Mom is trying to downsize, so she’s been clearing a bunch of stuff out of her house. Not too long ago she brought me several boxes filled with stuff from my granny and great-granny on my dad’s side of the family. There’s so much I’m still sifting through.
Some of the neatest things I’ve found so far are my granny’s ribbons from the county fair, and stacks of photos, recipes and newspaper clippings. In 1979 she was the Homemaker of the Year for Comanche County, representing the “Progressive” extension group.
She always had her homemaker bumper sticker on the back and Saint Christopher on the dash of her car (she was also very active in her parish’s altar society). She knew how to roll…well roll very slowly but roll nonetheless. She once told us “oh honey, I drive so safe everyone honks and waves as they pass me by”.
I recently read an article about the need to bring back home economics in our school. We tend to think of HomeEc as the polar opposite of feminism, but did you realize the founding of home economics over a century ago was based on progressive and feminist thinking?
Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman admitted to MIT, is regarded as the founder of home economics. Her mission was to bring scientific rigor into the home and to professionalize women’s domestic work while bringing dignity and efficiency to both.
By the 1960’s the programs had become inundated by food and appliance companies, the curriculum shifted to convenience and consumerism, and the founder’s objectives fell by the way side.
You really should read about her sometime – she was an amazing woman!
I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by strong, independent women. While my granny was being crowned homemaker of the year, my aunt was passing out bumper stickers too…but for the National Organization of Women. At the time they didn’t seem to be mutually exclusive movements – women wanted respect for their contributions to the home, and to receive equal treatment when working outside the home. Women’s work is important, no matter where we do our work.
Today I have some of my granny’s recipes to share with you. I’ve been using her favorite icing recipe for years, and shared it with you awhile back (you can find it here). Now for one of her cake recipes:
Silver White Cake
- 2 ⅞ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 ⅞ cups sugar
- 4 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ⅔ cup shortening
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 5 egg whites, unbeaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease generously and flour two nine-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; add shortening. Combine milk and vanilla. Pour slightly more than half the milk-vanilla mixture into dry ingredients. Beat two minutes. Add remaining milk-vanilla mixture and egg whites; beat two minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly with finger. Cool about five minutes, then turn out on rack.
I found this recipe in a newspaper article about my granny. In addition to her home extension activities, she also was a professional cake decorator. When my grandpa retired he’d bake the cakes, and she’d decorate them.
The article also included several of her baking tips-
- Never, never wash cake pans in the dishwasher.
- Applying decorating glaze makes icing the cake much easier. To glaze cake, brush a very thinned icing over cake and allow to dry thoroughly. Frost and decorate as desired.
- Take a piece of old toweling large enough to go around the outside of the cake pan and three times the depth of the pan. Wet thoroughly and fold in thirds. Pin toweling around the pan, then pour in cake batter. The towel will scorch, but it won’t burn. This keeps the sides of the cake from baking before the center, allowing the cake to bake evenly.
Or…you can go the consumerism route and purchase a pack of these cake strips like I did!
I’m so glad I got to learn her tips first hand when I was a kid. I remember going with her to demonstrate new appliances at Montgomery Ward, and later hanging out at her cake decorating shop with her and grandpa.
Granny was also an avid crocheter. My grandfather, who was German, knew how to knit. He taught her to crochet, but she never could pick up knitting. Fortunately I didn’t inherit her non-knitting gene!
Hope you enjoy my granny’s tips and recipes.