Best Materials Requisite for Cake Making.
In cake-making it is absolutely essential that the best materials be employed. Stale eggs, strong butter, must flour, or common sugar are not so much as to be thought of in this connection. The idea that such refuse “will do for cooking” is most unworthy. When a luxury, such as cake, is attempted, the maker should certainly be willing to luxuriate in acceptable ingredients.
Flour for cake should be white and dry. It should always be carefully sifted. Sugar should be white, dry, and free from lumps. Eggs and butter should be sweet and fresh; the milk rich and pure. Fruit and extracts must be of the best. The weighing and measuring of ingredients must be accurately done. Guessing at quantities has spoiled many a cake.
For mixing cake, an earthen or wooden dish and a wooden spoon are requisite. Butter and sugar should be beaten together to a cream before using. Butter may be softened for this purpose, if too hard to manage readily, but it must not be melted. Whites and yelks of eggs must be beaten separately, until there is no stringiness visible, and the froth can be taken up on a spoon. Beat eggs in a broad, shallow dish, and in a cool place. It is well to lay the eggs in cold water for an hours before beating them, as they will beath the lighter for such treatment. Sweet milk is best for solid cake; solid milk, for light cake. The two should never be mixed.
…the maker should certainly be willing to luxuriate in acceptable ingredients…
Baking-powder should be mixed dry through the flour. Soda and cream of tartar should be dissolved in milk. Flavoring extracts, fruit, and spices must be added the last thing, and fruit should always be well sprinkled with flour before it is put in the dough. Currants and such fruit should be washed, picked over, and dried before using. Almonds should be blanched by pouring boiling water over them till they pop from their skins. Cake should be beaten as little as possible after the flour has been added. When it requires long baking, the bottom and sides of the pan should be lined with paper well buttered. This will insure the easy turning out of the cake when done.
Much of the success in cake-baking depends on the heating of the oven. If the oven is very hot when the cake goes in, it will bake on top before it becomes light. If the oven is too cool, it will rise and fall again before done. If the top of the cake browns too fast, cover it with thick paper. Try it by inserting a broom-splinter or knitting needle in the thickest part of the cake, and if nothing adheres when it is drawn out, it is done. Turn out of the tins at once, taking care not to expose the cake to draft.
Cake should be kept in earthen pans or crocks, or tin boxes, but never in wooden boxes or drawers. It will keep better for being wrapped in a cloth, and more than is needed should not be cut.
Cake that is to be frosted should be baked in pans with perpendicular sides. The icing should be put on as soon as the cake is removed from the oven. This will insure its drying smooth and hard.
Source: New England Cookbook 1905