I had a request recently for a strawberry cake recipe. I’ve never made strawberry cake (except from a box, a long time ago), so I went on the hunt for a good one. The logical place to start was with my Treasure Trove book. Those ladies from the 1940s could make anything. Out of practically nothing. You could probably give those ladies a couple pieces of wire and a shoelace and they’d go all MacGyver on it and come out with a pumpkin pie. And so I was not surprised at all when I did, indeed, find a strawberry cake recipe.
It was submitted by Mrs. Brooks Randolph from Lost Creek, West Virginia.
The recipe uses six eggs (SIX EGGS! this is the recipe for me, I have dozens of eggs), butter, sugar, strawberry preserves, flour, buttermilk, and a mix of spices, all organized in complete disorder in the ingredient list.
I bet she didn’t mean giant eggs, so I better not use these.
I worry about the chickens who laid these eggs.
The instructions leave a little to be desired. However! We shall press on!
(The following is my re-organized ingredients list and commentary on Mrs. Randolph’s directions.)
How to make Strawberry Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, whites/yolks separated
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
8 ounces strawberry jam
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add beaten egg yolks and mix well.
Combine flour, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-size bowl.
Mrs. Randolph called for 2 small teaspoons each of baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. What is a small teaspoon?
Mrs. Randolph? Teaspoons don’t come in small, medium, and large. They come in quarter, half, and full. MRS. RANDOLPH!
I looked up some other cake recipes, checking out the baking powder and baking soda measurements. This wasn’t all that helpful since every cake recipe I looked at called for something different. I wanted the cake to rise, of course, but I didn’t want to go overboard. I also thought the spices were a bit much if she really meant a “scant” teaspoon. Maybe to Mrs. Randolph, a small teaspoon is a 1/4 teaspoon? WHO KNOWS. I went with the measurements listed in my ingredients list above. If you want it spicier, go for it. I could be wrong!
If I’m wrong, it’s Mrs. Randolph’s fault.
Combine buttermilk and baking soda. Why combine the buttermilk and baking soda before adding to the rest of the batter? I don’t know. I went with it because it was one of the few parts of the directions that Mrs. Randolph bothered to detail, so she must have thought it was important.
FYI, if you need buttermilk and don’t have it, in a pinch–place one tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup. Add milk to the one-cup line. Stir then let sit for 5 minutes. This makes a reasonable facsimile for buttermilk that works in most recipes.
Add flour/spice mixture and buttermilk/soda mixture alternatively, mixing well. Mrs. Randolph didn’t say to beat this, but I did.
This makes a fairly stiff cake batter, but we’re not done yet!
This is a jar of strawberry jam I canned last summer. I was tempted to use the strawberry-lemon marmalade I just canned, but I was trying to be true to Mrs. Randolph–despite how ornery she was with her directions–so I went with the regular strawberry jam.
Fold in the egg whites. This was the point where I got worried about whether this would actually fit in two 9-inch cake pans. This made a huge batter.
I used to have three cake pans but I lost one. How can you lose a cake pan? I’m still missing my other mixer. And most recently, I lost a set of measuring spoons.
I ended up going with a large tube pan.
Whatever you use, spray or grease it, add the batter, and stick it in the oven. Mrs. Randolph, OF COURSE, didn’t tell me what temperature to bake it on, but I went with 350-degrees.
Mostly because my oven is STUCK on 350.
I baked it at 350-degrees until a toothpick came out clean, which took an hour and a half. (Put aluminum foil over the top after about 40-45 minutes so it doesn’t over-brown.) Of course, if you’re baking this in round cake layers or in a 13 x 9 pan, your baking time will vary.
Mrs. Randolph suggests a caramel icing. Naturally, she doesn’t include instructions for that. But I am here to save the day!
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup milk
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter over low heat in a small pot. Add brown sugar and boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and bring to a boil again. Let cool to room temperature then add the vanilla and powdered sugar (gradually). Use more or less powdered sugar depending on the consistency desired.
I scattered fresh, chopped strawberries and grated lemon peel on top. I only iced the top and let a bit cascade down the sides. My kids complain if I put a lot of frosting on a cake. They’re not big on frosting.
I still haven’t put away all the candles, syrup, and marmalade I’ve made in the past several days.
I have no idea whether I made this cake the way Mrs. Randolph made it, but it was delicious just the same. If you added the full measure of spices (assuming she really meant teaspoons), you’d have a full-blown spice cake, which I think might overwhelm the strawberry taste. As I made it, it’s spicy enough but it doesn’t take over. However, you might like it with more spices! Up to you.
If you bake it, let me know how you make it and how it comes out! And, you know, if you’ve got a line on Mrs. Randolph, I’d like to talk to her. And maybe give her a spankin’.