Something else that begins to show up in 19th century published
cookbooks here in America are receipts for New-York Cup Cake.
Yep, New Year’s and now, New York.
Before I go any further, we need to look at those two little
words “cup cake.” What they do NOT refer to are those small
individual fluffy cakes with dollops of creamy icing that are
stuffed into paper baking cups. Rather, they refer to the way
in which the various ingredients were measured. You see,
in previous centuries, ingredients were measured by weight
or volume: two pounds of flour; half an ounce of butter;
a pint of milk; two quarts of currants; and so forth. It was
not until the late 1800s that ingredients were given according
to the more standardized, and “scientific,” system of cups,
tablespoons, and other level measurements.
Incidentally, we can largely thank Fannie Farmer, head
of the Boston Cooking School in the 1890s and a cookbook
author, for popularizing this system. She also standardized
the written form of receipts whereby the ingredients and
their amounts were listed first, followed by the instructions.
Farmer wasn’t the first to do so, however. But that’s a topic
for another day.
Back to the New-York Cup Cake. In addition to many of its
ingredients being measured by the cup instead of by weight,
the resulting mixture is baked in a cup of some sort, as well.
These could be anything from assorted old tea cups to small
tin hoops to little redware cups. And so, yes, my cup cakes
might be larger (or smaller) than yours, based on the different
sizes of our respective baking containers.
Below is a receipt that first appeared in the 1836 edition
of Eliza Leslie’s Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes,
and Sweetmeats. Note not only the cup measurements,
but also Leslie’s comment about the size of the cup used:
she reverts back to the old measures.
New-York Cup Cake.
Four cups of sifted flour.
Three cups of powdered white sugar.
One cup of butter.
One cup of rich milk.
One glass of white wine.
A grated nutmeg.
A tea-spoonful of cinnamon, beaten.
A small tea-spoonful of pearl-ash.
The cups should hold about half a pint.
Warm the milk and cut up
the butter in it, keeping it
by the fire till the butter is
melted. Prepare the spice,
and sift the flour. Beat
the eggs very light, and
stir them into the milk
in turn with the flour. Add
the spice, and wine, and
lastly the pearl-ash, having
melted it in a little vinegar.
Stir all very hard.
Butter some small tins,
fill them half full with
the mixture, and bake
them in a moderate oven
of equal heat throughout.
NEXT: the evolution of the New-York Cup Cake