Today is the last day of April and in Canada it is the last day to file a tax return without penalty. It also marks one year since I found out my job was coming to an end. I think this is a day deserving of chocolate cake. I’ve selected Hulda Boullee’s recipe for Syracuse High School Fudge Cake for this month’s recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
I started by creaming the butter and sugar as Miss Boullee suggested. I debated the next step. Usually the yolks of the three eggs would be added now but she seems to indicate the whole eggs are whipped and added at the end. I decided to follow her recipe as written. I mixed in the 2 % milk next. . Sifting isn’t really necessary with modern pre-sifted flour but it is a good idea when combining with baking powder. My baking powder has seen much less use the past few weeks then its almost daily use last year. As a result it is a bit lumpy. Sifting made sure there were no baking powder lumps in the cake. If you don’t have a sifter, a sieve does the trick. I mixed the baking powder/flour combination into the batter.
I wanted to make this cake last year but dreaded grating 1/4 cup of chocolate. Turns out it really isn’t that much chocolate. I used half of a square of Bakers™ unsweetened chocolate. I manually grated my chocolate into a cup and then set the cup in hot water to melt. Meanwhile I measured the walnuts. Once the chocolate was melted I mixed it into the batter along with the walnuts and then whipped the three medium whole eggs. They were a bit frothy when I tried to incorporate them into the rest of the mixture. I’m sure there is some molecular reason for my difficulty blending but I persevered and finally had a smooth batter. I forgot to add any vanilla. I poured the batter into two greased round cake pans and baked them for 30 minutes at 350°F.
The two cake layers were perfectly baked and I set them aside to cool while I started the icing. I melted the butter in a small saucepan and added the cocoa powder. Not surprisingly Hulda uses the American term confectioner’s sugar for what I call icing sugar. I stirred in the icing sugar, milk, and a bit of salt. I turned up the heat until it boiled and then reduced the heat a bit. I let it boil for 8 minutes stirring often. I’m not sure if that was a mistake. I began to realize that I was making fudge as the icing and usually it isn’t to be stirred until the end. At the 8 minute mark I removed the pan from the heat and started stirring. I kept stirring until it was smooth and then added the vanilla.
I didn’t think there was enough icing to use it as a filling as well as a topping so I put the two cake layers together using some raspberry jam. Then I poured the chocolate mixture over top. It looked nice and glossy but was very sticky. I couldn’t wait to taste the cake but let it cool a bit more.
Hulda Boullee was born in New York state in 1885. Her father Ottoman was born in Wilmot Township here in Waterloo Region but emigrated to the United States in 1878. Hulda and another contributor Florence Augusta Boullee are first cousins — their fathers were brothers. Hulda’s mother Louise was born in Germany and emigrated in 1862. I’ve just discovered that Louise was an Oberlander before marriage!! In fact Hulda’s middle name is Oberlander. This makes Meda Oberlander, the woman I strongly suspect was responsible for the Berlin Cook Book, Hulda’s aunt. Louise was the eldest girl and Meda was the youngest girl in the large Oberlander family. Louise also contributed a recipe to the cook book.
Hulda is the oldest child in the Boullee family and has four brothers and a sister in the 1900 census. Her father is a commercial traveller. The household also includes a 20 year old woman boarder who works as a housekeeper and her mother’s clergyman brother Fred Oberlander. Based on the 1910 census it appears that Mr. Boullee is an agent for a piano business while 24 year old Hulda is a clerk in a business. What doesn’t show in the census is that Hulda was a talented singer. An article in the Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph newspaper on June 28, 1906 (coincidentally just four days after the first ad for the Berlin Cook Book appears in a competitor’s paper) describes her performance at a local fundraising recital. The article states:
Concert and Organ Recital. In Aid of the Berlin Waterloo Hospital was Well Attended. A Neat Sum Realized.
The concert and organ recital given in the St. John’s Lutheran Church, Waterloo, on Wednesday evening, in aid of the Berlin and Waterloo Hospital, was a most successful affair, both financially and otherwise. Rev. Mr. Maas, of Preston, acted as chairman, and referred in a few appropriate words to the object of the concert, and spoke of the worthiness of the cause for which it was being given. Rev. A. R. Schulz, of Elmira also made a brief address of welcome. Vocal selections were given by Mrs. H. M. Snyder, Miss Huldah Boullee, of Syracuse, N.Y., Miss Ella Anthes, Mr. Chas. Ruby, Mr. Edward Clement, Mr. E. M. Shildrick, and organ numbers by Mrs. Spady, besides selections by the choir of the church, all of which made up an excellent programme, and furnished and evening of enjoyment for those in attendance. The services of those taking part were given gratuitously and their efforts in thus assisting a worthy institution were heartily appreciated. About $50 was realized.
Hulda Boullee married Alfred Crispin in Niagara Falls, Ontario on November 10, 1910. He was a traveller and had been born in Syracuse like Hulda. It appears that his father might have been Canadian born. They were not married in a religious ceremony — perhaps because she was Lutheran and he was Methodist. The couple are still going strong in the 1930 US census. Alfred is a salesman for an oil and gas company. However, the 1940 census shows Hulda living with her cousin Irving Oberlander and his wife Catherine and their two daughters Meta and Marcia at 216 Sedgwick Street in Syracuse, NY. It indicates that 51 year old Hulda is still married rather than widowed and she’d been living in New York City on April 1, 1935. Like others in the Oberlander family, Irving is a medical doctor. I think I’ll have to do some more research to find out the rest of Hulda’s story.
This cake did not turn out as I expected. The cake itself is okay. The texture is very nice and the chocolate flavour is mild. This is common for chocolate cakes in the early twentieth century. They usually didn’t have the deep chocolate flavour we expect today. The colour of the cake is a light brown rather than the dark almost black colour I associate with a chocolate cake. The icing wasn’t the fudgy thick icing I loved at childhood birthday parties but rather it was a sticky sort of chocolate candy like coating. Everything tasted fine it just wasn’t what I was hoping to taste. It’s possible I made a mistake while making the icing. Maybe I should not have stirred while it boiled or maybe I should have stirred longer when it came off the heat. Fortunately culinary mistakes are usually still edible.
I’m not sure I’d make Hulda Boullee’s Syracuse High School Fudge Cake again but I will try to find out more about Hulda.
SYRACUSE HIGH SCHOOL FUDGE CAKE
Hulda Boullee, Syracuse, New York
Take 1 cup of sugar, 2/3 cup butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 1/2 cups of flour 2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder, 1//4 cup of grated chocolate, 1/2 cup of English walnuts broken up coarsely. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the cup of milk then stir in lightly the flour in which the baking powder has been sifted. Next stir in the chocolate which has been melted by placing in a cup and setting in hot water. Add the nuts, lastly the eggs which should be beaten to a froth. Vanilla to taste if desired. The fudge frosting should be made as follows. — 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa, 1 1/4 cupsful of confectioner’s sugar, a few grains of salt, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Melt butter, add cocoa, sugar, salt and milk heat to boiling point and boil about 8 minutes. Remove from fire and beat until creamy add vanilla and pour over cake to depth of 1/4 inch.