English and German. None of them are employed although Herman was a painter and later a finisher. In the 1901 census another son lives with them and is a finisher and daughter Amelia is working as a clerk in an office.
I looked forward to tasting this cake since I really like plain pound cake. Mrs. Rathmann’s Pound Cake is very nice but a modern cook might want to ease back on the almonds. The peel was a surprisingly good addition to the cake. Normally I’m not a fan of citron peel but it worked well in this cake. I still prefer a plain pound cake but I imagine in the world of 1912 this would be a favourite. Pound cake is perfect for teas since it is a “clean” cake since it doesn’t need icing. It can be sliced and eaten in the hand or placed on the saucer of a teacup minimizing the mess for the hostess and for a guest’s hands.
5 eggs, 1/2 pound butter, 1/2 pound flour, 1/2 pound sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 pound blanched and chopped almonds, citron peeling.