Saturday, June 20, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: #4 "Foreign" Foods, part 3- Rice Sponge Cake

The Challenge:
Make a dish that reflects the historical idea of "foreign"- either foods with a loose connection to foreign lands, named after faraway places, or attributed to foreigners.

Rice Sponge Cake
My French Charlotte recipe includes several components that must be created before the final creation can be assembled. Next up is a sponge cake. 
Since I wanted my roomie to be able to enjoy this dessert, it needed to be gluten free. I was delighted to find a period cake recipe that didn't call for wheat flour mixed with the rice flour. 

The Recipe:

Rice Sponge Cake
--Put twelve eggs into a scale, and balance them in the other scale with their weight in broken loaf-sugar. Take out four of the eggs, remove the sugar, and balance the remaining eight eggs with an equal quantity of rice-flour. Rub off on some lumps of the sugar, the yellow rind of three fine large ripe lemons. Then powder all the sugar. Break the eggs, one at a time, into a saucer, and put all the whites into a pitcher, and all the yolks into a broad shallow earthen pan. Having poured the whites of egg from the pitcher through a strainer into a rather shallow pan, beat them till so stiff that they stand alone. Then add the powdered sugar, gradually, to the white of egg, and beat it in well. In the other pan, beat the yolks till very smooth and thick. Then mix them, gradually, a little at a time, with the white of egg and sugar. Lastly, stir in, by degrees, the rice-flour, adding it lightly, and stirring it slowly and gently round till the surface is covered with bubbles. Transfer it directly to a butter tin pan; set it immediately into a brisk oven; and bake it an hour and a half or more, according to its thickness. Ice it when cool; flavouring the icing with lemon or rose. This cake will be best the day it is baked.

In every sort of sponge-cake, Naples-biscuit, lady-fingers, and in all cakes made without butter, it is important to know that though the egg and sugar is to be beaten very hard, the flour, which must always go in at the last, must be stirred in very slowly and lightly, holding the whisk or stirring-rods perpendicularly or upright in your hand; and moving it gently round and round on the surface of the batter without allowing it to go down deeply. If the flour is stirred in hard and fast, the cake will certainly be tough, leathery, and unwholesome. Sponge-cake when cut should look coarse-grained and rough.

The Date/Year and Region: 
Mid-Atlantic, 1840-1870

How Did You Make It:
6 eggs separated
2 cups rice flour
1.5 cups sugar
dash of lemon juice for flavoring

Separate the eggs into whites and yolks.

Beat the whites into a froth and add sugar.
Add the yolks and keep stirring.

Add the rice flour slowly, while stirring.
Grease your pan and set the oven.

Bake 40 minutes at 375* or until the center is squishy but not runny.
Here is the cake prepared for the charlotte.

Time to Complete: 
About 10 minutes to prepare, 40 minutes to bake.

Total Cost: 
I should have used a full recipe instead of half, so $2.00 for the dozen eggs and $4.00 for the rice flour adds up.

How Successful Was It: 
Like many gluten free baked goods, this cake is fabulous when warm and fresh. The egg flavor comes through like the finest of French crullers and the cake is moist and dense. As the cake sets, it becomes too dense and hard quickly. Interesting to see a baker in the past made the same observation, " the day it is baked."

How Accurate Was It: 
With recipes that base weights of items in proportion, we have to guess on quantity. I used 12 medium eggs (modern) equals one pound as a base. A website called Traditional Oven has conversion calculators for different types of flour, sugar, and pantry staples. 
I think this is as close to accurate as I can get until I borrow someone's antique baking pans and wood oven. :-)

Bonus Recipe:
From: The Lady's Receipt Book; A Useful companion for large and small families by Eliza Leslie, 1847

French Icing For Cakes.
--Dissolve some fine white gum arabic (finely powdered) in rose-water. The proportion should be, as much of the gum-arabic powder as will lie on a ten-cent piece to a tea-spoonful of rose-water. Beat some white of egg to a stiff froth that will stand alone. Stir in, gradually, sufficient double-refined powdered loaf-sugar to make it very thick, (a good proportion is four ounces of sugar to the white of one egg,) add to this quantity a tea-spoonful of the rose-water with the gum arabic dissolved in it, and beat the whole very hard. Instead of rose-water you may dissolve the gum in fresh lemon-juice. Previous to icing the cake, dredge it with flour, and in a few minutes wipe it off with a clean towel. This, by removing the greasiness of the outside, will make the icing stick on the better. Heap the icing first on the middle of the top of the cake; then with a broad-bladed knife spread it evenly all over the surface. Dip the knife frequently in a bowl of cold water as you proceed, and smooth the icing well. If not thick enough, wait till it dries, and then add a second coat.

What I *REALLY* did:
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
2 spoonfuls of milk
Mix well.

This was easy and didn't have any raw egg to pose a threat.

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