This week we’re up to #9 on Gourmet’s list of the 50 Women Game Changers in the world of food: Irma Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking. Thanks to Mary from One Perfect Bite for organizing a group of us cooking and blogging our way through this list, one dish at a time. Check back every Friday for another story and recipe from the list.
This week’s exploration posed something of a challenge for me…you see, I was brought up with Fannie Farmer. The two were like opposing religions, you either had Fannie Farmer sitting on the kitchen shelf or the Joy of Cooking. Rarely both. So I went out and bought a copy of Joy of Cooking for the first time in my life. Over the years there have been lots of editions, with each succeeding version being ‘modernized’ to fit the culinary tastes of the time. Eventually Irma’s personality was edited right out of the book, along with a lot of the vintage references and ‘old fashioned’ dishes and cooking methods in the original.
Happily, the 75th anniversary edition, published in 1996, puts back some of that spirit and vintage feel. It’s a good thing, because Irma had quite some spirit. She wrote the book after her husband’s suicide in 1930. With no official training or credentials she revolutionized the world of food preparation in an era when the vast majority of people simply learned to cook from their mothers and grandmothers. She accomplished all this at age 54, in the midst of the Great Depression.
When it came to choosing my recipe I wanted to pay homage to that spirit, so I chose from the Joy Classics section…a group of recipes from the original 1931 edition that was specially added back into this newest volume. I chose blitzkuchen, or lightning cake, because I can remember my mother cooking this kind of quick cinnamon sugar cake when I was little…(I’m guessing it was the Fannie Farmer version.) I can remember eating it hot out of the oven when the cinnamon, sugar and butter topping was still molten. It has a simple, vintage feel to it, which appeals to me. I’ll bet during the depression this would have been a real treat.
I couldn’t help myself, I added a couple of chopped black plums to the cake because, after all, we are in high summer fruit season.
Black Plum Blitzkuchen, or Lightning Cake —from Joy of Cooking, except for the plums ;)
set oven to 375
grease a 9×13 pan
Have this topping mixed in a small bowl:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (I would use regular sugar)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans or sliced almonds (I used 1/2 cup sliced almonds)
Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Add the following and mix 2 minutes at medium speed:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Beat in for 2 more minutes at low speed:
1/2 cup, (1 stick) softened butter
Pour the batter into the pan.
2 or 3 black plums
Drop the chunks of fruit evenly over the batter. Sprinkle the topping over the entire cake.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
A couple of notes…Next time I will use regular sugar, not confectioners. The confectioner’s sugar didn’t fully incorporate into the cake, leaving white spots on top, and I’m puzzled why the recipe called for it. I would also have dotted 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter on top of the sugar mixture.
I’m very happy I chose this. It was tender, moist and sweet. It will be a great cake base for future experimenting, and I may even try it as muffins (aka cupcakes!) I love the ease of prep on this cake, it definitely lived up to its name. I especially like how the stick of softened butter just gets beaten in at the end, how easy is that. I’m so glad I added the fruit, and I’m sure any fruit would be great. Apples are often added in classic German versions of this cake, so keep it in mind for the fall apple season.
Now that I have both grand dames of American cookery on my shelf I know I’ll never be at a loss for anything (at least in the kitchen.) The Joy of Cooking has already earned its first splotch, on page 722. It feels like the beginning of a long and delicious relationship.