In all cake-making, see that every thing is ready to your hand,—pans buttered, or papered if necessary; flour sifted; all spices and other materials on your working-table; and the fire in good order.
No matter how plain the cake, there is a certain order in mixing, which, if followed, produces the best result from the materials used; and this order is easily reduced to rules.
First, always cream the butter; that is, stir it till light and creamy. If very cold, heat the bowl a little, but never enough to melt, only to soften the butter.
Second, add the sugar to the butter, and mix thoroughly.
Third, if eggs are used, beat yolks and whites separately for a delicate cake; add yolks to sugar and butter, and beat together a minute. For a plain cake, beat yolks and whites together (a Dover egg-beater doing this better than any thing else can), and add to butter and sugar.
Fourth, if milk is used, add this.
Fifth, stir in the measure of flour little by little, and beat smooth.
Flavoring may be added at any time. If dry spices are used, mix them with the sugar. Always sift baking powder with the flour. If soda and cream of tartar are used, sift the cream of tartar with the flour, and dissolve the soda in a little milk or warm water. For very delicate cakes, powdered sugar is best. For gingerbreads and small cakes or cookies, light brown answers.
Where fruit cake is to be made, raisins should be stoned and chopped, and currants washed and dried, the day beforehand. A cup of currants being a nice and inexpensive addition to buns or any plain cake, it is well to prepare several pounds at once, drying thoroughly, and keeping in glass jars. Being the very dirtiest article known to the storeroom, currants require at least three washings in warm water, rubbing them well in the hands. Then spread them out on a towel, and proceed to pick out all the sticks, grit, small stones, and legs and wings to be found; then put the fruit into a slow oven, and dry it carefully, that none may scorch.
In baking, a moderate oven is one in which a teaspoonful of flour will brown while you count thirty; a quick one, where but twelve can be counted.
The "cup" used in all these receipts is the ordinary kitchen cup, holding half a pint. The measures of flour are, in all cases, of sifted flour, which can be sifted by the quantity, and kept in a wooden pail. "Prepared flour" is especially nice for doughnuts and plain cakes. No great variety of receipts is given, as every family is sure to have one enthusiastic cake-maker who gleans from all sources; and this book aims to give fuller space to substantials than to sweets. Half the energy spent by many housekeepers upon cake would insure the perfect bread, which, nine times out of ten, is not found upon their tables, and success in which they count an impossibility. If cake is to be made, however, let it be done in the most perfect way; seeing only that bread is first irreproachable.