Monday, August 28, 2017

Emily's Everyday Cake

A ration friendly treat that would have been a fun change of pace for this Brit!

In Brave Emily, the book that accompanied Emily dolls when she was available from American Girl, the spotlight is on how Emily Bennett has been adjusting to life with the McIntires after the events of Happy Birthday, Molly! One of the stand out moments for me when I first read it was Emily’s observations on how the McIntire children felt about their breakfast options. 

Although rationing was an annoying reality of life for Americans during World War II, Emily was used to much stricter rationing and more shortages. In the narration, Emily mentions that she hadn’t even seen a banana in several years before coming to the United States. That moment meant this recipe for an “Every Day Cake” in Rosie’s Riveting Recipes reminded me of Emily, and made her the perfect host of this tasty treat. Got any ideas why? 

Hint: there are no bananas in this cake.

But there is orange zest and orange juice! Although fruits were never rationed by the British government during the war, they were often in short supply, so being able to have one with your breakfast was a special treat. This was especially true if your fruit grows best in a more tropical climate – oranges and bananas aren’t really suited to the British climate! In the US, shortages were still possible, but it was still easier for someone in Illinois to have access to Florida oranges than it was for someone in London. A cake like this might have been a special treat for Emily the same way a ripe banana would have been. 

It’s also pretty ration friendly because it uses shortening and corn syrup instead of butter and sugar. Although shortening was rationed, it still gives you the option to use your butter for something else, and corn syrup was never rationed, making it a great sugar substitute. 

Like any cake, this recipe starts off by creaming your fat, which in this case is 1/2 cup of shortening. You beat this with two teaspoons of orange rind, or you can be like me and just zest basically an entire orange. Gradually pour in one cup of light corn syrup and beat well after each addition.

One that’s finished, beat in 1/4 cup of flour until everything’s nice and smooth. You then add two eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. (This recipe involves a lot of beating, so save time by using an electric mixer!) 

In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 2 1/4 cups of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Combine this alternately with 1/2 cup of orange juice, again beating “very well” after each addition. 

Once the batter is nice and well combined, divide it evenly between two well greased eight inch cake pans. 

(For the record, I finally have another round cake pan! But I didn’t have it when I made this recipe. Just want to make sure my godmother knows I’m not intentionally not using her present!)

The cakes bake at 375 degrees for about thirty minutes. I needed to leave mine in for another five minutes or so, so just watch the cake. Happily, they popped out of the pan pretty easily!

The cakes were a nice yellow color and were somehow both fluffy and a little dense. There were a lot of air bubbles in the cake, which made the slices look pretty interesting if I do say so myself.

It also sliced up into doll sized pieces very easily!

I had some friends over to try it and then brought in the second cake into work. Getting everyone’s feedback was extremely interesting. The citrus flavor was definitely noticeable, but a lot of people didn’t realize it was an orange cake. It actually tasted almost exactly like a lemon poppy seed muffin or cake, but of course without the poppy seeds. A few people assumed that’s exactly what it was before I fessed up and said there was actually orange in it. 

It was a very tasty cake with a nice texture, but I’ve got to say, it really isn’t that sweet. It was definitely more of a muffin than a cake, and needs some kind of frosting or glaze to make it really feel like a dessert versus breakfast item to me. Which hey, that’s fine by me, especially since I was inspired to give it a shot because of Emily’s thoughts on breakfast, but considering it’s in the dessert chapter of Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, I think it bears mentioning that it isn’t super sweet. 

But just like most of the World War II era recipes I’ve given a shot, this was a lot of fun to make and got good reviews from my taste testers. I’d definitely make it again, and think it would be a great accompaniment to a brunch or breakfast get together. If you like citrus cakes, you should give it a shot too!

And be grateful we live in a time where we can get oranges whenever we want!


  1. Is "2 1/4 cups of baking powder and 1/4 cups of salt" a typo? Or is this cake a bit of a chemistry experiment?