February 11, 2015

reading in the kitchen - heart-shaped cakes


With Valentine's Day upon us--and my resolve to try as many Little House recipes still strong--this month I selected heart-shaped  cakes. They're mentioned in Little House on the Prairie, when they appeared inside Laura and Mary's stockings on Christmas morning. Ma must have baked these little cakes with love, which made this treat seem extra fitting this month.

Once again, I turned to The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker for instruction.

The ingredients are few and basic for this dish.


White flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, buttermilk, and lard (or butter in our case). The simplicity of the ingredients makes sense. The Ingalls family lived on the "unsettled" Kansas frontier. The nearest town was a long hike away. In winter, or ever really, Ma and Pa wouldn't have been able to pop out to the store for extra baking ingredients.

(Look for the recipe on pages 200-201 for the full recipe with portions.)

I started by mixing the dry ingredients together.


Then I got my hands dirty by mixing the butter in by hand. Then I made a well...


And poured the buttermilk in it for some more hand-mixing.


Worked together, the dough had a consistency much like pie crust, only a bit stickier and much better smelling (that sugar and nutmeg at work).


As instructed, I rolled the dough into an 8-inch circle, cut it into six wedges, and turned those wedges into hearts.


I placed them on parchment paper (which I'd also oiled down), and placed them in the oven at 425 degrees. That's where this story takes a bit of a downward turn...


In the cookbook, Walker suggest that the outcome of these efforts would be something between a sugar cookie and shortbread. Mine turned out more like a nutmeg-flavored scone. That was burnt.


Yep. After baking for only 12 of the 15 minutes suggested minutes, I detected the scent of burning bread wafting from the oven. In disbelief, I double-checked the temperature and time listed in the cookbook, and my approach had been correct.

I can only guess that ovens today are much hotter than the ones in the 70s and 80s (though I swear the oven in my apartment has to be ancient).

Though the cakes were too crisp for a sprinkling of sugar across the top, when served with apple butter or jam, the cake was actually edible.


Not totally satisfied with how this attempt at heart-shaped cakes turned out, I would like to give this recipe another try. I liked the taste of the dough, and I can only imagine how delicious it would be if it wasn't overcooked.

Better luck next time, I suppose. Thank goodness I'm still rocking the spinster life, otherwise I'd surely have disappointed my would-be Valentine with this dish.


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