Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Sun Drops

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!


Sun Drops

Sponge cake cupcakes from When Sue Began to Cook, by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dessert, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, cake, Ruth Ann, sponge, Sue


  • 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
  • tsp baking powder
  • 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.
Gluten Free Adaptations · The Vintage Kitchen

Many Layered Jam Cake

Multi-layered oval cake on a blue plate. The top is covered in powdered sugar.
A 1929 recipe for Many Layered Jam Cake. This will become your new favorite!

The Many Layered Jam Cake is one rich cake. After trying it once, this recipe goes into my permanent rotation for entertaining. A bit more involved than an everyday cake, Many Layered Jam Cake definitely tastes like more than a sum of its parts. This is a delicious, decadent cake for your next vintage gathering.

The original 1920s recipe called for two different types of marmalade. It didn’t mean sweet orange marmalade and another sweet orange marmalade. This recipe calls for orange marmalade and lemon marmalade. Or maybe orange and lime. Even a sweet orange and a tart orange would be good.

Cake on plate with two small pieces cut off the end. The small pieces sit on a smaller plate next to the cake.
Look at that rich deliciousness!

In search of marmalade…

I couldn’t find any of that locally. My area sells sweet orange marmalade. Period. While I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, I also don’t reside in a large metropolis. But the three groceries I checked all offered sweet orange marmalade and nothing else.

If you want to try this with other flavors, you may be reduced to making your own marmalade. Any citrus fruit can be turned into marmalade. Oranges, lemons, limes, even grapefruit marmalade can be successful. Here’s a recipe for Meyer Lemon Marmalade by the Ball Company. The Ball Company that makes canning jars. They know a thing or two about canning recipes, and their Blue Book is legendary. I own two copies. But I digress.

Two oval cake pans sit on a cake cooking rack. Each pan holds a very small amount of unbaked batter.
Cake pans ready to go into the oven. Each one held 1/2 cup of batter.

Without any other options, I made the cake with just sweet orange marmalade. And Oh. My. I won’t say that I saw taste testers fighting over the cake when we did the original tasting. But I can say that every time I looked in the refrigerator a little more of it was missing. Even the Resident Fruit Hater at my house loved it. 

Ingredient substitutions

I made the Many Layered Jam Cake with gluten free flour because that’s what I have to use. The original recipe was written for ordinary cake flour. (To substitute regular flour for cake flour you simply measure a cup and then remove 2 tablespoons of flour from the measuring cup. Then, if you like, stir in 2 Tablespoons cornstarch to make up your full cup of flour.)

This cake is baked in layers. I used a 1/2 cup measure and ended up with seven very thin layers that baked in 12 – 14 minutes apiece. Once baked, I flipped them out of the pan and let them cool. And you know what? Cake layers that are only 1/4-inch thick cool really quickly. In less than half an hour after baking all the layers I was ready to assemble the cake.

Loose and fluffy

I used wax paper in the bottom of the pans to make removal easy. Changing the paper lining with each layer works best. Or simply grease and flour your pans really well so the layers don’t stick.

One thin oval of white cake covered with orange marmalade. This is a Many Layered Jam Cake in process.
Bottom cake layer with a thin coating of marmalade. Ready for the next layer.

Confession: the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder. I swear I don’t remember putting that in. If you use the baking powder, your layers will probably rise a bit more than mine did, and taste less dense. Either way, this Many Layered Jam Cake is amazing.

Using only one type of marmalade, it took most of a jar to assemble the seven layers. A thin spread of marmalade goes between each layer. Then top the assembled cake with a nice sprinkle of powdered sugar. It’s so rich that it doesn’t need more than that. Icing would not only be overkill, but it would dull the citrus flavors of the rest of the cake.

If the weather’s warm, enjoy your cake with a nice glass of iced coffee. I wrote about iced coffee in the 1920s in this blog post.

Many Layered Jam Cake

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Cooling and assembly30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 50 minutes
Course: Dessert, Tea time
Servings: 6 people


  • Electric mixer
  • 8-inch cake pans
  • cooling rack


  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • cups cake flour works fine with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 baking flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp lemon peel, grated
  • 1 jar marmalade or two kinds if you can find them
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar you won't use it all; this is to spinkle on the cake top. I used about a tablespoon in a tea strainer.


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare two round or oval cake pans. (The small oval cake pans in the photo are made by Wilton and available to go with their Level 2 or Level 3 cake decorating class materials.) Either grease and flour the pans liberally, or cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan, grease the bottom of the pan lightly, stick the paper to the pan, and then grease the paper.
  • Stir the flour and the baking powder together in a small bowl.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and add the sugar, unbeaten eggs, flour/baking powder mixture, and the lemon peel. Mix together slowly for one minute, and then beat on medium speed for two minutes. The mixture should turn a light yellow.
  • Place 1/2 cup of the cake mixture into each pan, and smooth it down until it forms an even layer. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until done.
  • After you remove the cake layers from the oven, let them rest a minute and then loosen them with a metal spatula or something similar (don't use a rubber spatula that will melt from the heat). Turn each layer carefully onto a cooling surface like a cake cooling rack. Let them cool for 20 minutes or so.
  • Repeat the baking and cooling until you are out of batter. You should get 6 – 8 layers. I got seven, with the last layer a bit thicker than the others. I used it as the bottom layer to provide stability.
  • Once your layers are cool, assemble them. Between each layer, spread a thin layer of marmalade. If you have two types of marmalade, alternate flavors with each layer. Top your cake with a healthy sprinkle of powdered sugar. Refrigerate until needed, and then let it come back to room temperature before cutting.
The Vintage Kitchen

Sweet and Savory Tea Sandwiches

Plate of sandwiches. Each sandwich is cut 1 inch by 4 inches, and they radiate out from the center of the plate.
Sweet sandwiches filled with flavored cream cheese or marmalade.

Sometimes you want to serve something unusual that doesn’t take three days to make. These Sweet and Savory Tea Sandwiches offer four options for quickly made, tasty sandwiches. Serve them at your next vintage-style small gathering or formal tea. And if you’ve never hosted a formal tea but always wanted to, these sandwiches will start you off.

Paging through a Twenties magazine one day, I came across the recipe for these sandwiches. It was only a paragraph, tucked into a longer article, but they intrigued me. I liked the idea of sandwiches that didn’t include watercress and cucumber! Plus, sweet sandwiches proved very popular in the Twenties. It was time I tried them myself.

Small chicken salad sandwiches arranged on a round plate.
Savory chicken salad sandwiches on home made dinner rolls. Yummy!

Warm Weather Sandwiches

Designed for warmer weather, these light tidbits are cool and easy to eat. You could certainly serve them in the dead of winter as well, but you might want to pair them with something heavy like chocolate brownies or a fluffy cake for dessert.

One of the things I liked best about these sandwiches was that they sounded easy. I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen, but it’s nice to find those recipes that taste special but go together fast.

These Sweet and Savory Tea Sandwiches use cream cheese, a spicy pepper jelly, honey, and pecans –– not all together! Other sandwiches use marmalade as a filling. Then to balance out all that cream cheese you make simple chicken salad sandwiches served on dinner rolls as a savory option.

A stack of square sandwich bread slices nestled next to three small bowls of sandwich fillings. One bowl is white with brown specks, one is a light orange, and the third is a deep orange marmalade.
Three fillings ready to be made into tasty tea sandwiches.

Twenties Fast Food

Really, for as much time as the Twenties cook spent in the kitchen, these quick sandwiches are equivalent to fast food. I used a mix and made my own dinner rolls, since I need to eat gluten free. However, if I bought the rolls and the sandwich bread, I could throw these together for any party almost at a moment’s notice. 

My sandwich bread was pretty small, as gluten free bread tends to be, and I used about 1 ounce of cream cheese plus added flavors per sandwich. So from eight ounces of cream cheese and its mix-ins, plus 1/2 cup of marmalade, I could easily get a total of 9 sandwiches that I then cut into one-inch wide strips. Actually, since I was feeding only three of us, I made one of each type plus several chicken salad rolls. And I had plenty of the fillings left for another round.

If you use Parker-House size dinner rolls, you should be able to get six chicken sandwiches from the amounts I list in the recipe. If your dinner rolls are larger, you may want to double the recipe if you need half a dozen sandwiches.

A small bowl of chicken salad next to a plate of three dinner rolls.
Twenties chicken salad is very simple. Mixed and ready to fill those little rolls.

Assuming you plan to feed 3-6 people, I give you recipes that start with 1/2 cup of cream cheese or marmalade. After all, a party of two can be fun, but it’s a pretty small party. If you find that you have leftovers, they’re still tasty the next day. Store them in the refrigerator.

And if you want to add some 1952 munchies to your party, try the original Chex Mix Recipe. You can find it here.

Sweet and Savory Tea Sandwiches

Brighten your next gathering with these sweet and a little bit spicy tea sandwiches in three flavors.
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Luncheon, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: VintageJenny


  • small bowl for mixing ingredients


  • 18 slices white bread
  • 6 small dinner rolls

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Filling

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp hot pepper jelly or spread I used Meijer brand

Sweet Pecan and Honey Filling

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp honey

Marmalade Filling

  • ½ cup orange marmalade

Savory Chicken Salad Filling

  • 1 chicken breast, cooked
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise or more as you prefer
  • tsp salt
  • tsp pepper


  • Remove the crusts from the bread slices. It's easier to trim the crusts before you make the sandwiches. Then stack the slices in pairs so they match. (If you like, transfer the crusts to your favorite freezer container and freeze them. You can use them for croutons, bread pudding, or something else later.)
  • Slice the dinner rolls horizontally to make small sandwich buns. Set them aside.
  • To make the Sweet and Spicy Pepper Filling: Mix the cream cheese and the pepper spread/jelly in the bowl with a cooking spoon until completely combined. Spread the filling on three slices of bread, top with three slices, and set them aside. If you have any filling left, transfer it to a small container for the refrigerator. Wash your small mixing bowl.
  • To make the Sweet Pecan and Honey Filling: Mix the chopped pecans and honey with the cream cheese in the mixing bowl until completely combined. Spread the filling on three slices of bread, top with three slices, and set them aside. If you have any filling left, transfer it to a small container for the refrigerator. Wash your small mixing bowl.
  • To make the Marmalade Filling: Spread the marmalade on three slices of bread, top with three slices, and set them aside.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Then cut each sandwich into 1-inch slices and arrange on a serving plate.

To Make the Chicken Salad Filling

  • Mince the cooked chicken breast. You should have about one to one and a half cups of minced chicken. Place the minced chicken in the mixing bowl.
  • Trim the celery and mince it. Add it to the chicken.
  • Stir in the mayonnaise.
  • Add the salt and pepper. You can add more or less than the amount listed, to taste.
  • Spread the chicken salad onto the lower half of the dinner roll, and top with its top half.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. These sandwiches are best assembled right before serving.