Fellow antique dessert lovers,
The second iteration of the Sage Hen Dessert Series at the beginning of May was a ton of fun! With seatings both on Friday and Saturday, this month’s menu started, as always, with punch and savory snacks, followed by a strawberry junket, steamed Graham pudding with brandy sauce, and a fat slice of Philadelphia White Mountain cake. Pictures, as well as a recipe for the White Mountain cake can be found below. Each dish has a great story; but my favorite was of Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister born in 1794 who used his position to not only preach the virtues of whole grains and vegetables, but also to warn the American public of the evils of ‘stimulating’ food such as spices and alcohol, as they might lead a poor soul to succumb to lust (which in turn would lead to blindness). Despite eventually being marginalized as a radical, certain elements of his puritanical message were absorbed by the American public at the time and continue on today. As proof, the recipe for the Graham pudding, drawn from the Good Living cookbook published in 1908, finishes with the endorsement “This makes a showy as well as light and wholesome dessert, and has the merit of simplicity and cheapness.”
As you know, every month brings a new menu and many opportunities to delve deeper into our American culinary history. For June I am exploring different varieties of the iconic brown bread (it wasn’t only from Boston!), raw butter, and an early leavening called emptins, which is essentially spent yeast left over from the brewing process. With a little teamwork with one of our local breweries, I’ll be using emptins to recreate a cake from the first cookbook ever published in America, Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery, published in 1796.
For those of you waiting for a seat, I appreciate your patience! With room enough for only eight guests, the Trifecta Bakery is a unique and intimate setting that actually makes the Sage Hen experience possible, so I assure you the wait will pay off. We are currently booked for June and July and will start taking reservations for August closer to that date, always starting with the top of the wait list. As a reminder, we offer the opportunity to reserve the entirety of the Trifecta Bakery exclusively for you and your friends on any Friday or Saturday excluding the first weekend of the month. Email email@example.com for more information.
Thanks for all the support and enthusiasm, and I look forward to sharing my finds with you very soon!
from Good-Living Household Edition by Sara van Buren, 1908
280g (1 1/2c) sugar
176g (1c) butter, softened
zest of 2 lemons
240g (2c) flour
84g (3/4c) corn starch
7g (1 tsp) baking powder
0.75g (1/4 tsp) ground mace
2g (1/2 tsp) salt
90g (5) egg yolks at room temperature
120g (1/2c) sherry wine
25g (1 tablespoon) lemon juice
5g (1 tsp) vanilla extract
240g (1c) milk at room temperature
200g (5) egg whites
30g (2 tablespoons) sugar
- Cream together the butter, 280g sugar, and lemon zest until light
- Add the yolks one by one and beat until light
- Sift together the remaining dry ingredients. Separately, combine the wet ingredients except the milk. Add to the butter and egg mixture in three intervals, alternating dry and then wet ingredients, scraping down the bowl each time. Finish with the milk. Beat on high for thirty seconds to aerate and develop structure. Set aside.
- In a clean bowl, whip the whites with the remaining 30g sugar until soft peaks. Fold into the batter in three additions.
- Pour into three 9 inch cake pans and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
200g (4) egg whites
230g (1c) water
460g (2c) sugar
7g (1 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
lemon juice to taste
- Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. You will bring this mixture to the soft ball stage (238 degrees Fahrenheit or 115 degrees Celsius).
- Meanwhile, start whisking your egg whites. By controlling the speed of the mixer and the heat of the burner, coordinate the whites and the syrup so that the egg whites are at a soft peak when the syrup has reached the soft ball stage.
- Stop the mixer and pour in 1/2 of the syrup, avoiding the beater and the sides of the bowl. Quickly start whisking again. After a few seconds, repeat with the remainder of the syrup. Whisk on high until the meringue is stiff and cooled to room temperature. Flavor with the vanilla and lemon juice.
- This should be more than enough meringue to fill and frost the cake. Sprinkle the top with a light dusting of sugar, and leave out to harden and form a thin crust.