Several months ago I was rummaging through the book section at a local thrift store and came across The American Woman’s Cookbook. It is a veritable tome of cooking that holds nearly 900 pages of recipes, meal plans, instructions, descriptions – everything you’d ever want to know.
Let me rephrase that.
Everything you’d ever want to know if you were cooking in the year 1938.
I looked at the $2 price tag, and decided to get it, if nothing else, for comedic value. I had skimmed through and giggled at the section titled “Entertaining without a Maid” (mind you, this was years before Julia Child’s book for “the servantless American cook”). Another thing that caught my attention was the boasting of “color plates”. Imagine color photography being a new technology.
I began reading it the night I brought it home. I was surprised to find a great many recipes that are still relevant today. The large dessert section focuses mainly on cakes, pies, custards, and jellies. The cookie section is a little limited, and there are precious few cupcake recipes.
After a while I became enamored by the dog-eared pages. Whomever this belonged to previously had studied the canning section in great depth. I am hoping to get just as much use out of the dessert section. Who knows. Maybe someday, someone will be browsing a thrift store, find this book and my heavily creased and noted dessert pages.
I’m daydreaming again.
I chose the Sponge Drop recipe as my first selection. The ingredients are simple, and I had everything in my pantry.
Only one problem. I had no idea what a sponge drop was, and no picture to go by. The batter is very similar to a standard sponge cake. Instead of pouring the batter into a jelly-roll pan you drop it by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.
If Sponge Drop making is in your future, here are some tips!
- Use 3 cookie sheets. Drop 4 tablespoons of batter on each sheet. The batter will spread out in a circle. Continue to drop spoons full of the batter, making each of the 12 circles larger until all the batter is used.
- Use parchment paper. Even on a greased cookie sheet the cake will stick a little, and time is of the essence.
- Work quickly after taking these out of the oven. Roll them into cones immediately. If they are allowed to cool the edges become to crisp and break.
- The recipe says to “fill with whipped cream” but does not specify a flavor. I chose to flavor my mixture (heavy cream, sugar) with a little lemon extract. I found that it pairs well with the cake’s lemony flavor. You could also use a store bought whipped creme (such as cool whip or ready whip) in strawberry, chocolate or plain.
A large portion of this book focuses on entertaining, and making food attractive, which is certainly my thing. Unfortunately this book is out of print, but if you are interested in owning a copy, it is available secondhand, online.
I could go on and on about this book, about how it’s published by the makers of Butterick sewing patterns, and about a million other little things that I find so great about it. But I will stop for now. I’m sure I will be sharing other recipes with you from this fabulous relic.