Monday, January 23, 2012

Lost Recipe: Mrs. Henderson’s “Angel” Gingerbread Cake

A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges. – Benjamin Franklin 

A resurrected recipe. Light and spicy.
I was looking through my Great Aunt Hilda’s old recipe cards a few days ago and one in particular really caught my eye. It was for an “angel” gingerbread cake. The original cook was Marian Henderson of Liverpool, NS. I would guess the card was written out in the 1960s or 1970s.

It's not this...
Photo: momo go, Flickr ccl
In decades gone by (as now) it was common for cooks to share recipes that they were particularly proud of with friends and family. Since Mrs. Henderson lived in Liverpool it was a special treat to not only go to Liverpool (once a week) but be invited to visit AND to have the cake.

How times have changed. Now I share recipes with my “friends” the world over. That’s significantly more than would have ever experienced this cake when she was alive. That’s a shame.

The Henderson family ran Henderson’s Hardware in Liverpool for many years until the economic downturn of that area (and probably a local Canadian Tire – long since burnt to the ground) forced them to close. 

That is the way with many old family businesses in Nova Scotia. They are slowly being driven from the business scene by big box stores with the power to buy in bulk at lower prices. There’s no way for them to compete. A sad fact, but true.

And it's not this...
Photo: foodchronicles, Flickr ccl
This recipe seems to be a hybrid of a sponge cake and an angel food cake. I had never heard of an angel food cake that was other than white or chocolate so this was a really amazing recipe to stumble across.

This recipe was lost in another significant way in addition to be buried for the last 40 years in a recipe card box. The directions Aunt Hilda scribbled at the bottom of the hand written card were as follows: “Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.” Not another word. What kind of directions are those? So I had to look at similar angel food-type cakes to discover the actual order the ingredients were added and what was done at each step.

If you like the spices of gingerbread you should try this recipe. It is quite a surprise and very, very tasty. It is truly the “lightest” gingerbread I have ever had. The “angel” in the name is very descriptive.

It doesn’t have quite the loft of an angel food cake, but that's more than OK. Thank you, Mrs. Henderson for a wonderful cake!

Fold in the whites gently. They don't have to be
completely incorporated.
Mrs. Henderson's Angel Gingerbread
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening (Crisco)
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs + 2 additional egg whites
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
2/3 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a tube cake pan. For added security cut a ring of waxed paper fitted to the inside bottom of the pan. Grease and flour it as well.

Beat the four egg whites until peaks stay upright when the beaters are lifted. Set aside.

Cream together the sugar, shortening, margarine and molasses. Add the two eggs and mix well. Slowly add the flour, soda, ginger, cloves, allspice and salt. beat together well.

The slowly pour in the water and mix until the batter is smooth.

Take 1/4 of the egg whites and gently fold into the flour mixture to lighten it. Then add the remaining egg whites and fold just until blended. Do not beat the batter or you will deflate the whites.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes. The size of the cake will double as it bakes.

Invert the tube pan to cool. This increases your odds of the cake not collapsing. Remove from the pan and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Another option is lemon sauce. Two other fantastic options to accompany are  1) vanilla ice cream or  2) apple sauce in whipped cream – or both!


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