“As American as apple pie” is a well known phrase, but perhaps we could replace pie with cake and end up with a phrase that is just as appropriate, for the US has a long history of making and enjoying a wide variety of cakes. Early American cakes used the same building blocks – butter, eggs, sugar and flour – that we use today, but were baked in wood fired ovens without the benefit of the precision that we enjoy in the kitchen today.. In American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer, the Stories and Recipes Behind More Than 125 of Our Best-Loved Cakes, you’ll read about the history of American cakes and learn just how all those building blocks fit together over the years, and will also be treated to dozens of recipes for different styles of cakes.
The recipes are divided by by time period, with cakes that date back as far as the 1650s and run all the way into modern American cakes. Few other cookbooks spend much time on more historical recipes or trying to date the techniques that went into any particular recipe, but you get a good dose of that here, which makes looking through the book very interesting. All the recipes, however, have been updated enough to make them accessible for everyday baking, so you won’t find instructions that call for cooking anything in a wood-burning stove! You’ll learn the history behind marble cakes (which were invented earlier than you might think!), chiffon cakes (one of my favorites) and red velvet cakes. WWII era “wacky cakes” are surprisingly delicious, as are cakes that were served both in the North and South during the Civil War.
Since they’ve been updated, it’s no surprise that the recipes are clearly written and easy to follow, even those with multiple components. The book is packed with enough history that it’s interesting to read even if you aren’t doing any baking, however, and that alone gives it a reason to join your cookbook collection. As this is a recipe-based book, rather than a straight history book, you’ll also find plenty of full color photos of the cakes that will get your mouth watering as you read.