I love history. And I love cake. So Anne Byrn’s new baking book, American Cake spoke to me. Byrn provides a timeline of American history through recipes, from gingerbread and sugar cakes of colonial times to more recent favorites like tres leches or beet velvet cake. Each recipe includes the cake’s significance, whether a change in cooking techniques and ingredients to major societal and technological shifts, as well as an updated recipe.
I tried my hand at a cherry upside-down cake, a recipe that won at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair as an example of Midwestern family heirloom recipes, as well as the Wellesley fudge cake, a recipe that was adapted from the Baker’s Chocolate box. Of course, cake is cake and you really don’t need an extra incentive to bake it beyond the fact that you are going to eat it, but I really enjoyed the historical notes and the context Byrn provides.
So if you want to make Mary Todd Lincoln’s almond cake or want to recreate cakes from tea rooms of yore (or just read about them), check out American Cake.
Also, there is this great chart about cakes different presidents favored. John Adams? He liked pie.