Tag Archives: Sally Lunn Cake

A Diet of Doughnuts

26 Jan

One of the interesting things about reading Isabella’s books is the window they give us into how people lived between 1870 and 1920. From fashion to modes of travel, Isabella’s stories chronicle how different her daily life was from our modern lives today.

Donuts-Crisco ad 1915

One noted difference is how people ate around the turn of the 20th Century. Back then meat, vegetables and potatoes were diet staples; and when one of those ingredients was lacking, people relied on affordable food, like johnny-cakes, to fill their stomachs. Sally Lunn cakes helped celebrate special occasions; but of all the foods that Isabella mentioned in her books, it was the humble doughnut that appeared on the menu most often.

Donut lard ad-Boston Cooking School Magazine 1913

Because they were small and easily transported, children took doughnuts to school for their noon meal. When Wayne Pierson took the job of teacher in a small town in By Way of the Wilderness, he toured the school-house and found it somewhat lacking:

He had taken in each dismal detail—the air of desolation, the hacked desks, the smoky walls, the grimy windows, and the indescribable odor adhering to an old schoolroom: odors made up of generations of lunches—bread-and-butter, and headcheese, pie, and doughnuts.

Donuts 1916 Crisco ad

And in A New Graft on the Family Tree, a kind farmer’s wife fed wandering John Morgan breakfast, then gave him a pocket-full of doughnuts to take along on his journey.

Dusted with sugar, doughnuts were also served as a dessert.

Scott Towels ad 1915

 

In Christie’s Christmas, a generous farm family fed the passengers on the nearby stalled train with:

Bread and butter, piles of it; a soup-plate piled high with slices of ham, thin, and done to a crisp, and smelling, oh, so appetizing! Sheets of gingerbread, great squares of cheese, a bowl of doughnuts, another bowl of quince sauce, and a pail full of milk.

Ad 1919

And in David Ransom’s Watch, Hannah Sterns served the neighborhood boys’ literary club “doughnuts, or cookies, or seed cakes, or the ever popular tea-cakes. Scarcely a meeting of the club that winter but some dainty was offered in Harlan’s name in the way of refreshment.”

At Ermina’s wedding in Household Puzzles, the family couldn’t afford to serve cake, but they had doughnuts and “delicious coffee to drink with them.”

Donut making illustration Good Housekeeping Jan 1907

Today we think of doughnuts as a breakfast food for the most part, but in Isabella’s time, doughnuts—from humble and plain to cake-like confections—were served with almost any meal.

You can read previous posts about other food items mentioned in Isabella’s books:

Delicious Johnny-cakes
Sally Lunn at Mount Vernon

Sally Lunn at Mount Hermon

10 Feb

In The Browns at Mount Hermon, Mrs. Roberts was overjoyed when her most fervent prayer was answered—her daughter, Ailene gave herself to the Lord. Mrs. Roberts wanted to celebrate the blessing in the best way she knew how: by preparing a special breakfast for everyone to enjoy.

Illustration of woman reading a recipe.“Oh, well, we won’t mind if we don’t have muffins for breakfast tomorrow morning. What does it matter what we have to eat? Yes, it does, it matters a great deal. We want the best breakfast tomorrow morning that was ever had in this house. I should like to feed everybody on roses! Though after all, I don’t suppose they would like them to eat half so well as they do muffins. Or Sally Lunn; I’ll have Sally Lunn tomorrow, whole sheets of it. Mr. Brown says nothing was ever better to eat than my Sally Lunn; and Ailene likes it better than anything else; I wonder I didn’t think of it the first thing. Oh, Mary Brown! I’m that happy tonight over the child, that it is a wonder I can think of anything to eat! I feel as though I could fly, without wings. Don’t you think she’s settled it! She belongs to the Lord!”

Sally Lunn was a type of cake that originated in England; and there are American versions of the Sally Lunn recipe in cook books dating back to early 1800s. By 1907, when The Browns at Mount Hermon was written, Sally Lunn had become a favorite pastry on American tables, too.

Henry's Cook Book and Household Companion (1883)

Henry’s Cook Book and Household Companion (1883)

There were as many versions of Sally Lunn as there were cooks; but, in general, Sally Lunn was a rather dense cake, much like sponge cake, that could be baked in a variety of ways.

For breakfast, it was usually made up in loaves, then served toasted and spread with butter.

from The Winston Cook Book by Helen Cramp (1913)

A Sally Lunn cake, pictured in The Winston Cook Book by Helen Cramp (1913)

It was also baked in muffin tins and served as tea-cakes with honey, fruit jelly, or sweet sauce.

Black and white photo of three individual cakes arranged on a plate.

Sally Lunn tea cakes. From Good Housekeeping magazine, 1907

If you made several sheets of Sally Lunn, as Mrs. Roberts planned to do, and it happened to go stale because you didn’t eat it fast enough, never fear. A 1903 edition of The Epicure magazine recommended cutting stale Sally Lunn cake into small slices or shapes, soaking then in a thin custard, and frying them in clarified butter. Sprinkle the top with sugar, and “you had very good Beignets.”

Here’s a recipe from 1913 that may have been close to the recipe Mrs. Roberts followed for her Sally Lunn cake:

Recipe Sally Lunn Cake

Click on the image to see a larger version you can print out.

You can learn more about the history of Sally Lunn cake. Click here to read a post at Smithsonian.com about Sally Lunn cake.


Cover_The Browns at Mount HermonClick on the book cover to find out more about The Browns at Mount Hermon.

 

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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