1950’s Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake

The glorious Big Sky country of Montana was the recent setting for my mother Pat’s memorial, which holds the story of redemption.  This couldn’t have been more special, with family there from all over the state, as well as Washington, California, and Oregon.  It was a blessed reunion of next of kin and old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for decades.  My 94-year old mother, who was so eager to be with her Maker and my father, was smiling down from heaven, highly pleased with all our gaiety.

Needless to say, the food at this week’s many meals was the greatest.  My sister Maureen, who follows a ketogenic diet, is highly gifted in creating memorable ailments. (She trains people in ketogenic-style cooking and presently is writing a cook book, which includes beautiful creative desserts; I will promote it when it comes out.)

Today’s boiled raisin cake, however, dates back to my early childhood in the 1950’s; my mother probably found this well-known cake recipe in a popular magazine.  Maureen knows the original instructions by heart, to which I have added a few twists of my own, such as freshly ground flour-this is totally optional, but oh so good!

Pleasing the palate beyond words, this world’s easiest, foolproof cake is mixed in the saucepan in which you boil the raisins.  I couldn’t help but share it at this time, thus honoring my mother.

Death normally brings loss; Mom’s departing, however, promoted life and goodness.  Her long-term desire to be with Jesus and my father “Buzzy Baby” was finally granted; our Redeemer brought great liberty to many with her passing.

Food, friends, and faith were the best description of her earthly sojourn; thus, these attributes also marked her transition to heaven, for my sister Maureen labored to insure their presence at all our gatherings, thus commemorating our beloved mother-nothing was overlooked.  This week-long series of family events highly esteemed this great woman, with the actual memorial, in our village of East Glacier Park, being the height of the glory which was signified by her home-coming.

At this treasured celebration, I was able to reunite with many childhood friends-some of whom I hadn’t seen since the 1970’s.  During the reception, extreme laughter blessed us at one table, as we traversed memory lane, for we were recalling our shared employment at my parent’s restaurant.

So many people who came to memorialize Mom’s life had worked for my parents in their fifty-plus years of restaurant ownership; all were bearing rich, belly shaking stories.  It was at this respected establishment that I first learned my love for food, in which I have a unique approach of educating with health and history.

Here I note that the raisins in this cake receipt were most likely sun-dried on rows of paper in the vineyards for about three weeks, as is their most common form of production in the United States.  There are many thousands of grape varieties, which are of the genus Vitis V. vinifera.  Here in North America, we have about 25 native grape species, where in temperate Asia, there are about 10; the major source of wine and table grapes, however, is native to Eurasia.  About two-thirds of the world’s grapes result in wine; of the rest, about two-thirds are consumed fresh, with the remaining made into raisins. 1

Urbain Dubois published a recipe in his 19th century cook book, in which he ingeniously combined raisins and capers; presently, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has capitalized on this unique paring, enhancing it even further by pureeing it with nutmeg as a sauce for skate (this popular dish is on his restaurant menu). 2

Loving food and adventure, my mother would have appreciated this daring treatment of raisins.  You may experiment with this raisin/caper combination, or just securely rest in Mom’s proven boiled raisin cake.  (I suggest making the latter with white vanilla, which is ideal for white frostings-this uncommon flavoring was my recent gift from friends traveling to Mexico, the home of the world’s most outstanding, dirt-cheap vanilla.)

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 363.
  2. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley& Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 70.
  3. https://calraisins.org/about/the-raisin-industry/

finished cake after final frosting

Boiled Raisin Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 50 min, with 45 min inactive prep time for cooling raisins, unless you boil them ahead of time, following step one/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 45 min.

3 c flour  (Optional: may grind 2 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 3 c flour.)

2 c raisins

3 c water

1 cube butter

2 lg eggs, beaten

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index; for health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

1 c pecan pieces, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

Glaze:

2 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; Trader Joe’s has 1-lb packages, where Costco has more economical, larger packets.)

1/2 c butter, melted

1/2 c cream  (Organic heavy whipping cream is better for your health.)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

  1. easy mixing of batter

    In a 3-quart sauce pan, bring raisins to a boil in 3 cups of water over medium heat; cook for exactly 5 minutes; add butter.  Place in a sink full of cold water to cool quickly.

  2. If using fresh ground flour, grind wheat berries now.
  3. Make glaze by mixing above “glaze” ingredients, set aside.
  4. When raisins are cool, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Add flour and all other “cake” ingredients to pan; blend well; do not over-beat, however, as this toughens cakes and cookies.  IF grinding your own flour, be sure to let batter sit for 45 minutes, as freshly ground flour is coarser and absorbs the liquid more slowly.
  6. Pour batter into 9”x13” pan, which has been sprayed with coconut spray oil.
  7. icing cake the first time

    Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.

  8. When hot out of oven, immediately poke holes over the whole cake with a toothpick or skewer.
  9. Pour 2/3’s of glaze evenly on cake (see photo).  When cake has cooled, frost with remaining icing; see photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  10. This cake is dynamite, and it gets better as it sits over time!

Prune Cake, A Cake to Be baked in Secret (Keeps Well if You Hide It)

prune cake

My mother loved to entertain; she went to elaborate ends preparing for her dinner parties, many of which had international themes-for these foreign affairs she often employed recipes from the Time-Life Books collection Foods of the World, which came out in 1968 (see 1960’s French Dinner, 2016/06/06).

Though I don’t know its origin, this prune cake was among my favorite desserts that Mom served to her many guests.  I recall her making it in the sixties; perhaps she acquired it from beloved friends while we were living in Tucson, Arizona, during several winters in this decade.

Its subtitle boasts: A Cake to Bake in Secret (Keeps Well if You Hide It).  How true this is, for this confection melts in one’s mouth, with its butterscotch glaze seeping into the entire cake; thus, it stays moist for weeks, if you don’t eat it first.

In the hot Mediterranean countries in Biblical times, drying was the most expedient way for preserving fruit and vegetables; grapes became “raisins of the sun”, plums became prunes, dates and figs likewise intensified in flavor as they shriveled up.  There, this basic technology employed the powerful sun, with either spreading the juicy produce out on trays or the rooftop, or burying it in the hot sand; this latter means of preservation became apparent at the beginning of time, with naturally dried fruit, which had fallen from trees and vines in the hot dessert.

Such sun-drying methods didn’t work well in the cooler climates of Eastern Europe; thus, more sophisticated means of dehydrating developed here.  Beginning in the Middle Ages, in Moravia and Slovakia, special drying-houses were filled with wicker frames, on which prepared fruit was laid out; constantly-burning stoves, underneath these frames, produced the necessary dry heat to transform the food.

Those in medieval Scandinavia discovered that cool, crisp air, aided by a stiff breeze, could be utilized to dry Norwegian stokkfisk-cod that had been gutted and hung to dry on wooden racks.  This dried ailment provided these people with an almost indestructible, cheap food reserve.

During this time, means for food preservation were also developing in England.  The rich Englishmen, however, had cool stillrooms, where they candied nuts and citrus peel and bottled fruits-present day canning methods were discovered in the early 19th century-and made marmalades, jams, and sweetmeats.  (In Webster’s, this last item is any delicacy made with a sweetening agent; “meat” here refers to food-sweet foods-such as candied fruit).  Indeed, the English employed the art of candying, or preserving with sugar, although they adhered to many alchemical superstitions and “secrets”, such as walnuts should be preserved on June 24th, St. John’s Day.

This memorable cake calls for dried plums that have been resuscitated.  These stewed prunes, along with the rich butterscotch glaze oozing into the whole, allow for an incredibly moist dessert that keeps for weeks, providing it is hidden from sight.

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 218, 219.

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 54, 180, 181.

prune cake

Prune Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.  Note: this recipe calls for a 9” tube pan, with a removable bottom.

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal, or may grind 1 2/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries, to make 2 c fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-store has an excellent organic Korintje cinnamon in bulk.)

1 1/2 tbsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tbsp allspice

1 c oil  (The original recipe calls for corn oil, but I use grapeseed oil, as it can be heated to high temperatures without damage.)

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 c sugar  (May substitute coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index, see health benefits at Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24 .)

3 lg eggs, beaten

1 c buttermilk

1 1/3 c dried, pitted prunes, soaked and coarsely chopped  (This may be done ahead, see step 3.)

1 c walnuts, chopped

Hot Butterscotch Glaze

1 c sugar  (Cane sugar is important here; organic is best.)

1/2 c buttermilk

1/4 c butter

1/4 c lite Karo syrup  (For easy pouring, rub measuring cup with butter first.)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. 1980’s nutmeg grinder

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. If using optional, freshly ground flour, begin grinding wheat berries now.
  3. Pour boiling water over prunes; let sit for 13-15 minutes, or until soft, but not mushy; drain, cool, and cut fruit in halves.
  4. In a sealed gallon-size storage bag, vigorously shake flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, or stir well with a fork.  (This recipe calls for LOTS of spice; freshly ground nutmeg is superb; see above photo for my 1980’s nutmeg grinder.)
  5. Mix oil, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 1/2 c sugar together in a large bowl; beat in eggs, one at a time; mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately.  Stir in the prune halves and nuts.  (If using fresh ground flour, know that it is a coarser grind and thus absorbs moisture more slowly; therefore, if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let batter rest in bowl for 45 minutes before baking, to absorb liquids.)
  6. glaze at soft ball stage before rolling together with fingers

    Pour batter into an ungreased 9” tube pan, with a removable bottom.  Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.  Meanwhile get ready to cook the glaze.

  7. In a medium saucepan, measure the ingredients for the butterscotch glaze.  Set aside, until 10 minutes before cake is done.  After cake has been baking for 50 minutes, boil glaze over medium heat, until a candy thermometer registers 235 degrees F, or a soft ball is formed (using a clean spoon, place a small amount of the cooked sugar in a cup of cold water; then, squish together with fingers to form a soft, pliable ball that doesn’t hold its shape,  see photo above).
  8. Immediately pour hot glaze over hot cake; piercing it repeatedly with a skewer or toothpick, so it can easily soak up glaze (see photo below).
  9. piercing glazed cake with skewer

    After cooling on rack, slide a knife down all sides and under removable bottom; then, gently transfer pastry to plate.

  10. Remember this is a cake to be baked in secret, for it keeps a long time, if you hide it.

Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg Orange Cake

The spring and summer of 1973 brimmed with vitality for me; I had taken the quarter off from college “to find myself.”  However, I forgot my mother’s birthday in the midst of my prosperity.  My heart broke when I soon realized my mistake.  To make amends I baked and delivered a glorious cake; I drove it 200 miles across Montana’s Big Sky country, from Missoula to East Glacier Park.  My benevolent mother graciously welcomed both me and the confection!

This beloved parent learned the powerful lesson of forgiveness in her youth; she is always eager and ready to forgive as a result of this.  Mom taught me this precious wisdom, which exempts us from much disruption when mistakes are made: immediately we amend all with our Father in heaven; next, we lavishly forgive others and ourselves; finally as needed, we seek compassion from those we have hurt in our wrongdoing. This spells freedom for our emotions and minds!

Me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen

me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen-June 2016

That was Mom’s 50th birthday and the first time I made this outstanding Williamsburg Orange Cake.  I went home to Montana to celebrate her 93rd birthday this past June. We had a repeat of this treasured sweet!

The recipe calls for zesting oranges.  I like to equip my sister’s kitchen with gadgets which I find helpful in cooking.  This year I blessed her with a GoodGrip zester and thus insured my ease in making this cake. GoodGrip is high quality and economical.  A large array of this brand’s useful gadgets is available at our local Winco.  This particular zester is most efficient; it makes a difficult job super easy.

My recipe appears lengthy.  It is actually very simple, for I have included many baker’s tips. Don’t be daunted by deceptive looks!

Williamsburg Orange Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch round layers, 3-8 inch rounds, or 2-9 x 5 inch loaves.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  inactive prep time to freeze cakes for easy frosting: 1 hr/ active prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

2 1/2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill  organic unbleached white flour is best; better yet grind 1 2/3 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 2 1/2 c of flour.)

1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water  (Organic raisins are available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 c milk or cream, soured with lemon juice from a squeeze ball

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c butter  (This 1970’s cake called for the then popular Crisco.)

1 1/2 c sugar  (May use coconut sugar, or sucanat, which is evaporated cane juice; if using sugar, organic cane sugar is premium.)

3 lg eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oranges  (It is important to use organic, as the zest of regular oranges taste of pesticides.)

1 c pecan pieces

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

Flour for dusting pans

Williamsburg Orange Frosting  (This is for 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans or 2-9 inch round layers; 1 1/2 recipes will be needed if making 3-8 inch round layers.)

1/2 c butter, softened

4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is available at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 tbsp orange zest

3/8 c orange juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

10 narrow slices of orange rind, cut lengthwise on surface of orange (see top photo).

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding now.
  3. Cover raisins with water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Place milk or cream in a medium bowl; sour with about 6 squirts of lemon juice from ball; let sit.
  5. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in a med/large bowl with a fork.
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter and Crisco until light and fluffy, add sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating well with each addition.  Mix in vanilla.
  7. Add 1/2 the flour mixture to butter mixture, blending only until all is incorporated; then, mix in 1/2 the soured milk. Repeat these steps to use all the flour and milk; do not over-beat, as this toughens cakes and cookies.
  8. Wash and dry oranges.  Zest 2 oranges (set aside); save these two oranges-for juice for frosting-and the third unpeeled one for decorative strips.
  9. Drain the raisins, which have been become plump in the hot water. Blend the raisins, l tbsp of zest, and nuts into the cake batter.
  10. Spray pans with coconut oil and dust with flour lightly. (Rinse nozzle on can with hot water, for easy spraying in future.)  Pour batter in the prepared cake pans.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cake should respond, bounce back, when pressed with your finger.  Do not over bake!
  12. Cool in pan for 5 minutes to facilitate removal; slide knife around edges to gently remove; then, freeze cakes on separate paper plates for at least 1 hour-this prevents cake from crumbling while frosting.

Frosting  (Make 1 1/2 recipes for 3-8 inch round layers.)

  1. Cut 10 narrow slices of rind from third orange for optional decoration: using a sharp knife, cut just below rind from top to bottom of orange, gently peel stripes off orange, set aside (see top photo of decorated cake).
  2. Squeeze oranges to extract 3/8 c juice, set aside.
  3. In a med/large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric hand mixer.
  4. Mix in 2 c of powdered sugar.
  5. Beat in 1/4 c of orange juice, 1 1/2 tbsp zest, vanilla, and salt.  Add remaining sugar, 1 c at a time, blending well; set aside.  (Save extra orange juice.)
  6. Frost frozen cake layers or loafs-only if frosting is too stiff to spread easily, add more orange juice, 1 tbsp at a time.  Optional: decorate with slices of orange rind while frosting is still wet, arranging narrow slices back-to-back on top of cake (see top photo).
  7. If making the loaf cakes, to keep in freezer for unexpected company, be sure to freeze the frosting on cake, before sealing in gallon-size freezer bag.
  8. Enjoy this delightful cake!

1950’s Banana Cake

1950's banana cake

1950’s banana cake

My mother let each child choose his own birthday cake while we were growing up.  My little heart worked overtime each year to decide between banana cake and fresh pear pie.  Both are awe-inspiring!

I spell out the wonders of my mother’s banana cake here. The delectable pie will follow this fall in a series of recipes extolling my family’s favorite meal since the 1950’s; until then you will be pleased with this memorable confection.

I grew up in the small tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana.  It is the east entrance to the spectacular display of Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park.  I have seen mountain ranges all over the world; none compare with that of my home.

There my young mother was mentored by several “older” women as I was maturing; one was Leone Brown.  She was all of 50 at the time, but she seemed very old to me.  This knowledgeable woman taught Mom much about cooking.  She created many beautiful crafts for her as well; my 93-year old mother still has her handmade Easter eggs, made out of delicate egg shells.

This beloved cake is the fruit of Leone’s bountiful wisdom; personally I have been making it with joy since the early ’70’s.  Believe me, it will knock your socks off!

Banana Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch layer or 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Total prep time: 2 1/4 hr (with  inactive prep time of 1 hr or longer for freezing cakes to facilitate easy frosting)/  active prep time: 50 min/  baking time: 25 min.

Note:  1 1/2 recipes will be needed for 3-8 inch layers.  I like to make 2-loaf cakes and freeze them separately on paper plates, sealed in gallon-size freezer bags, for cutting off frozen slices as needed.  Dessert is always on hand for unexpected guests!

1/4 c milk, soured with few drops of lemon juice from a squeeze ball

3/4 c butter, softened

1 1/2 c sugar  (I prefer coconut sugar, or sucanat, evaporated cane juice.)

2 lg eggs

2 1/2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill unbleached flour is best, or grind 1  2/3 c organic soft white winter wheat berries to make 2 1/2 c fresh ground flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; available in inexpensively in fine grind at Costco.)

3 ripe medium bananas  (1 1/2 c mashed)

1 tsp vanilla

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is cheaper.)

Flour for dusting the sprayed pans

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sour milk in a med/large bowl with a few drops of lemon juice from a squeeze ball, set aside.
  3. Cream butter in a large bowl, add sugar, and beat until light.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with each addition.  Set aside.
  4. Shake together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a sealed gallon-size storage bag, or stir all together in a large bowl with a fork.
  5. Add bananas and vanilla to sour milk, mash bananas with a fork, and blend all (set aside).
  6. Mix 1/2 the flour mixture into butter; then, add 1/2 the mashed bananas into this, beating only until all is incorporated, as over-beating toughens cakes and cookies.  Repeat steps, using remaining flour and bananas.
  7. Spray cake pans; dust with flour.
  8. Pour batter in prepared pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes back clean and cake lightly springs bake when you press with finger.  Do not over-bake (time varies with size of pans).
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Then, slide a knife around the edges, gently remove cakes, and freeze these on paper plates for at least 1 hour, to facilitate frosting (this inhibits the crumbling of cake as you frost).

Cream Nut Frosting  (Note: make 1 1/2 recipes for a 3-layer cake.)

2 1/2 tbsp flour

1/2 c cream  (Heavy organic whipping cream is best for health.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar  (Preferably organic cane sugar; available at Costco or Trader Joe’s.)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

4 c powdered sugar (Trader’s has organic powdered cane sugar.)

1 c pecan pieces (Least expensive when bought in bulk at local supermarket.)

  1. Blend flour and cream in a small saucepan with a wire whisk.  Cook over med/low heat, stirring constantly, until a thick paste is formed.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer, add 1/2 c regular sugar, beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in salt and vanilla.
  4. Mix in cooled cream paste, beat well.
  5. Add 1 c of powdered sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add rest of powdered sugar, 1 c at a time, beating with each addition until all is incorporated.
  6. Frost the frozen layer or loaf cakes.  Cover top and sides with pecan pieces. (If freezing cakes for future use, be sure to freeze frosting on cakes before sealing in gallon-size freezer bags.)