We don’t need no wussy vanilla extract and there’s no need for cups of white sugar either ’cause we’re going hip-and-cool historic with the flavor AND the sweetness. Yes, indeed, we’re kicking it up with a charming one-hundred-year-old recipe for Maple Syrup Cake made with dark maple syrup and brown sugar. You’ll need 2 cups of good maple syrup (1 cup for the cake and 1 for the frosting) but not much else. This is a simple and do-able cake baking project with an Old Fashioned Maple Frosting that is so fun to make with just one egg white and a cup of boiling maple syrup.
Let’s Talk Classy Syrup: In case you missed this, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has upgraded the grading standards of maple syrup to clarify what used to be the misunderstood Grade B syrups. The new classes of Grade A maple syrup contain 4 spanking new classifications to distinguish quality, color and flavor as follows: Grade A Golden Color Delicate Taste; Grade A Amber Color Rich Taste; Grade A Dark Color Robust Taste; and Grade A Very Dark Strong Taste. Choose your syrup as you prefer for this cake, although we’re rooting for a Class A Dark Color Robust Taste for this here historic cake flavored only with maple syrup. So you gotta use the good stuff. (The kind that takes over 40 gallons of maple tree sap to make just one gallon of syrup.)
Artificial Syrup is Not Maple Syrup By Any Stretch: Just to be sure we’re all in the know (even me), I read the label of a typical commercial syrup and find nothing even remotely connected to maple syrup from a tree. The ingredient list goes like this:
Our Cake Recipe Creators: We’re using a recipe from “Official Recipe Book No. 4, March, 1918: What To Eat, How To Cook It“. It was published by The State Council of Defense of Illinois. The volunteer members of this special 1917 council published this pamphlet in Chicago to encourage women to take the pledge to help win World War I by joining the U. S. Food Administration to send food to the troops, help fight food shortages and to substitute (or omit) food based on supply shortages.
Save The Food Campaign: The plea went out asking America to go one day a week wheatless, one day meatless, one day porkless and reducing sugar consumption…hence the maple syrup in place of white sugar in this recipe, the substitution of a little barley flour for all-purpose flour and the use of water for milk. This was also the time when the gospel of the clean plate was born to prevent waste of those food items in short supply during wartime.
Eat More Barley: You’ll notice the encouragement to substitute a little barley flour for wheat flour in this recipe. I love the taste of barley flour so I left it in our cake and the testers agreed, but you may use all-purpose flour for the whole cake if you like.
Flowering Flour Varieties: I’m the first to admit that flour selection can be crazy confusing. There are SO many varieties and they each dance to a different song. I’m kinda crazy into flour. I love to play with the different varieties that are now so easy to pick up on the web with the click of a finger. I literally have WAY too many varieties of flour. For cakes, I like Swan’s Cake Flour and Bob’s Super Fine Cake Flour or even a little almond flour or coconut flour. For bread baking, I typically go for 10-grain wheat flour, Einkorn flour or spelt flour. For pasta, I add a little semolina and dust it in rice flour. For pizza, I use 00 flour with a sprinkle of corn flour. And for this Maple Syrup Cake we’ve got King Arthur All Purpose Flour and barley flour.
A Little Bit About Flour Protein Power: The type of flour used in this cake is not described in the recipe but we usually presume “flour” means All Purpose Flour or APF, even from historic recipes (at least for the last 100 years). All-Purpose Flour contains approximately 10 – 12% protein so it’s like a good middle-of-the-road flour. Bread flour contains about 14 – 16% protein (and generating the most gluten of the general flour varieties with a greater possibility of larger bubble pockets and “stretchier” texture). And then we have pastry flour with about 9% protein and cake flour with about 7-8% protein (generating less gluten and presenting tiny bubbles of airy separations in the texture). If that makes any sense.
How to Transform Light Brown Sugar and Syrup to Dark Brown: If you want to sneak a little robust punch to this cake in the way it most likely was intended, use a small plastic bag to mix 1 teaspoon of molasses into your light brown sugar and, presto, the approximate flavor of dark brown sugar. For a closer match to dark and robust maple syrup, mix 1 teaspoon of molasses into a quality amber maple syrup. Begging the pardon of high-end foodies everywhere, but in a pinch, you’ll find this works well for this cake.
Tools Needed for Old Fashioned Maple Syrup Cake:
3 Cake Pans 9″, greased with butter or cooking spray and lined with parchment paper or wax paper
2 Large bowls (for Batter and Dry ingredients)
1 small bowl (for fork-mixing 2 eggs)
Measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoon, rubber spatula
Optional: Large flat-blade knife or mini food processor if using optional finely chopped pecans
Optional: Fast-read baking temperature probe
Ingredients for Old-Fashioned Maple Syrup Cake:
2 eggs, fork beaten (we used 2 large eggs)
1/4 cup margarine (1/2 cube or 4 Tablespoons), Substitute 1/4 cup unsalted butter* (we used unsalted butter)
Optional (not in original recipe): 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed (dark brown sugar works best but light brown sugar is fine too, or add 1 teaspoon of molasses to light brown sugar) (we used dark brown sugar)
1 cup maple syrup (we used Grade A dark, robust maple syrup, but amber maple syrup works fine or add 1 teaspoon of molasses)
1/4 cup vegetable fat, (we used vegetable oil)
2 cups flour (we used all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup barley flour (Substitute all-purpose flour),(we used barley)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup warm water
*Substituting butter for margarine in this recipe: Butter in the early 1900’s seems to have had a similar ratio of water as butter (unlike modern margarine) so I think subbing butter for margarine here works fine. Salted butter would be the closest match but since I only use unsalted butter, that’s what we used and we didn’t find the cake needed additional salt.
Directions for Old-Fashioned Maple Syrup Cake:
This recipe is basically as written with the order and explanations clarified and any suggested changes to the original noted.
1. Oven: Set the oven rack to center position and set the oven temperature to 350 degrees (and be prepared to increase the temperature to 400 degrees at the point when the cakes have fully risen (about 10 minutes in) in order to color them quickly to a golden brown).
2. Cake Pans: Prepare three 9″ cake pans with a smear of butter or cooking spray and line them with parchment paper or wax paper then butter the tops of the paper liners. This will prevent unexpected sticking from the maple syrup in the cakes.
3. Eggs: In a small bowl, use a fork to thoroughly mix (about 30 strokes), and set aside:
2 large eggs
4. Butter or Margarine: Use the microwave for a few seconds to bring to room temperature:
1/4 cup margarine (1/2 cube), Substitute 1/4 cup butter (we used unsalted butter)
5. Optional nuts (not in original recipe): Use a small food processor or a large flat blade knife to finely chop:
1/2 cup pecans
Prepare the Batter Bowl Ingredients:
6. Using a large bowl and an electric mixer on high-speed, beat until lightened in color and “creamed” (about 2 minutes):
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed (dark brown sugar works best but light brown sugar is fine too, or add 1 teaspoon of molasses to light brown sugar)
the prepared room temperature margarine or butter
7. Beat into the butter-sugar mixture on high-speed (about 2 minutes):
the prepared eggs
8. Drizzle into the Batter Bowl and beat on medium-speed to thoroughly mix (about 30 seconds):
1 cup maple syrup (we used Grade A dark, robust maple syrup, but amber maple syrup works fine or see instructions above for adding 1 teaspoon of molasses)
1/4 cup vegetable fat, Substitute 1/4 cup vegetable oil (we used vegetable oil)
The Dry Ingredients Bowl:
9. In a large bowl, use a whisk to thoroughly mix:
2 cups flour (we used all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup barley flour (Substitute all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
10. Combine thoroughly on low-speed, in half quantities each (about 1 minute):
the contents of the Dry Ingredients Bowl
1/2 cup warm water
11. Optional Nuts: Using a rubber spatula, stir into the fully prepared batter:
the prepared finely chopped nuts
Divide And Conquer:
12. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared 9″ baking pans and smooth the top batter a bit.
Tip: The batter will seem to barely cover the bottoms of the pans and will not reach a typical height of 2/3’s full (more like 1/4 full in each of the 3 pans)…
…so be sure to smooth the batter to the edges of each pan.
Bake This Cake!
Bake in a moderate oven at first and raise the temperature to brown the cake when fully risen.
Place all cakes on the center rack and bake at 350 degrees until the cakes rise but have not yet started to color (this usually takes only about 10 minutes), then increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees to brown the cakes to a golden color (usually an additional 5 to 10 minutes max), for an overall baking time of about 15 to 20 minutes. (Original stated oven temperatures are in celsius as: 185 degrees celsius to 210 degrees celsius.)
Here’s what the cakes look like just before turning up the temperature on the oven…
Tip: Because these are not large cakes, please watch them carefully. You may have to change the position of cakes in the oven just before turning up the heat, moving one from the back corner to front (as I did) to ensure even baking.
The cakes will be done when the center of the cakes spring back lightly when touched, a toothpick test comes out clean and the internal temperature has reached about 195-200 degrees. (I always think it’s a great idea to use a fast baking temperature probe.)
After 5 minutes of cooling in he pans, cut around the edges and remove to wire racks to cool. Leaving the cakes in their pans longer than 5 minutes might cause them to stick to the pans because of the sticky maple syrup.
You could frost this cake with a wonderful Heirlom Custard Vanilla Frosting, maybe drizzling in a little maple syrup or you could try something really fun…
Old-Fashioned Maple Syrup Frosting:
I love this stove-top heirloom frosting recipe using just 1 beaten egg white and a cup of maple syrup boiled on the stove and drizzled over the beating egg white. This will lightly frost the in-between layers of this 3-layer cake. If you like thicker frosting double it up.
Ingredients for Old-Fashioned Maple Syrup Frosting:
1 cup maple syrup (Grade A Amber is my favorite for this frosting)
1 egg white (from a large egg)
Directions for Old-Fashioned Maple Syrup Frosting:
1. Boil the syrup on medium heat without stirring it until it “spins a thread” to about 242 degrees (original recipe states 117 degrees celsius).
2. While the syrup is coming to full heat, use an electric mixer to beat the egg white to just beyond foamy, with the egg white starting to get a little fluffy with very soft peaks.
3. When the syrup has just reached 242 degrees and while it is still sizzling hot (please be very careful with this molten syrup), and with the mixer on low-speed with the egg white, drizzle the hot syrup slowly in a small stream over the egg white while the mixer is on low-speed until all the syrup is used up.
4. Increase to high-speed and beat for about 5 minutes until fluffy stiff peaks form.
(The original recipe called for using an egg beater — so thank your lucky stars!)
When it thickens, spread between the 3 layers of the cooled Maple Syrup Cake.
Tip: If there are nuts used in cake baking, I prefer to show a bit of nuts on the top of the cake to alert those with nut allergies to the use of nuts. It’s just my own precautionary habit.
Well, there you have it! A stroll down that 100-year-old cake recipe lane. So glad you could join me. Hoping you can bake this little darlin’ to bring a little history to your table as you join with friends and family in good cheer.
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Black Bananas Banana Bread (bakethisbread.com)