Icing for Cake

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You’ll find this recipe in:
The New Galt Cook Book
Compiled and Edited by: Margaret Taylor and Frances McNaught
Toronto, 1898

Original Recipe:

One cup granulated sugar, one-quarter cup milk. Boil together thee minutes. Stir until it boils, when it is boiling do not stir. Move back and only let it bubble and not burn (for three minutes). Then beat well, put on cake rather thin as it gets hard soon. If not even take a knife wet it in cold water and smooth it over.

My Experience:

The 1898 recipe is rather easy to follow, so I won’t create an entirely new recipe. I will make a few comments, though. Granulated sugar refers to white sugar and it does begin hardening within minutes. I suggest getting all your utensils and your cake/cookies/donuts ready before you begin heating the sugar & milk because you should begin icing ASAP after its done.

When Mrs. Walker instructs us to “move back” the pot after the milk & sugar, she is telling us to move the pot off the area directly above the fire on your wood stove, and off to the back or side of the stove where it is cooler. Changing your pot’s proximity to the fire is how a cook would adjust the temperature. I have a natural gas stove, so I was able to get the same effect just by turning down the flame. If you have a stove that doesn’t change its temperature as abruptly as gas or a wood fire, I suggest starting your pot on one element on high heat, but have a second element on low or medium-low that you can transfer your pot to after the milk & sugar boils.

The recipe says to “beat well” and I probably whisked it for one or two minutes. It became more white and little bit thicker and I wasn’t sure if I had whisked it enough, but it set perfectly. I poured this icing onto my cookies with a spoon. This recipe also suggests: “If not even take a knife wet it in cold water and smooth it over”. I was ready with a knife and a glass of water, but I didn’t need to try this out.

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I wasn’t intending to make this recipe, but the day before I baked some Ammonia Cakes that didn’t have much flavour and I thought could use some extra pizzazz. Both Ammonia Cakes and Icing for Cake are found in the 1898 The New Galt Cookbook, which is a community cookbook compiled not far from where I grew up and where I live today. Icing for Cake is a simple white sugar and milk icing that hardens within minutes and you could drizzle it on cakes, cookies, donuts or squares.

A couple of weeks ago, I prepared the food served at a Victorian Tea held at the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. All of the recipes served came from The New Galt Cookbook and Food Historian Carolyn Blackstock spoke during the Tea about her experience in 2014 when she made a recipe a day for a year from The New Galt Cookbook. Ammonia Cakes were on the menu at the Victorian Tea and I decided to make the recipe for my blog when the museum gave me the leftover baker’s ammonia. Head over to my Ammonia Cakes blog post if you’re curious to find out more about the history of using ammonia as a leavening agent in baking.

One of the fascinating aspects of Carolyn Blackstock’s Cooking with the Galt Cook Book project is that she not only made a recipe a day for a year, but she also did research about the women who submitted the recipes. Many days, she provides details and pictures about that woman’s life, but unfortunately there were too many Mrs. Walkers living in Calgary at that time to find out exactly who submitted the Icing for Cake recipe and why she submitted a recipe all the way from Alberta. If you’d like a different perspective on making this recipe, here’s Carolyn’s blog post about making Icing for Cake.

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Have a look at Carolyn Blackstock’s Cooking with the Galt Cook Book blog project and try out some of the recipes

Read the Cook Book: