I was given a stack of vintage baking booklets and instantly fell in love with them. These little gems are snapshots not only of our baking history, but some of our American history as well. My stack of little lovelies had publication dates from 1933 to 1963, but these types of booklets have been around since the late 1800’s. They were produced to promote the use of specific American made and farmed ingredients.
The 1942 booklet, Baking Secrets, by General Foods, is one of my favorites. It embraces the mantra of that era of war, victory begins at home. It cautions readers, “We cannot be lavish! Yet, we can bake – for wartime meals and for our own home pleasure by choosing each recipe with care.” The artwork is simple and engaging. An adorable loosely sketched cherub dressed in an apron, and bakers hat, flutters throughout the aged and fragile pages. The 36 pages of recipes, baking rules, and suggested trouble-shooting are still relevant today. Homemakers were no doubt made to feel confident about the featured flour, Swans Down as photos of their wheat farms were included.
What was going on in 1942 and what did America look like? World War Two was still raging. People on the home front were rationing to support our troops. Ration books were distributed to control and preserve our resources. New car sales were banned to save steel. Women probably chatted over their fences about how to work with and around rationed ingredients such as sugar, butter, and eggs. Recipes were developed or altered around scarce ingredients. Overall, recipes were becoming simpler because women were beginning to join the workforce. Milk was still delivered to front doors in glass containers. American farms dotted the landscape from sea to shining sea.
I decided to try a taste from our American past. Judging from the patina of spills, Wonder Cake, must have been a favorite recipe. This recipe reduces rationed sugar by half and replaces the balance with honey. That sounds like a happy replacement to me! The eggs were cut back as well. This 1942 era recipe for cupcakes was good in spite of the alterations.
a slice of American history told through baking booklets
A thrifty one egg cake for every purpose
Recipe from the booklet, Baking Secrets, by General Foods, 1942
2 Cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour
2 Teaspoons Calumet Baking Powder
¼ Teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup sugar (*recommended for sugar savings, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup honey)
1 egg, unbeaten
¾ cup milk (recommended reduction, ½ cup milk + 1 tablespoon)
Sift flour once, measure; add baking powder and salt, sift together three times. Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat very thoroughly. Add flour, alternately with milk, in small amounts, beating after each. Add vanilla.
*Mix this way when using sugar substitutes.
Add honey gradually to creamed shortening or shortening and sugar, beating through after each addition. Then add ¼ of flour mixture before adding the eggs. This makes it easier to blend the batter, makes it smooth and lovely, and give finer cake in appearance and volume.
Bake in two greased 8-inch layer pans in moderate oven, (350 degrees) for 20-25 minutes.
Bake in greased cupcake pans in moderate oven, (375 degrees) 20-25 minutes. Makes approximately 2 dozen