Welcome to Lesson 30 of When Sue Began to Cook. We’re working our way through a year’s worth of cooking lessons from the children’s cook book by Louise Bennett Weaver. If this is your first time tuning in, click the book title link to visit Lesson 1. This week Sue makes Sun Drops with her friend Ruth Ann.
Never heard of Sun Drops? Not a surprise. I’ve been reading Twenties recipes for years and this is the first time I’ve heard of them as well. Basically, Sun Drops are cupcakes made with a sponge cake batter. A cake sponge is made from eggs that are separated, with the stiffly beaten egg whites folded in last to give them volume. Many cake recipes from the 1910s through the 1930s were sponge recipes, simply because they required few ingredients, no expensive fats (like butter), and they looked and tasted great when they appeared at the table.
In today’s lesson, Sue learns how to create a cake flour substitute at home instead of buying a box of Swan’s Down. Ingredient storage space was at a premium in Twenties households. So anything that could be whipped up easily as a substitute was welcome, compared to yet another open box. As usual, Sue (or rather, her mother Bettina) has some opinions about the day’s activities:
Sue’s Sun Drops Diary
The Sun Drops looked so good we could hardly wait to try them.
A good sponge cake recipe is a useful thing for a housekeeper to have, Mother says. And she also says that she likes this particular one so much better than any other that this is the only one she uses any more. It doesn’t have to be baked in muffin pans. Very often she makes it in a square cake pan lined with waxed paper. When it’s baked that way, it takes about twenty-five minutes in a moderate oven instead of twenty. [Note: A moderate oven is 350 – 375ºF.]
Sometimes we have sponge cake like this, cut in squares and served with whipped cream, for dessert. Father loves it that way.
Mother says some pleasant day Ruth Ann and I may have a porch party and serve Sun Drops and lemonade for refreshments. They’re fine for an afternoon party or tea, Mother says.
Ruth Ann and I are feeling like grownup cooks today. We’ve learned to make sponge cake!
- 4 eggs
- 3 Tbsp cold water
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 7/8 cup all purpose flour (a full cup minus two tablespoons)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp salt
- We took four eggs and separate them. We put the yolks into one bowl and the whites in another. Then we beat the egg yolks until they are light and lemon colored. We measured the cold water and lemon extract into the egg yolks, and then added sugar little by little, stirring all the time until it was all added.
- Then we measured out one cup of flour. We took two tablespoons of the flour from the cup. This left exactly 7/8 of a cup. Mother had us add the cornstarch and put it in the cup with the flour. This makes a level cup again. [Note: What you are doing here is making cake flour from regular all purpose flour. This is a great process to memorize, because Twenties recipes used a lot of cake flour!]
- Then we measured out the baking powder and the salt and carefully piled them on top of the flour and cornstarch. We sifted the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda right into the egg yolk mixture. Then we stirred it up very gently but thoroughly.
- Next we beat up the egg whites until they were very stiff. After they were stiff we let them stand in the bowl for one minute. We emptied the egg whites into the other things and folded them in with a knife. They ought not to be beaten in, but they have to be mixed, so folding them over and over gently with the flat side of a knife is the best way.
- We greased a muffin pan and then added a little flour to each compartment and shook it around so the pans would be both greased and floured. Then we dropped cake batter in the little compartments with a spoon, filling them about two-thirds full. We had already lighted the oven and it was warm. We baked the little sun drops in a moderate oven (350℉) for about twenty minutes. When they were dont they were a lovely golden brown color.
- Mother told us not to take them out of the pans right away, but to let them stand for five minutes to cool. Then we helped them out very gently.