In my younger years, I spent some summers at the ranch house of my grandparents, Bessie and Jim, in the grasslands of the Central Valley of California, (near the town of Snelling) where my job was to rise at dawn to hunt for fresh eggs in the hen-house, to help my grandmother “put up” fresh peaches for the root cellar and to help her prepare meals for the ranch hands. I was also delighted to spend some summers in my hometown of Merced with my grandmother, Margaret, who greeted my sisters and brothers and me each summer with each of our favorite scratch pies (apple, banana cream, peach and coconut custard). I enjoyed baking tons of cakes and cookies with Grandma Margaret for her church fundraising and potluck events.
During the Woodstock summer of 1969, my sister and I flew from California to reside on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village with my mother’s dear friend, Roy Andries deGroot and his charming wife, Kathryn Hynes. (Baron deGroot was the author of a number of now-classic gastronomic books, including “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth” and “Feast For All Seasons“.) My sister and I typed manuscripts for Roy’s cookbooks and magazine articles on fine food and wine, walked Roy’s seeing-eye dog, Ñusta, and escorted Roy around Manhattan. About a decade later, I spent the year in NYC (in my very own 88th Street studio apartment) working as Roy’s Research Assistant (Roy was then Food & Wine Editor of Esquire Magazine). I assisted him with recipe testing for his fabulous cookbooks and conducted research for his magazine articles on fine dining (and hung out with his amazing seeing-eye dog, Ateña). We met some of the world’s greatest chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers…and sampled some of what seemed the finest meals the world had to offer. For a country girl, these experiences left an indelible mark in my food bank.
Now, with 3 college-aged children and a busy legal career in Los Angeles, I find that I make my way back to my food summers. In my precious free time (and, with a little help from my friends and family), I research, create and test vintage cakes to serve to my family and friends each Sunday as we join hands around the table with my 90-year-old mother, Viola. The vintage recipes that I present each week on my Bake This Cake! blog have been family tested (critically at times, I might add, with many a re-make). Course, when you start from suet and lard and move to butter and cream, you’re going to need some testing wiggle room. 🙂
I’ve worked hard to hone my research skills over the years (okay — decades 🙂 ) and I think I’ve put it to good vintage cake use. I am a proud member of Culinary Historians of Southern California, eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, Slow Food USA, FoodiesUSA and Los Angeles Food Bloggers (LAFB).
I consider cooking from slow scratch to be part of a larger and important generational craft. And I hope to open the window of heirloom baking for you and your family by setting out carefully tested recipes with straightforward descriptions with loads of photographs so that you can march down history lane with me to create your own historic come-back cakes — just like your grandma and great-grandma did.
Your gift from the kitchen just might make a precious memory for someone. And they just might learn from YOU how to keep alive the fine tradition of the kitchen baking arts.
While we all lead busy lives (oh how I know!), the gift of a special vintage cake shows that you can carve out the time to create a gift from the heart. Brought out at the end of a fine meal, you will surely bring joy to those you love.
So — Here’s to gifts of love from the kitchen!
- Marco Polo Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Cream Puff Kids (bakethiscake.com)
- Vintage Labor Saving Cake Recipe with Broiled Icing (bakethiscake.com)
- Old-fashioned Holiday Cake Frosting Recipe and a Berry-Berry Filling (bakethiscake.com)
- River House Whipped Cream Cake Recipe (bakethiscake.com)