I’ve recently become OBSESSED with a vintage cookbook! About 25 years ago, I found the Modern Guide to Better Meals by Jessie Marie DeBoth at an antique store near where my aunt lived in Skaneateles, NY. Over the years I’ve looked through but last week, I picked it up and have been reading it page-by-page and I’m fascinated!
I’m completely intrigued by the simplicity (or so I thought), the lack of seasoning (most recipes only use salt, pepper and on occasion, mace) and the reality that shortening was a major pantry staple. Also, breadcrumbs are not what we think of breadcrumbs in 2023.
This cookbook in particular is two FULL YEARS of daily menus. The forward says in part:
This Calendar of dinners has been prepared as a quick, handy, and accurate reference work for hostesses, home-makers and cook alike; a compendium of what to serve and how to prepare it on special occasions and on any day of the year.
I’m happy to read that these are “special occasion” menus because each is a FULL menu! Salad, protein, vegetable (at least one) and dessert. Cooking one of these full menus would take all day, even with modern conveniences. I couldn’t imagine any individual being able to make these meals day after day and surviving! Many recipe are soufflés (reminder that I need to order a soufflé dish) and ring molds (reminder that I need to order a ring mold too) and appear to take hours.
After getting deeper and deeper into the book, I went online to see what other books Jessie Marie had written. She has many available on Etsy and eBay. Then I found this article with information on Ms DeBoth’s life. I’m mesmerized! And then to read that she was a celebrity chef back when celebrity chef’s weren’t even a thing. Wow! What an inspiration!
I shared with my friends some of the recipes I was found most interesting, including Ginger Ale Salad, Hog Jowls with Poached Eggs, Baked Stuffed Heart, and Broken Stuffing Ring. One of my friends challenged me to make some of the recipes. I shared that with Bill and he agreed that we need to try some… but within reason!
Deciding to start with a dessert, mainly because I had all of the ingredients on hand short of shortening (pun intended), I got out the ingredients and went to work. Remember when you hear over and over to read ALL instructions before beginning to cook or bake? That definitely rings true with this cookbook!
Today’s cookbooks have exact measurements, and clear and linear instructions. That’s not the case with this book, although I’m sure it all made sense “back in the day.”
For example, here are the instructions for this cake recipe:
Blend shortening, salt, soda and vanilla; add sugar and cream thoroughly. Add yolks. Stir in sifted dry ingredients alternately with cream and water. Fold in stiff whites. Bake in greased 10-inch square pan in moderate oven, 350˚F, about 50 minutes. Frost as desired.
Realizing I needed to separate the eggs (not listed as separated in the ingredients list) and needing to beat them to stiff peaks, I opted to do that step first with my electric mixer. Another note: an egg beater is often referenced. I used one once and it was exhausting!
All in all, it took me about an hour to prep the cake batter. Since the instructions were not crystal clear, I found I had to think through the steps a little more than usual. In the end, though, I created a delicious, moist cake that we will definitely make again! Here is the recipe with updated instructions and the ingredients I ended up using.
I did make my own gluten-free cake flour by sifting 14 tablespoons all-purpose gluten free flour (1:1) with 2 tablespoon cornstarch per 1 cup of flour required.
Vintage Boston Chocolate Fudge Cake (GF)
- 2 eggs, separated
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2½ cups cake flour, sifted
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup water
- Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites stiff using a whisk attachment, about 5 minutes.
- In a clean mixer bowl, blend the butter, oil, salt, baking soda and vanilla. Add the sugar and cream thoroughly. Add the yolks and cream again.
- While the mixer is running in the lowest setting, add ⅓ of the sifted ingredients. Add the sour cream and another ⅓ of the sifted ingredients. Add the water and remaining sifted ingredients.
- Gently fold in the egg whites. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting as desired.
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