Buttercup Cake – 1930s

May 20, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe! We’re still celebrating the baked goods explored in Tradition of Deceit. This week we have another tasty recipe from Gold Medal Flour, Buttercup Cake with Buttercup Icing. Michelle L. tried the recipe for us.

The verdict: Everyone in my family thought it was delicious, and it smelled heavenly.

Michelle documented the process, and shared the notes and photos below.

Buttercup Cake

Buttercup Cake

1. Gather all of the ingredients and necessary utensils.

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2. Cream shortening , add sugar gradually, and cream until fluffy.

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3. Blend in well beaten eggs.

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4. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

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5. Stir flour mixture and buttermilk alternately into creamed mixture.

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6. Blend in flavorings.

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7. Pour into greased and floured pan. (Recipe calls for 2 8-inch round cake pans, but I used a 13 x 9 inch pan.)

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8. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.

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9. When cake is cool, spread Buttercup Icing on cake.

Buttercup Icing

Buttercup Icing

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and water in top of double boiler and beat together until blended.

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2. Place over rapidly boiling water, and beat with a rotary beater until mixture is white and very light. Icing is done when it holds its shape when beater is pulled out. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size of boiler and vigor of beating. Remove from heat.

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3. Beat in flavorings and then beat occasionally until icing is cool.

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4. When icing is thoroughly cool carefully fold in very soft (but not melted) butter.

 5. Spread icing on cake and enjoy!

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I wasn’t sure if the amount of flour was before or after being sifted. I looked in an old cookbook and decided it is after sifting.

It took longer for the frosting to hold its shape than the recipe said it would, but that is probably because I don’t have a rotary beater and used a wire whisk. (I would have tried using an electric mixer but there isn’t an outlet close enough to the gas stove.)

The blend of vanilla, almond, lemon, and orange extract smelled heavenly. I used the same blend in the frosting. (My husband said the frosting tasted just like his Grandma’s.)

I served the cake to after dinner to the family and everyone thought it was delicious.

I would definitely make this recipe again.

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Huge thanks to Michelle for sharing her time and talents with us! I can’t wait to try this one.

Folk Art, Knitting, Murder, and More…

May 18, 2015
I am delighted have my friend Donna Druchunas as guest on Sites and Stories! Donna is an expert knitter, dedicated to documenting and sharing traditional patterns from around the world. Many of her own original designs are inspired by artifact and heirloom pieces. I’ve been a huge fan of her work for a long time. Welcome, Donna!
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My name is Donna Druchunas and I am a writer, knitwear designer, and travel junkie. My passions for knitting, history, culture, and story-telling are at the center of my work. I’ve been a fan of Kathleen since I first met her at a Women Writing the West conference years ago. 

One of my favorite things about Kathleen’s books is the way she always manages to bring something beautiful and handmade into the story, even if it’s a murder mystery! In Tradition of Deceit, the fifth Chloe Ellefson mystery, the folk art that touches the story is the paper-cutting tradition from Poland, called Wycinanki. 

My own research about Lithuanian folk art and knitting motifs led me to discover a similar paper-cutting tradition that has been popular in Lithuania since the sixteenth century and is still being practiced today. Simple pieces of paper are cut into intricate and delicate shapes that look like lace. In Lithuania, beautiful examples of this art form are exhibited in museums and available for sale in shops, such as these pieces that I saw at a folk art shop in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

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What I find so fascinating is the endless possibilities for using ancient and traditional folk art motifs in different forms of arts and crafts. The feeling of the lacy white paper art is reflected in this beautiful crochet shawl in the same shop.

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Another example of how malleable folk art can be is the common 8-pointed geometric motif. I love how this same simple shape can be the sun, a star, a flower, or a snowflake depending on where and when it is used. It is used in knitting, embroidery, weaving, wood carving, and in many other crafts. Many of the oldest folk art symbols were used around the world, while some newer motifs and more stylized versions of older symbols have come to be associated with specific places. For example, the 8-pointed snowflake, which is seen as a flower in Lithuania, is most commonly identified with Norwegian knitting today. 

There’s one motif in Lithuanian folk art that I find myself using over and over again. It looks like a tic-tac-toe board tipped on an angle. It is a symbol for the sun and can also represent God. I’ve used this symbol in three different ways in knitting patterns: In beads to decorate a wrist warmer…

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in a solid color on another pair of wrist warmers…

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and in multiple colors on the cuff of a sock.

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I love how adaptable this simple geometric motif is. Before knitting came to Lithuania in the 18th century, this motif had been used in weaving, wood carving, metal work, and to decorate ceramic and clay pots as far back as the Stone Age.

Because Lithuania and Poland are neighbors and were actually joined as one nation for about 300 years–from 1385 until 1795–it’s not surprising to find some similarities between the folk art and aesthetic sensibilities of both countries. If you enjoy the folk art and craft topics in Kathleen’s books and on her blog, you might also enjoy my latest book, Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions. 

In its pages, you can learn about the history, culture, and folk art of Lithuania. There are also over 25 mitten, glove, and sock projects to knit using traditional Lithuanian motifs and techniques.

http://lithuanianknitting.pubslush.com

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Kathleen also writes about foods a lot, so I can’t resist sharing this photo of the delicious Lithuanian pastries that were served at the shop when I accidentally visited during the launch of a new exhibit.

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At our house, one of the best parts of Christmas was making traditional Lithuanian fried cookies that we called “krushtukis.

Here’s my grandmother’s Krushtuki recipe, which is lacking enough details that you could not make these yummy cookies without first helping Grandma roll, cut, and shape the dough, and fry the cookies in her kitchen.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb butter or Oleo
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
5 or 6 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
Crisco
Powdered sugar

 Instructions:
Cream butter or Oleo. 
Add sugar and eggs one at a time, then vanilla, salt, and flour.
Knead until it doesn’t stick.
Roll thin.
Cut in pieces.
Shape.
Fry in Crisco.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

Donna Druchunas
Knitting books, workshops, and cruises
www.sheeptoshawl.com
www.storiesinstitches.net

Old World Wisconsin Locations Guide

May 13, 2015

As the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series grows, I thought it would be helpful to provide a single list of Old World Wisconsin locations that appear in the books.

(Special note:  This Sunday, May 17, I’ll be sharing a preview of the next Chloe mystery, Death on the Prairie, at Old World.  The 4 PM program is free of charge, but why not come early, buy a ticket, and tour the site? You can visit the highlighted buildings, and enjoy springtime activities throughout the outdoor museum.)

SPOILER ALERT: the notes below reveal information about the plots.

OWM – Old World Murder (#1)
THM – The Heirloom Murders (#2)
TOD – Tradition of Deceit (#5)

(Books # 3 & 4, The Light Keeper’s Legacy and Heritage of Darkness, do not include scenes set at Old World.)

Crossroads Village

St. Peter’s Church – The series begins with Chloe walking into the Village and visiting this structure. (Note: The Swiss house mentioned in OWM, is imaginary. All other buildings mentioned in the series are real.)

St. Peters Church, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

I took this photo on my first visit to the site, in 1981. It’s hard to remember the church without its fence.

Four Mile Inn – Chloe sometimes attends the morning briefing held for the interpreter in the basement, which is closed to the public.

Yankee Area

Sanford Farm – The large barn across the road from the farmhouse was the scene of a murder in THM.

As you travel from the Village to the German area, you will see a marshy kettle pond to the right. In Chloe’s time, her office building—Education House—was located out of sight on the far side of the pond. (That’s where I worked for many years.) The area is now closed and not accessible.

German Area

Schottler Farm – During the early 1980s, ski trails were maintained on the site. In TOD, Chloe takes a break from stress by skiing out to this farm, ostensibly to check the stove. (In reality she enjoys baking kuchen and making notes about trouble in Minnesota.)

Schottler Farm, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

The Schottler house, 1981. The farm looks much better now, with gardens and fences and more outbuildings!

Norwegian Area

Kvaale Farm – This farm plays a key role in OWM. Chloe visits the farm while searching for the missing ale bowl, and Roelke is called to the farm after an alarm is triggered one night. The climax scene takes place in the farmyard. Be sure to visit the stabbur, where Chloe found the bowl (the 2nd story is not open to visitors) and the barn where Chloe tries to hide from Joel. Inside the house you’ll find an ale bowl on display on a high shelf.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

Finnish Area

Ketola Farm – Chloe especially loves the sauna, which is the first small building you’ll encounter. In THM she visits to enjoy some quiet time after-hours, and gets locked inside.

* * *

Much more detailed Locations Guides for Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders are available on my website.

Old World Wisconsin is a great place to visit any time, any season. Happy wandering!

Old-Time Molasses Cake – 1930s (Gluten Free)

May 12, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe! The celebration of food explored in Tradition of Deceit continues.  This week we have another wonderful recipe from Gold Medal Flour, Old-Time Molasses Cake. Colette B. tried the recipe for us.

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The verdict: An absolutely delicious gingerbread…better than my great-grandmother’s recipe!

Colette adapted the recipe for those with a gluten intolerance. (In general I ask test-bakers to stick to the recipe, but I knew this would be helpful for many readers.)  Her notes and photos are below:

I just followed the directions! Super easy!

I did, however, make a few substitutions to this recipe. Because I have a gluten intolerance, I used gluten-free flour rather than Gold Medal flour and added 1 ½ teaspoons of xanthan gum. (I mix my own blend of GF flour, but I recommend using King Arthur brand of GF flour if you buy your flour.)

I also used butter rather than shortening and used plain, unsweetened kefir in place of the “thick sour milk” called for in the recipe. I read that buttermilk is also a common substitute for thick sour milk, so that might work too. I don’t think any of these substitutions had any effect on the recipe…it was great!

This recipe is quite similar to my great-grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, which is one of my family’s favorites, but it was a richer-tasting cake because of the “thick sour milk” (or kefir or buttermilk). The Gold Medal recipe was easy to follow and quick to make; it produced a very smooth batter and ultimately a moist gingerbread that had a lot of molasses and mild spice flavor. And the kitchen smelled wonderful while the cake was baking :) We all loved it!

Photo 1: Butter, sugar, molasses, egg. If it wasn’t for the raw egg, I would have eaten this…it smelled so good!

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Photo 2: Dry ingredients ready to be mixed in.

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Photo 3: Batter all mixed and ready to pour into pan.

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The only issue I had was the baking time. The recipe says to bake at 325 for 50 minutes, so I did. After 50 minutes, the edges looked and felt like they were done, but the center still was not fully baked; the cake had a dip in the center because of this. I put the heat up to 350 and left the cake in for another 15-20 minutes. At that point, the center was baked but still dipped; I felt that it could have used a bit more cooking but didn’t want to leave it in any longer since the edges were a bit crisp on top. I think that baking the cake at 350 for maybe 40-50 minutes would result in a more even bake.

Photo 4: The cake at the end of the baking time called for in the recipe. It’s a little hard to see, but you can just make out the dip in the middle of the cake where the batter isn’t quite set.

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Photo 5: The finished cake. Yum!

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Many thanks to Colette for doing a trial run of this recipe for us—and especially for making a gluten-free version!

Farewell Caroline

May 5, 2015

American Girl has announced that Caroline Abbott, the 1812 character I created, will be archived.

While I am, of course, disappointed with the decision to retire Caroline, I am grateful to have amazing and wonderful memories.

The Caroline books led me to many historic sites in the United States and Canada. Visiting Sackets Harbor, New York, has been extra special because it is Caroline’s home town.

Kathleen Ernst at Sackets Harbor NY

I’ve also visited American Girl stores from coast to coast. The store associates are consistently awesome.

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But the very best part of the experience has been meeting, and hearing from, so many incredible girls (and boys) and their families. I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of young readers who are smart, kind, and excited about reading and history.

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From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

 

* * *

When American Girl shares more details about their plans, I’ll pass them on.

I do have several Caroline programs on my schedule, including my final visit to Sackets Harbor in July! As always, you can find details on the Calendar page of my website.

Kuchen

April 29, 2015

Rhubarb is popping up in my garden, so this edition of Cooking With Chloe comes from yours truly.

As curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mysteries series, is responsible for maintaining the antique stoves in each historic kitchen.  In Tradition of Deceit Chloe skis to one of the German farms one winter day—for purely professional reasons, of course—and bakes kuchen.

At Old World this German coffeecake is often made at the 1875 Schottler farm. The Schottlers’ granddaughter recalled enjoying the treat with her grandparents.

KAE Schottler Sepia enhanced

(That’s me in the Schottler kitchen back in 1982, cutting up rhubarb for kuchen. A friend took the picture and printed it in sepia tones.)

You don’t need a wood stove to bake kuchen, and you can use whatever fruit is in season.

Kuchen

2/3 c. sugar
2. eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
1 c. shortening (originally lard)
¼ t. nutmeg
2 oz. yeast, dissolved in ¼ c. warm water
1 c. milk
3-4 c. unbleached flour
fruit
cinnamon and sugar to taste

Put yeast and water and 1 c. flour in mixing bowl. Let sponge set for about 1 hour. Add sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, and egg. Add remaining flour and knead. Let rise until almost doubled, 60-90 ninety minutes. Grease a round cake pan or cast iron skillet. Punch down dough, and form dough into pan. Top with sliced fruit, and/or cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

Enjoy!

Ginger Creams – 1929

April 22, 2015

Welcome to Cooking with Chloe! Alice and Elizabeth, another mother-daughter team, tested Ginger Creams for us, a Gold Medal recipe.

Ginger Creams

This cookie was named a Betty Crocker Prize Recipe in 1929.

The verdict:  The cookies were delicious, and got even better the next day. 

The notes and photos below are from Alice and Elizabeth:

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First step was to cream the shortening, adding sugar gradually. Key components to cookie baking include using mixing bowls that belonged to Alice’s grandma and the oldest wooden spoon in the house.

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We followed the directions exactly. Lots of flour!

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We chilled the dough for about 30 minutes. Chilling longer between batches did not make a difference—it’s soft dough.

We made the frosting and ate lunch while dough chilled.

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The frosting was delicious. We recommend sifting the powdered sugar, but it works fine if you don’t. Be sure to use heavy cream!

image4 Ginger Creams Check oven. Bake cookies at 400 degrees for about 7.5 minutes. (We started with 8 minutes but reduced the time.) It smelled like Christmastime while they baked!

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There was no difference between using parchment paper or greasing the cookie sheet. Make sure to remove the cookies from the sheet immediately after they come out of oven.

Frost while still warm.

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The cookies were delicious, and got even better the next day.  Elizabeth found them tasty with red wine.

***

Alice and Elizabeth were kind enough to bring these to a Chloe program I gave at a local library, so I can attest that these are delicious! The light glaze provided the perfect complement to the spices in the cookies, and the soft texture was a pleasant change from traditional gingersnaps.

Ginger Creams

Huge thanks to Alice and Elizabeth for trying the recipe, and sharing the results! These cookies would be the perfect accompaniment to a book group discussion of Tradition of Deceit, but your family will thank you for baking them too.

Apple Pie With Cheese Crust – 1934

April 16, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe!

I love collecting historic and/or ethnic recipes while working on each Chloe Ellefson mystery. Since Tradition of Deceit features the flour mill that gave us Gold Medal Flour and Betty Crocker—not to mention the Mill City Museum, which also celebrates the history of Pillsbury and other mills—I ended up with stacks of recipes.  Fortunately, some adventurous readers volunteered to test some for me.

The mother-daughter team of Jen and Brianna wondered if I might have a recipe that would connect both the Chloe Ellefson mysteries and an American Girl character. Well, in 1936, Gold Medal Flour celebrated Betty Crocker’s 15th anniversary with a special booklet featuring a single prize recipe for each year, 1921-1936.

Betty Crocker's 15 Prize Recipes

Jen and Brianna agreed to try the 1934 star recipe, Apple Pie With Cheese Crust, in honor of Kit, AG’s Depression-era character.

The verdict:  It turned out to be the best apple pie I have ever made.

Here’s the recipe, with Jen and Brianna’s photos and tips:

Apple Pie With Cheese Crust
2 cups Gold Medal “Kitchen Tested” Flour
1 t. salt
5/8 cup shortening (10 tbsp.)
Ice water (about 6 tbsp.)
½ cup grated Wisconsin cheese
2 tbsp. butter
7 large sweet apples
1 cup sugar
1/8 to ¼ cup water (depending on how dry the apples are)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter

METHOD: Sift flour once before measuring. Sift flour and salt together. Cut in shortening with two knives or a pastry blender leaving it in lumps about the size of large peas.

Cut In Shortening - Apple Pie

Add just enough ice water to make dough stay together.

Pat together and round up on cloth-covered board (using flour rubbed into the cloth to keep dough from sticking). Divide dough in half, and roll out one-half to fit the pie pan. Put into pan very loosely to avoid stretching. Let pan rest on table while cutting off extra dough beyond edge of pan. Put in refrigerator to chill.

Roll out other half of dough and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Dot surface with 2 tbsp. of butter.

Sprinkle Butter Cheese

Roll up like a jelly roll.

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Fold so that the two ends meet in the center and fold again—chill.

Fold In Sides

Peel apples and cut into thin slices. (Put in cold salt water to keep apples from discoloring.) Make a syrup of the sugar and water, add the apple slices and cook just long enough to soften and slightly glaze the apples—about 10 minutes. (Avoid stirring so that slices will hold their shape.)

Fill pastry-lined pan with the drained cooked apples (save remaining syrup). Sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with the tbsp. of butter.

Roll out cheese pastry to fit top of pie.

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Fold in half making several cuts through which steam may escape. Lay folded crust gently on top of filling, unfold so that entire surface is covered. Press the 2 edges together firmly and build up a fluted edge.

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Bake. When baked pour the remaining syrup through the slits in the pie.

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TIME: Bake 30 minutes.
TEMPERATURE: 350 F., moderate oven.
SIZE OF PAN: Deep 9-inch pie pan.

Here are notes from Jen:

I was extremely skeptical about this recipe from the start, and all the way through the process actually!  I have made apple pie many times from scratch, but this 1934 recipe was pretty different from any others I have seen.  It also turned out to be the best apple pie I have ever made.

My daughter, age 10, and I worked together on the recipe.  We prepared it 1934-style, with no food processor and our dishwasher was broken to make things even more realistic!

The crust came together easily and rolled out nicely.  We sprinkled the top crust with the required Wisconsin cheddar and diced butter, rolled the whole thing up jelly-roll style, and folded the ends in (think of a snake’s head meeting its tail) to make a new ball of dough.  We chilled it well.

When it was time to roll out the top crust for the second time, the cheese and butter integrated very well.

As for the apple filling, skepticism also reigned here.  I used a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, as each were on sale for $1.00 a pound.  I was doubtful about fitting seven apples in my pie dish, but indeed, when cooked down that quantity works.  I had a lot of liquid released by the cooked apples.  I drained the apples with a slotted spoon.

The recipe asks you to place and crimp the top crust and then put the liquid back in through the holes cut in the top crust.  This was difficult and trying.  I would suggest letting your apples cool, and then adding them and whatever amount of sugary liquid you wish to add, and then put the top crust on.  I think that this would be difficult with hot apples, thus the need to cool them first.  I estimate I got about 1/4 cup of liquid in through the holes, and my filling was not runny or watery.

Thirty minutes might be too little time for some bakers. I baked my pie for an hour.

You must try this technique for the top crust!  It was flavorful, a bit savory, and vaguely like a cheese straw.  It would also be amazing as a top crust to a pot pie.

We are converts to this recipe from Kit’s era.  When I told my Grandmother, age 94, about it, she said she remembers dried apple pies being popular during Kit’s time.  Another recipe to track down!
***
Huge thanks to Jen and Brianna for kitchen-testing the recipe for us!  You may also want to check out their fun website, Dolls Between Us.

Cooking With Betty Crocker—and Chloe

April 14, 2015

When I was writing Tradition of Deceit, I marveled at the connections between the the Mill City Museum, one of the settings, and popular American culture. The museum was created within what was once the Washburn-Crosby A Mill. You may not have heard of Washburn-Crosby, but chances are good you’ve heard of Gold Medal Flour.

Gold Medal Flour

The company also created Betty Crocker, one of the most successful advertising personas of all time.

As early as the 1890s, the company published recipe pamphlets and cookbooks to promote their products.

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1910 Cook Book

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This one isn’t dated.

But things didn’t really get rolling until 1921, when an ad featured jumbled puzzle pieces. Anyone who arranged the pieces and returned the puzzle would receive a pincushion resembling a tiny Gold Medal Flour Sack. Advertising staff were astonished to receive 30,000 completed puzzles!

Gold Medal Flour puzzle

A facsimile of the original puzzle, now available for visitors to assemble at the Mill City Museum.

Many of the women who sent in the puzzle were looking for baking advice in addition to the token prize. The company made a decision to create a fictitious woman to reply to queries. Betty Crocker was born—a single face and name to represent the women of the Gold Medal Home Services staff.

In 1921, women were generally expected to know how to manage a kitchen and feed her family. Betty Crocker became a trusted source of accurate information, and soon became known for “kitchen-tested” recipes. In 1926, Betty offered homemakers a wooden recipe box filled with “delightful new recipes” for 70 cents.

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A few years later, cooks could tune into the Gold Medal Radio Station to hear  “The Betty Crocker Service Program” and “The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air.” Both were huge hits.

Radio program ad

Mill City Museum exhibit.

Cooking School

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A few of the cards I’ve collected have this typewriter look. I’m not sure what that signifies.  (If you know, please share!)

Betty Crocker proved herself able to change with the times. During the Great Depression, she helped cooks prepare thrifty meals for their families.  When World War II brought rationing, Betty was ready to provide appropriate recipes.

In the beginning, Betty Crocker’s “identity” was a deep, dark secret. Many home cooks assumed she was a real person. In time, as media changed, the company revealed that Betty was a fabrication representing the collective wisdom and practical experience of the company’s home economists.

Betty’s look also evolved over the years.

Betty Crocker exhibit

The changing faces of Betty Crocker. Mill City Museum.

The Mill City Museum includes a Baking Lab, open daily, where guests can learn more. Special events often feature particular recipes or trends.

Baking lab, Mill City Museum

If you’d like to read more about the history of Betty Crocker, I recommend Finding Betty Crocker:  The Secret Life of America’s First Lady Of Food, by Susan Marks (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). If, like me, you grew up with Betty Crocker cookbooks, you’ll likely enjoy discovering the backstory as much as I did.

***

I’ve always looked for relevant ethnic and/or historic recipes while researching and writing the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, and love hearing from readers who shared the dishes with family or friends. Well, I collected a lot of old recipes while working on Tradition of Deceit. With help from some wonderful reader-volunteers, I’ll be sharing more recipes here. The first “Cooking With Chloe” post will go up later this week.  Enjoy!

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

April 7, 2015

I had not heard of the Tunnel of Fudge Cake until I began doing research while writing Tradition of Deceit (the 5th Chloe Ellefson mystery), which celebrates Minnesota’s flour milling history and the Mill City Museum. As soon as I heard the name, I knew Chloe would love it. When I heard it was probably the most popular recipe in the history of Pillsbury’s famous Bake-Off, I knew I wanted to include it in the book.

The recipe was developed by Ella Helfrich of Houston. In 1966 it placed second in the Bake-Off, but was chosen to grace the cover of that year’s recipe booklet.  Baked in a bundt pan, the cake emerged with a molten center. The recipe was a sensation.

BakeOffCover Cake - Version 2

It also made the bundt pan, invented in 1950 by H. David Dalquist (who with his brother founded Nordic Ware) a sensation. His lightweight version of a heavier European ceramic version had seen disappointing sales, but after the Tunnel of Fudge Cake became a phenomenon, sales boomed. Pillsbury alone received 200,000 requests for the pan.

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Original cast-aluminum bundt pan, now in the Smithsonian Institution collection.

The original recipe called for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Frosting mix. Great consternation ensued when, some years later, Pillsbury stopped production of the packaged mix.

Pillsbury has produced an updated recipe, available HERE on their website. Their photo (below) shows a gooey center completely surrounded by chocolate cake.  That’s the recipe I decided to try.

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(Pillsbury.com)

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I of course used Pillsbury BEST flour.

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As directed, I did not skimp on the nuts.

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I baked the cake the allotted time, and let it cool as directed.

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I finished it off with glaze—a new twist in the updated version.

All seemed good, so at long last and with great anticipation I cut a slice of cake.

The expected tunnel of gooey fudge was not in evidence. At all.

I reviewed the recipe. I’d measured ingredients exactly. I’d even checked the oven temperature with a thermometer.

However, I had strayed in one regard. The recipe calls for using an electric mixer to blend butter, sugars, and eggs, and then stirring in flour, cocoa, and nuts by hand. I have limited hand strength, and so always use my mixer on lowest speed when recipes call for stirring something in by hand. It’s never presented a problem before.

Since I couldn’t see where else I might have gone wrong, however, I started over. This time the appropriate ingredients were duly stirred by hand.

tunnel of fudge cake

Cake #2 cooling in the pan.

tunnel of fudge cake

I decided to skip the glaze this time.

The recipe calls for cooling the cake in the pan for 1-1/2 hours, then on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Bloggers don’t agree on the best route to true gooeyness—some said the rest time is essential; others, that the fudge factor is highest if the cake is not allowed to cool completely. I was impatient by this time, so I decided to cut the cake after it came out of the pan.

tunnel of fudge cake

This time there definitely was a gooey center surrounded by a cakey edge. It didn’t look nearly as pudding-like as the photos showed, but it tasted good.

Would the tunnel have been more pronounced if I’d let the cake cool for another two hours? Perhaps. I don’t pretend to understand the chemistry involved. Pillsbury’s test bakers say the nuts are essential; a few bloggers claim success without including nuts. The cake is very rich and sweet, but I didn’t tinker with the quantities (I often cut sugar in recipes by as much as half) because that, too, affects the chemistry.

For the moment I’ve declared victory, but I do intend to try again. If you try the recipe, or have memories of it, I hope you’ll let me know!

The Mill City Museum occasionally features the recipe in their baking lab. I’ve never been able to visit on Tunnel of Fudge day, but I expect that many question could be answered there. The next Baking Memories:  Tunnel of Fudge Cake event is coming up on Saturday, May 2, 2015.

 


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