Wednesday, July 4, 2012

52 Cookbooks - #30, Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook

Even before I learned to cook, I enjoyed paging through cookbooks, and the one in my mother's collection that fascinated me most was The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook.  The bicentennial bit was the draw. I was a patriotic wee lass, and already fascinated by history, which this book had bits of in its introduction on regional American cuisines. 

At 6 or 7 I took the regional and seasonal/holiday recipes to be prescriptive rather than descriptive, and on some level thought we must be Bad Southerners because we never ate grits and cheese or sausage and hominy scramble, and that if we really wanted to do Halloween right, we needed to start making flying witch cake and molasses-popcorn balls.

Such was the cookbook's fascination for me that it's one of a handful of cookbooks I claimed after both my parents passed away, along with my daddy and grandaddy's Bibles and a circa-1900 speller that belonged to my great-uncle, or maybe my great-great-uncle.

But when I actually sat down to choose a recipe to cook from it, whatever my childhood self found so fascinating wasn't there.  It's just a very 70's cookbook, bland and heavy compared to how we cook now.  In the end, I settled on the Vanilla Flag Cake.

Vanilla Flag Cake

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 T vanilla extract
2 T lemon juice
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Fresh blueberries
Fresh strawberries, sliced

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream butter and 1 c. sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, 2 at a time, until mixture is well blended. Blend in flour mixture gradually with electric mixer at low speed until just blended. Blend in vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; add remaining 1 c. sugar gradually.  Beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into cake batter until just blended. 

Pour into greased and lined 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven until cake tester comes out clean.  Frost with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and decorate top of cake with blueberries and strawberries to resemble the American flag.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 T vanilla extract
1 T milk
1 1-lb package confectioners' sugar

Combine cream cheese, vanilla, and milk; beat until blended.  Add confectioners' sugar gradually; beat until creamy.

As I suppose isn't surprising given the amount of butter and eggs, this is one dense, buttery cake, and at least for me it came out a bit on the dry side.  Mr Fraser commented that it tasted like a 70's recipe, and I knew what he meant. Eating it brought back the after-church potluck fellowship suppers and baby and bridal showers of my childhood. Miss Fraser thought it was the best thing EVER, and keeps asking when I'm going to make it again.  Since I think her real love was the frosting, I might make a nice, moist chocolate cake with the same frosting.  If I'm really ambitious and the local berry crop is good in a few weeks, maybe I'll make a British flag cake in honor of the Olympics.  Or an Olympic flag cake with blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries, yellow raspberries, and...not sure what to do for the green ring. Mint leaves?

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