Elegant Frugal – Orange Almond Breadcrumb Cake and Cookies with Orange Custard Icing

Serving Bread Crumb Cake at Sunday Dinner Bake this Cake

Holy breadcrumbs! Frugal never tasted so charming! We’re baking up pure history (plus some added oomph) with this luscious Orange Almond Breadcrumb Cake and “matching” cookies. Did I mention the drizzle of creamy Orange Custard Icing? We’re going up-cycle with those left-over bread pieces from the kitchen counter! And I think the transformation will surprise you!

And what a fun time it’s been playing with early American Bread Crumb recipes!

We started with old-fashioned Orange Almond Breadcrumb Cookies…

Breadcrumb Cookies on a plate Bake This Cake

And, since the cookies we triple tested were fluffy and cake-like and moist and zesty (the way an old-fashioned persimmon cookie is), we moved right on up the vintage ladder to Almond Orange Breadcrumb Cake using the same recipe with just a few added ingredients. Then we pumped it up a silky notch with a slather of lively Orange Custard Icing.  And now, my dears, I think we’ve got 2 winners on our hands.  And I’m thinking they’re way vintage cool and so cute that they might just blow away your guests with the flavor story they tell.

And the star of the show…some old crusty heels of bread that you were just about to add to the compost pile.

Bread for Breadcrumb Cake and cookies Bake This Cake

A Little Cookbook History: Although there are many older recipes, we can see some interesting Bread Crumb Cookies recipes in the 1920’s and 1930’s in various historic journals, magazines and books .

For example, let’s crack open “The Congressional Cook Book” (second revised edition, 1933). This book was published by The Congressional Club in Washington, D. C., whose active membership was limited to the wives and daughters of Senators, Representatives, Delegates and Commissioners in Congress and the wives of the Justices of the Supreme Court and of the members of the President’s Cabinet. For the second revision of the book, the members added recipes collected from all over America (e.g. from the kitchens of State Governors) and even from the international kitchens of the Diplomats, Consular Generals and Ambassadors. It also contains snippets such as excerpts from The [Thomas] Jefferson Cook Book and etiquette rules for the newcomers to Washington.

1927 The Congressional Cook Book Bake This Cake

Eleantor Roosevelt (Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt)The Foreword of this special cookbook was written by Eleanor Roosevelt (Mrs. Franklin D herself), in which she stated: “Cooking should be considered as an art and the arts should certainly be of assistance in the government; therefore it seems particularly appropriate that the wives of our lawmakers should get out a cook book, for good cooking means good health and good health is the basis of all good work.”

The Bread Crumb Cookies recipe that we’ve modified below into vintage-modern cookies and cake was authored by the then-late Mrs. Dan (Alice) Waugh, wife of former Congressman Dan Waugh (1842- 1921) of Indiana. (Mrs. Waugh also shared a recipe in the book for Beefsteak Pudding.) She was the wife of Daniel Webster Waugh – a teacher, a farmer, a Private in the Indiana Volunteer Infantry from 1861-1864, a lawyer starting in 1866, a judge from 1884 to 1890, and a congressman for two terms from 1891-1895 serving Indiana’s Ninth District for south-central and southeastern area (see “Herringshaw’s National Library of American Biography” by Thomas William Herringshaw, American Publishers’ Association, 1914).

Mrs. Waugh is mentioned in many historical records as a strong supporter of the early Indiana women’s movement (see  “History of Woman Suffrage: 1883-1900” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Vol 4, p. 616 Fowler & Wells, 1902) and we see she hosted The Woman’s Suffrage Club at her home (see The Indianan, Vols 3-4, p 304, 1918). She was President of the Tipton County Board of Public Charities (see “The Indiana Bulletin of Charities and Correction”, p 337, Board of State Charities, 1922). In this capacity she inspected the local jails, insane asylums and orphanages and reported on the conditions she witnessed.  She was also the President of the Young Men’s Reading Rooms in Tipton, Indiana, that provided a collections library and a nice location for young men to read (I know, right?). AND whaddya know she could cook too! Thank you, Mrs. Waugh, for sharing your dedication and inspiration!

Recipe Modification: We tested lotsa bread crumb recipes and pulled from the most flavorful by adding a little flour, almonds and orange zest, but leaving out molasses, raisins and cloves. We also used soft bread crumbs instead of dried (partly because that’s what was on hand, and also noticing the prairie-style crumb recipes used either or). Wow! Quite a lot of change-up here…but I think you’re going to like the results (fingers crossed). This is not a high rising cake, but it’s delicate and rich and flavorful to make up for it’s tender size.

Tools Needed for Breadcrumb Cookies or Cake:
Cookie pans for cookies, two 8″ or 9″ cake pans for cake
2 Large mixing bowls (for dry and wet ingredients)
2 small cups or bowls (for beating egg(s), reserved orange juice)
Grater (for grating orange peel and fresh nutmeg, we used a mini grater)
Juicer (or just squeeze by hand, for fresh orange juice)
Food processor (or sharp knife) for fine chopping almonds and bread crumbs (I used both a mini and a maxi processor)
Electric Mixer
Measuring cups and spoons, whisk and spatula

Ingredients for both the Cookies or the Cake (see some additional ingredients for the cake):
Cooking spray or butter for greasing the pans
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (very fine chop please, from about 2 medium oranges)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated (substitute bottled ground nutmeg but it won’t be as wonderful)
1/2 cup almonds, fine chopped (I used roasted unsalted almonds, and also blanched white almonds)
1-1/4 cup soft bread crumbs (about 4 to 5 slices soft or dried, I used whole wheat bread)
1-1/2 cup flour (I used unbleached flour but all-purpose flour or fine quality whole wheat flour is great too)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For cake: add 2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (you could substitute unsalted butter but it won’t be as vintage-y)
1 large egg*
*For cake: add 1 large egg (for a total of 2 large eggs)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
For cake: add 1/2 cup water

Overall: The cake recipe is the same as the cookie recipe, except the cake has an extra egg, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 cup of water.

Slice of Breadcrumb Cake recipe with silver fork Bake This Cake

Directions for either cookies or cake:

1.) Prep the pans and the oven:

For Cookies: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and spray with cooking spray (or butter) 2 cookie sheet pans.
For Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350 and spray with cooking spray (or butter) two 8″ or 9″ cake pans.

2.) Prep the orange zest and juice:

Peel and finely chop or zest the peel of 2 medium oranges to achieve:
2 teaspoons firmly packed fine-chopped orange peel

Juice 1 to 2 oranges (and strain away seeds and pulp) to achieve:
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Photo note: These were juice oranges so even the peels were VERY juicy…but they worked just fine.

Orange Zest for Bread Crumb Cake Bake This Cake

3. Prep the fresh nutmeg:

Using a grating tool, grate a fresh nutmeg nut to achieve:
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated

Tip: Although fresh nutmeg gives a great flavor to this recipe, you could also use bottled ground nutmeg.

Photo note: The fresh-grated nutmeg shown here is in an antique demitasse spoon so it’s a 1/4 teaspoon size, not a full teaspoon.

Fresh Ground Nutmeg Bake This Cake

4.) Prep the almonds:

Using a food processor or grinder (I used a mini food processor), grind to a fine crumb to achieve:
1/2 cup almonds

Tip: I used roasted unsalted almonds here, but I also used other varieties in different baking tests and all were great.
Double Tip: If you start with raw almonds and roast them in the oven first (skins and all), you’ll get an extra punch of flavor.
Triple Tip: The grind doesn’t have to be uniform. In fact, fine bits and a little larger are best in this recipe.

Grinding Almonds for Bread Crumb Cake Cookies Bake This Cake

5.) Prep the bread crumbs:

Using a food processor, break up about 5 slices or heels of bread (whole wheat or white, I used whole wheat) and pulse them (or fine crumble with your hands or with a knife) to achieve:
1-1/4 cup soft bread crumbs

Pulsing Bread into Breadcrumbs for Cake and Cookies Bake This Cake

6.) Mix the dry ingredients (except the sugar):

In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to fully incorporate
the prepared nutmeg
the prepared almonds
the prepared bread crumbs
1-1/2 cup flour (I used unbleached flour but all-purpose flour is fine too)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For cake: add 2 teaspoons baking powder

Prepping Dry Ingredients for Bread Crumb Cake Bake This Cake

7.) Cream the shortening, sugar and egg(s):

In an electric mixer, beat on high-speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes):
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar

In a cup or small bowl, fork beat until full mixed:
1 large egg
For cake: add 1 large egg (for a total of 2 large eggs)

Add to the shortening-sugar mixture and beat on high-speed (about 3 minutes):
the mixed egg(s)

Photo Note: The eggs shown here are for the cake ’cause the cookies require only 1 egg. (not a nag, just a reminder) 🙂

Creaming Sugar Shortening and Eggs Bake This Cake

8.) Blend them all together:

With the electric mixer on low-speed, add into the batter and beat on low-speed until just fully incorporated (about 1 minute):
the mixed dry ingredients
the prepared orange zest
the prepared orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
For cake: add 1/2 cup water

Folding Vanilla into Bread Crumb Batter and into Pans Bake This Cake

For cookies: Drop by 1 Tablespoon heaps on greased cookie pan.

Breadcrumb Cookies ready for the oven Bake This Cake

For cookies: Bake at 400 degrees for 10 mins to light golden.

Baked Breadcrumb Cookies recipe hot from the oven Baket his Cake

For cake:  Divide batter between the two prepared 8″ or 9″ cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes to light golden.

Tip: This Bread Crumb Cake does not rise high in the pan.

Breadcrumb Cakes recipe hot from the oven Bake this Cake

Orange Custard Icing:

Tools Needed for Orange Custard Icing:
Small pot
Large Mixing Bowl
Electric Mixer
Measuring cups, spoons, spatula

1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespooons fresh orange juice
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality

Icing Directions:

In a small sauce pot, bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring almost constantly:
1/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

Custard base for Orange Custard Frosting Bake This Cake

Remove from heat as the sauce thickens.

Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring intermittently to ensure smooth consistency.

Using an electric mixer, beat on high-speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes):
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, unsalted

Beat into cream cheese-butter mixture on medium-speed until fully blended:
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespooons fresh orange juice
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality

Beat into frosting until fully blended and light (about 1 minute):
the room temperature custard

Tip: This is not a fluffy frosting but a pouring, drizzling, slathering icing. 🙂

Making Orange Custard Icing Bake This Cake

Serve the cookies warm or cooled with a dusting of powdered sugar or a slather of orange cream frosting.

Bread Crumb Cookies Served in the garden Bake This Cake

Slice the thin cakes in half horizontally for 4 thin layers.

Slicing Thin Breadcrumb Cakes for Icing Bake This Cake

Spread each layer with icing then smooth the remaining icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to dribble down the sides of the cake, for that lovely old-fashioned look.

Tip: To prevent the orange icing from soaking into the cake completely, I recommend filling and frosting this cake as close as possible to serving time.

Frosted Side of Breadcrumb Cake Bake this Cake

Thank you so much for joining me in this vintage cake adventure. I hope you’re following us on Facebook and on Pinterest where we have fun exchanging inspiring photos. My twitter handle is @BakeThisCakecom.

Happy holidays and an awesome New Year to you!


Leslie in red tshirt

Biltmore Gingerbread House Pershing Square and Pacific Center photo collage by Leslie Macchiarella

4 thoughts on “Elegant Frugal – Orange Almond Breadcrumb Cake and Cookies with Orange Custard Icing

    • Hi, Debbie, I think dried bread crumbs would work just as well for the cake or the cookies. You could double (or even triple) this recipe for the cake if you have lots to work with because it makes thin layers. I’ve made bread pudding with bread crumbs but have not perfected that recipe so didn’t post it yet. I think crumbs are the unsung hero so I hope you can really roll with it and experiment. I wish I had more recipes for you. Best of luck! Let us know how it goes if you can. 🙂 Leslie

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