This month’s recipe is for Cup Cake should not be confused with modern cupcakes. Cup Cake is so named for the ingredients, 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar and so on.
At a recent hearth cooking demonstration in the Phoenix Mill House, we tried out a new piece of kitchen equipment that my demonstration partner John Patterson had made out of tin.
Previously we had used a reflector or tin oven with a spit to cook meat in front of the fire, but I had been wanting to try cooking using a similar tin oven that, instead of a spit, had a rack on which a pan of cookies or a small cake could be baked. Our reflector oven had a curved based so that wasn’t going to work for cookies and cakes.
My partner John is a clever man so since our budget is very tight, he decided to make us a tin oven like the one I had used during a hearth cooking class at Old Sturbridge Village. The result was the perfect solution. Prior to having this new piece of equipment, I had been making cookies, just a few at a time, in a pie pan in one of our Dutch Ovens. Very inefficient.
(Funny side note – in order to keep oven-making supply costs down and since the NH primary was over, John had collected up some roadside candidate signs and used the wire frames to fashion a rack for the oven. Clever!)
So to test out our new reflector oven, we cooked maple cookies and Cup Cake (not to be confused with cupcakes!) for our Mill House visitors. Both were delicious. One thing to remember if you ever bake using a tin reflector oven, is you need to turn the cake pan or the cookie sheet during the cooking or else one side gets way more done than the other.
What follows is the recipe we used for Cup Cake, also referred to as 1-2-3-4 Cake which makes when you look at the ingredients list.
In The American Frugal Housewife (1832), Lydia Maria Child writes “Cup cake is about as good as a pound cake, and is cheaper. One cup butter, two cups sugar, three cups flour and four eggs, well beat together and baked in pans or cups. Bake twenty minutes and no more.” Because there is no leavening used other than beaten eggs, this cake is more like a dense cookie, similar to a shortbread cookie.
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
Cut the butter up into small pieces and then use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar next and finally blend in the well beaten eggs. Place batter which will be quite thick into a buttered cake pan and bake for about 20 minutes in the reflector oven or longer in standard oven preheated to 375°.