The Golden Rod Cake, revisited

Back in January I discussed the Golden Rod Cake and the pan used to bake it. We did find several recipes, but were left wondering about what the cake was supposed to look like, and about the origin of the name. I have since found a tiny bit more information about this elusive cake.

This photo of Waldorf Triangles and their triangular pan is from American Cookery, April, 1921, p. 680. It accompanies this recipe:

Waldorf Triangles

Beat the yolks of six eggs very light; gradually beat into these half a cup of granulated sugar, then two tablespoonfuls of orange juice. Lastly, add half a cup of sifted flour, sifted again with a level teaspoonful of baking powder and a few grains of salt. Put the mixture into Waldorf Triangle pans and bake in a moderate oven. As soon as the cakes are turned from the pan cover the sides with boiled frosting and sprinkle with fine-chopped pistachio nuts.

This should sound familiar, because it is nearly word-for-word the same as the recipe “Goldenrod Cake for Charlotte Russe Moulds and Waldorf Triangles” that the Boston Cooking School published in an earlier version of their magazine in 1904 and 1905, and that I included in my earlier post. One of the 1904-1905 recipes includes the boiled frosting and pistachio nuts, but the other does not. The older recipes also do not refer to the pans by name as “Waldorf Triangle pans.”

The title of the early Boston Cooking School recipes seems to be pretty clear that this is a recipe for Goldenrod Cake that can be used to make Waldorf Triangles. Other early recipes, however, do not mention the pistachios, and frequently mention orange icing.

The Rocky Mountain Cook Book: for High Altitude Cooking (1918 edition of a 1903 cookbook) includes a nearly identical one to the BCS recipe:

Golden Rod Cake.

Beat the yolks of six eggs till light; gradually beat into these one-half cup of sugar, then two tablespoonfuls of orange juice and one-half cup of sifted flour, sifted again with a level teaspoonful of baking powder and one-fourth teaspoonful of salt; bake in small cakes and cover with orange icing.

This is the same as the BCS “Goldenrod Cake for Charlotte Russe Moulds and Waldorf Triangles” and the later American Cookery “Waldorf Triangles” recipe, with one exception — the end. No mention of boiled icing sprinkled with pistachios, just orange icing. Could the pistachios be the defining characteristic of Waldorf Triangles? One of the BCS recipes doesn’t mention them either. Perhaps the cakes are Golden Rod Cakes if they have orange icing (or none?) and Waldorf Triangles if they have pistachios.

(Incidentally, the author of The Rocky Mountain Cook Book, Caroline Trask Norton, was a graduate of the Boston School of Domestic Science, so perhaps it should not be surprising that the recipe is similar to the BCS version.)

The recipe in 365 Orange Recipes: An Orange Recipe for Every Day in the Year is called “Goldenrod Cake” and says “Bake in goldenrod pans and when cold ice with the following Icing,” going on to describe an icing made from orange rind, egg, sugar, water, orange and lemon juice, and “sugar to make as thick as fondant.” The icing is then colored orange.

There are a couple more references to these recipes that could add clarity to the situation, or perhaps just muddy it further.

The Boston Cooking-School Magazine October 1905, p.174, has this recipe:

Waldorf Triangles

Prepare the goldenrod cake mixture given on page 91 of August-September, 1904, issue of the magazine. Bake this in goldenrod pans (it will take two pans, each holding six triangles). When the cakes are baked, cover the sides with confectioner’s frosting or with fondant, then sprinkle with blanched pistachio nuts, chopped fine.

The implication here is that Golden Rod cakes become Waldorf Triangles by the addition of frosting and chopped pistachios.

Then there is What To Cook and How To Cook It 1899, by Mrs. W. A. Johnson of Paris, Kentucky. In the appendix, on page 282-283, we find:

Waldorf Triangles or Golden Rod Cake.

One-fourth cup of butter, one cup of confectioner’s sugar, one-half cup of milk, two cups of flour, one level teaspoon of baking powder, two eggs, the grated rind and juice of one orange. Bake in orange quarter baking pans. Put a small quantity in each section and spread evenly. Spread orange icing over each triangle, made by mixing confectioner’s sugar with enough orange
juice to spread evenly.

Well, there’s the orange icing. No pistachios this time. And the title calls these either Waldorf Triangles or Golden Rod Cake, implying that they are alternate names for the same thing.

And then I found this photograph in the 1906 Table Talk Illustrated Cook Book:

The text reads: “Two new cake forms are on the market. Orange slices and Golden Rod pans. The former cakes are covered after baking with orange flavored icing. The Golden Rod cakes are iced in white and decorated with fancy candies and citron.” Here the Golden Rod cakes aren’t the orange ones, but they don’t have pistachios, either. No reference is made to Waldorf Triangles.

(I could go on. There are the German-American versions from Praktischer Ratgeber für Conditoren, Cakebäcker und Brotbäcker und Candy-Macher/Practical Manual for Confectioners, Pastrycooks and Bakers and Candy Makers, 1912, that parallel the 1890s versions I found in my previous post, and one of which specifically calls for “three-cornered, long pans” [“long” is left out of the English translation on that page, but it’s there in the German].)

My thought, after all of this, is that Golden Rod/Goldenrod Cakes are probably the basic triangular cakes, usually iced with orange icing (and perhaps frequently conflated with the Orange Slice cakes which had a slightly different pan, but could also be made in the Golden Rod pan), and that Waldorf Triangles were a variation (presumably originating at the Waldorf Hotel?) that had pistachios and were not orange. This is really only speculation, subject to change as I find more information. I look forward to finding more versions of these recipes and researching this further, and to possibly trying the recipe one of these days.

I’m also looking forward to finding one of the darn pans! No luck so far.

Cooking in a medieval style

This weekend I took some classes on historic cooking. One involved cooking a 17th century cake recipe from the original source text — that is, not translated into modern English, and not converted into modern measurements. I’ll be posting here about that experience, later.

Medieval pottery and food

The first class, though, was about medieval pottery, and how it would be used to cook. Mistress Gwenllyen the Potter showed us some examples of her pottery (all done based on authentic medieval designs), and then started right in on the cooking.

During the two-hour class, there were as many as 6 pots on the brazier at one time. The brazier had very hot charcoal, which was nice, because it was keeping us warm in the November weather as well as cooking lunch. To heat up a pot more, Mistress Gwen would just rake the coals closer to the pot, and to cool it down, just rake them further away.

Six dishes cooking at once

The dishes you can see in the above picture are, starting at the upper right and going clockwise, stewed apples and spices (so good), chicken cooking on top of orzo pasta in the closed pot, rice (just started), beef stew, makerouns (in the closed pot on the left) and onion soup, just starting.

It worked really well. The pots that needed to come to a boil did so quite quickly. Three times during the workshop, however, we heard a loud cracking noise, indicating that one of the pots had cracked. The most spectacular breakage came when the pie plate cooking our makerouns (medieval macaroni and cheese, and quite tasty) broke into multiple pieces, as you can see in the next picture. We didn’t know it had broken into so many pieces until someone tried to pick it up, and the base (and food) stayed on the brazier while the edge of the pan lifted away. Have no fear, the food was fine. There was no spillage. We just had to scoop it off of the pan-base onto a plate.

Pie pan that died, but not before cooking tasty food

It is pretty obvious why archaeological sites have so many potsherds — it seems very common for cooking pottery to break in use.

Despite the breakage, no serious amount of food was lost (just a little bit of mulled cider, I think), and everyone was warm and well-fed. It was a very fine meal.

Buy an Electric Refrigerator

(From 1926, it says, but it shows an early Monitor Top fridge interior, so perhaps it’s a year or so later.)

Once you’ve bought your electric fridge, you’ll be able to make recipes like this one, from the 1930 GE cookbook The “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book:

Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (1 1/2 squares)
  • 2 cups rich milk*
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup cream
  • Few grains salt

Melt chocolate and add scalded milk very slowly. Mix cornstarch with sugar and add to chocolate mixture. Cook ten minutes, stirring until thickened. Cool, add vanilla, turn into tray of Super-freezer, and freeze to mush. Fold in whipped cream and return to Super-freezer until proper consistency to serve.

(*”Rich milk” is essentially what we now call “half and half”.)

The “Silent Hostess”

The vintage-style stove was only the beginning of my kitchen’s transformation. With the cast-iron stove, came a farmhouse sink, wooden countertops, red Marmoleum floors, and a restored faux-tile wall. How could we put a modern stainless steel — or even white — fridge into what was turning into a relatively period kitchen?

We couldn’t. Our fridge is now one of these:

old fridge
(Photo by Phil Urwin)

…a late 1920s or possibly early 1930s GE Monitor Top refrigerator, the fridge that made it “safe to be hungry.” Seven cubic feet of frosty cold storage, and I do mean frosty. We have to defrost frequently, though it’s not terribly difficult.

For most people who acquired one of these Monitor Tops when they were new, it was the first electric refrigerator they ever owned. Even if they had an ice box before, they couldn’t have used it the same way a refrigerator would be used; ice boxes weren’t good at keeping consistent low temperatures. They certainly couldn’t have easily made ice cubes to cool their drinks.

General Electric came to the rescue with cookbooks/manuals like this one:

"Silent Hostess" Treasure Book

This “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book was published by GE in 1930, and includes illustrations, recipes, and instructions on how to properly use (and defrost) a Monitor Top refrigerator (though they never use that phrase). Read More

“No one regrets the passing of the chopping-bowl”

Yesterday in How Sally Did It (in 1920), I commented on the oddness of this paragraph:

“Another thing Sally hardly ever uses is my chopping bowl. She had Max plane off a square board that she keeps lying on the kitchen table. When a vegetable is to be sliced or chopped she simply holds it on the board and cuts it down with a heavy, sharp knife.”

Surely cutting vegetables on a cutting board — such a basic kitchen operation — couldn’t have been unusual back then, could it?

I had never actually heard of the term “chopping bowl” before. Here’s one — a wide, shallow wooden bowl with a mezzaluna blade chopper. You can buy these today,but they aren’t standard equipment in the kitchen as they once were. Once you could buy the chopping board mezzaluna knife at the dime store, but it’s probably not quite as universally accessible these days. (Nor are “dime stores.”)

Even more than 100 years ago, chopping bowls had begun to be thought of as out-of-date. Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, had this to say in 1887:

There is the old fashioned and, I hope, now entirely obsolete, chopping-bowl and its odd-shaped knife. With bowl on lap and the chopping-knife making its regular strokes, now and then stopping to shovel whatever is being minced into the centre of the dish, for hours the patient woman would keep at work. The famous ‘Patience on a monument’ would be impatience and irritability compared with her at work upon a task more irksome and wearying than that of the woodchopper.”

Dun’s Review, November 1912, gives us a hint to the causes behind the chopping bowl’s fall to relative obscurity:
Read More

Lookie what I got for Christmas…

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! I have wanted one of these for sooooo long!

I didn’t get to go home for Christmas this year. Weather was a big deterrent to most of us Beaconians (residents of Beacon Hill, Seattle) over the holidays. This last Friday, I had dinner with my parents before they headed to Belize with my brother and sister-in-law, and they brought along my Christmas presents.  Woo hooo!  I love prezzies… among them was *drum roll* the PINK KITCHEN AID STAND-UP MIXER!!  I thought the package seemed a bit heavy for what I thought was going to be some pieces for my Pfaltzgraf Grapevine Dinnerware… boy, they sure fooled me!  I don’t know when I ever actually mentioned this to my mom, but it must have been some random email ages ago.  I can’t wait to mix something fabulous… a smooth butter-cream frosting… oh my!  Thank you Mom & Dad!



A “vintage” stove to go along with vintage recipes?

Remember in the Welsh Rabbit experiment the other day, how we had some trouble getting our oven to work?

Jason opened up the oven tonight to try to fix it. As it turned out, there is a part in the stove that was fried pretty well. Fried enough that I am grateful that we did not have an electrical fire, because it seems possible that we could have. It might be possible to find a replacement part, but they are not all that cheap, and the stove is really pretty icky anyway. So we could maybe get a new one.

A new, shiny, 21st century sparkly modern stove, perhaps? Well, we could. But this weekend, instead, we may be going to look at one of these. Seriously. I have this idea to eventually restore the kitchen to its full 1911 splendor, and that would do the trick.

At any rate, I can’t bake anything until we have a working oven again.