Friday, July 4, 2014

Kirsten's Honey Cake & the Daisy Chain Blog Award

A tasty historic cake that (technically) has no sugar!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! And happy birthday to Captain America, while we're at it. My family usually has a cookout on Fourth of July, but since we're kind of caught up in the middle of a hurricane, we were stuck indoors all day. That worked out just fine for me, because my favorite Fourth of July tradition is marathoning Jaws and Captain America: The First Avenger. First Avenger is obvious, but people do ask me why Jaws quite a bit. The answer is simple: Jaws takes place leading up to, during and after Fourth of July weekend!

Anyway, I'm sure Kirsten doesn't seem like the obvious choice for a Fourth of July post. What about Felicity or Molly, right? Well, Kirsten Saves the Day is one of the only American Girl books that takes place on Fourth of July, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to find a recipe that used honey as one of the main ingredients because Kirsten finding honey is one of the major plots of the book. Honey was a luxury item that could be traded and sold for a lot of fun stuff, as well as a good alternative to expensive products like sugar. It did take a little bit of digging to find something featuring honey that Kirsten would have eaten, but I think what we came up with was pretty great.

Now, before we get started with the recipe, Rhonda from Living a Doll's Life nominated me for the Daisy Chain Blog Award! I'm going to take a moment at the beginning to answer her questions, and then get right to the recipe.

1. How long have you collected dolls?
I don’t necessarily specifically collect dolls that aren’t AG Historicals – most of my collection is full of stuffed animals and action figures, and that’s usually what I focus on collecting – but dolls have been a part of it since I was a kid, so pretty much forever? I just don’t have very many of them compared to other parts of my collection of assorted stuff.

2. Who is your favorite AG Historical character?
Tough question, but I think I still have to stick with Kirsten. She’s always the one I’ve related to the most, even if I wanted to be Felicity when I was little.

3. Do you collect other dolls besides AG?
Yes! I have a few Disney Store dolls, about half a dozen Barbies dressed up as DC and Marvel Comics characters, some DeAgostini porcelain Disney dolls, and one lonely Monster High doll, plus a few random other things.

4. Which AG Historical character's time era would you most like to live in?
Probably Molly or Julie’s. As interesting as I find other time periods, I don’t think I could manage pre-indoor plumbing or modern medicine! And since World War II is what I focus a lot of my time to studying, it would be nice to have some first hand experience and stories to share from that period.

5. Which doll is your look-a like?
Rebecca, so long as her hair was straightened and trimmed a little.

6. How many AG dolls do you own?
Somehow, I wound up with seventeen!

7. Who is your favorite GOTY?
 I actually have only really enjoyed reading Kailey’s book, although I liked Jess and McKenna’s okay, too, and that’s usually how I judge whether I like a character or not. Kanani is my favorite appearance and theme wise, but I thought her series didn’t really live up to its full potential, which is also why Saige and Chrissa didn’t make the list even if I liked them visually.

8. Do you ever vacation with your AG dolls?
 I’ve brought them along when I’ve gone to American Girl Place, Felicity came with me to Colonial Williamsburg in 1999, and both Felicity and Kirsten have made trips to AGP Chicago back when it was the only store open.

I'm nominating Traci from A Wild Review Appears and Mandi from Up to My Eyeballs in Dolls. Here are the questions:

1. Which AG Historical character is your favorite?
2. What's one item AG hasn't made that you wish they would?
3. What's your favorite AG book?
4. What made you decide to start your blog?
5. What's your favorite thing about your blog?
6. Do you have a favorite doll in your collection?
7. What's your favorite toy brand that isn't AG?
8. Who's your favorite AG character who doesn't have a doll counterpart?

Thanks again for the nomination, Rhonda! I had a lot of fun answering. Now, on to the recipe!

This recipe comes from Favorite Utah Pioneer Recipes by Marla Rawlings, so it's not necessarily something from rural Minnesota, but it's still probably similar enough that I think we can say it pretty fairly represents cuisine Kirsten would be familiar with. The recipe says that the batter should be stirred in the same direction by the same person until it's finished for good luck. Neat little piece of folklore, there!

Honey is a pretty unique food, both because of how it's made, and because never goes bad. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend putting this to the test - and wonder why anyone ever thought to in the first place - honey doesn't go bad, and archaeologists discovered that honey stored in the Pyramids and tombs of ancient Egypt was still safe to consume. Again, wouldn't try this at home, but that's still pretty cool!

Honey's color, texture and flavor is affected by what nectar the bees collected before making the honey. I actually used two kinds of honey, and you can kind of see the band where they separate in the picture below. One was much lighter in color and flavor, while the other was darker, less clear and had a little more oomph to it. This is basically your sugar for the cake, which is kind of fun.

The honey needs to get thinned out a little on the stove before adding it to the other wet ingredients, and you need a cup of it to make this recipe.

You cream half a cup of shortening in a bowl, then add one egg, your thinned out honey, and one cup of sour milk. If you don't happen to have curdled milk just lying around, you need one tablespoon of vinegar to every one cup of milk needed in the recipe. So, for a half cup, you use a half tablespoon, and so forth. For this, you need a cup of milk, which you just let sit for a bit after adding the vinegar so it can curdle.

This all gets mixed together, and, well...

Looks disgusting, right?

Fortunately, adding in the dry ingredients (two cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, three fourths of a teaspoon of cinnamon, and half a teaspoon of salt) and beating it together made it look a lot more appetizing, and a lot less like puke. I found using an electric beater worked a lot better than just doing it by hand because the shortening really didn't want to incorporate when I was just using a spatula.

It gets baked in the oven at 375 degrees, and after forty five to fifty five minutes, you've got yourself a cake!

Mine overcooked a little on the sides, but after I had a bad experience trying to remake the coconut tea bread (it still cooked all the way through, it just took an extra half hour from the first time I made it), I decided I'd risk leaving it in for fifty minutes instead of checking at forty five and then making my call. Oh well, it still came out okay!

So, what did it taste like?

Good! Kind of bland, actually, but it was sweet without being too sweet, and had a good texture too it. It didn't have a tough outer crust like some of the other historic cakes I've made, but either from over cooking or just how the thing works, it did have a little bit of a tougher crust than say, the war cake I made, which is still hands down one of my favorite cakes I've ever done. My mom says it tastes a little like a bran muffin without the bran, and having never had a bran muffin before, let alone a branless bran muffin, I guess I will have to take her word for it. It tastes especially good with a little honey on top, and yes, it does pair well with strawberries. Next time, we'll have to break out a heart shaped pan!

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how this came out, and I'm excited to share it with other people this weekend, assuming there's anything left! Hope you guys had a nice Fourth of July, and hopefully I'll see you again soon with another recipe!

Assuming I don't get distracted by making another one of these this weekend!


  1. I adore Kirsten and love all of your posts with her in it. Thanks for answering the questions, it's always fun to learn more about the person behind the blog :-)

    1. Well thanks for asking such great questions! I'll admit I like doing stuff with Kirsten because she's got so many props to play with - it's fun to be able to make little temporary dioramas for photoshoots!

  2. The cake looks delicious! Thanks for the nomination; I'll answer your questions soon! I love your answers!

    1. You're very welcome! I'm off to read those now. c:

  3. So many good things to make! Your blog always makes me hungry :p Thanks for the nomination, I'll be answering the questions tomorrow!

    1. It's definitely a double edged sword of running or reading a food blog, ahaha. You're welcome! I'm excited to see your answers. :D

  4. Your pictures of Kirsten are beautiful!!! How nice that you could tie into the book so seamlessly. Great job!

    1. Thank you! I had a lot of fun making the set ups for this post. Makes me wish AG hadn't done away with the Scenes and Settings concept!