India Cake

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.

Economical Old-Fashioned Loaf Cake

In an article that appeared in an 1871 edition of Southern Farm and Home, Mrs. A.T. Conyers of Georgia gives housewives newly come down in the world tips and tricks for dealing with the trials and tribulations of poverty. She encourages these beleaguered women to take over the work of the household in order to save on servants’ wages. “By doing her work she would feel an interest in saving,” she writes, “and would prevent that useless waste that so often occurs with servants.”

Mrs. Conyers adamantly opposes waste of all kinds. “However wealthy she [the housewife] may be, the poor are too numerous, food for them too scarce to scarce to suffer anything to be wasted. This is frequently done by carelessly allowing cold dishes to accumulate until they are ruined by mould. This is altogether unnecessary, as many dishes can be redressed to advantage.” She then offers the following advice:

Cold meat, for instance, by sprinkling a little salt over it, warming gradually, and serving with gravy, can be made almost as palatable as when fresh cooked. Any kind of bread by keeping it in a tight place from the air, when wanted, placing it in a cold oven or stove, and heating it slowly, will be as good and far healthier than new. Cold bread can also be used in making puddings, etc.

This recipe for old-fashioned loaf cake from the 1883 Dixie Cook-Book, which one reviewer claimed as “the very best and most economical of all cook books,” would likely please Mrs. A.T. Conyers. (Just make sure to do justice to the leftovers.)

Old-Fashioned Loaf Cake

Three pounds (three quarts sifted and well heaped) flour, one and a fourth pounds (a rounded pint of soft) butter, one and three-fourths pounds (one quart) sugar, five gills new milk, half pint yeast, three eggs, two pounds raisins, tea-spoon soda, gill of brandy or wine, or a fourth pint of molasses, two tea-spoons cinnamon and two of nutmeg, scald the milk, cool to blood warm, add the yeast, then the flour, to which all the butter and half the sugar have been added; then mix together, and let rise until light. It is better to set this sponge over night, and in the morning add the other ingredients (flouring raisins), and let rise again. When light, fill baking pans and let rise again. Bake in a moderate oven. This recipe makes three large loaves, and is a standard, economical loaf-cake.

Little-Tin Pound Cakes for Invalids

Mary Hedley Scudder champions the ill and infirm in her 1902 article “After Christmas — What?” These people, she insists, suffer the most from the dreary, uninteresting months following the holiday season.

“Somewhere there is an invalid whose days drag heavily, even though tenderness has guarded each hour,” Scudder writes, “and she has only Christmas memories.” Scudder recommends that her readership do more for such pitiable souls:

It may be you have only a few flowers, or a single rose, and it seems so small to give, but it may help a trying hour — who knows? One day there may be a dainty to send, a cup of soup, a pretty cake, baked as for a child in a ‘patty pan;’ something will always be ready if the invalid is in mind every day.


Scudder is of the opinion that tiny loaves of bread and tiny cakes bring the most delight to infirm young girls or women. “I know a woman who has a tiny bread tin, and a biscuit pan for just such cases,” she writes. “Why can you not do likewise?”

Why not, indeed? Here is a recipe for “pound cake for little tins” from a Boston Cooking School advertisement for baking tins found in the August–September, 1914 edition of American Cookery.

Pound Cake for Little Tins

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon brandy or milk
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoonful baking powder (level)
1/4 teaspoon mace
2 egg whites

Put a little of the mixture in the center of each tin; the heat of the oven will cause it to run and fill the tins. [Make sure to use a cake tin that bakes about 12 little cakes.] The recipe makes about sixty little cakes. Spread confectioner’s icing on the top or leave plain.