India Cake

vintage ad for Burnett's almond extract

A 1916 advertisement for Burnett’s Almond Extract features a delightful, and economical, recipe for India Cake. Why economical? Because Burnett’s claims its economy comes from “its purity and strength,” which are effects of the fact that “one 2 oz. bottle of Burnett’s Almond gives more flavor than 5 ordinary 10c bottles of inferior or imitation extracts.”

The Joseph Burnett Company was incorporated in 1895 and quickly came to dominate the market in high-quality extracts. The company’s manufacturing headquarters was located in South Boston, and the beautifully restored factory that churned out extracts for worldwide distribution can still be seen today.

Though Joseph Burnett’s superior almond extract did not survive much beyond the mid-twentieth century, you can still make his famous cake by following the recipe below. Just make sure to use an almond extract just as pure and strong!

India Cake

Cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 cups sugar. Add 3 eggs, whites and yolks beaten separately and then together. Add 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoonful soda and 2 of cream of tartar. Add 1 cup milk and 1 scant teaspoonful of Burnett’s Almond. Bake in a slow oven, and frost.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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