Post by Alison Hein.
While I was researching historical material for Milk Toast for last week’s post, I became engrossed in Maria Parloa’s The Appledore Cook Book. Leafing through an online copy, the recipe for Allie’s Cake intrigued me, as my husband and his family call me “Ali”. Who was Ms. Parloa? Who was Allie? As usual, one food mystery begets another, but here’s what little I learned:
Ms. Parloa was born in Massachusetts on September 25, 1843 and little is known about her early life. She became an orphan at a young age, and learned to cook in private homes and small hotels. She died at age 65, and during her lifetime accomplished many impressive feats, especially for a woman of her era. She:
- Wrote several cookbooks.
- Began two cooking schools and was associated with the Boston Cooking School.
- Is credited with the first published tomato soup recipe – Tomato Chowder – which appeared in The Appledore Cook Book.
- Was part owner of the Ladies Home Journal, and wrote regularly for it from 1891 on.
- Spent several years in France studying cooking techniques.
- Raised two orphaned girls in her home in her later years.
Of “Allie”, there was no further word. Setting out to modernize the recipe, I made several changes. First off, ingredients and preparation steps had to be separated. Next, I added a couple of eggs (who bakes a cake with no eggs?), swapped out saleratus (the predecessor of baking soda and baking powder) for baking powder, and reduced the amount of raisins (Allie wanted to use almost 4 cups!). I also determined that a “moderate oven” would be 350°, and specified a baking time.
The end result was a rich and dark, moist and fruity cake – an engaging cross between gingerbread and scones. Somewhere during this process I think “Allie’s” cake became “Ali’s” cake, and breakfast in bed became an ode to Maria Parloa and the mysterious Allie.
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups raisins
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until thick and creamy. Add eggs one at a time until well-blended. Mix in molasses and buttermilk.
Mix all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt) together in a separate small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into the batter, about one cupful at a time, until thoroughly blended. Stir in raisins.
Pour batter into a greased cake pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and invert onto serving plate.
Makes 1 large cake, about 20 slices.