An early area of settlement on the European mainland was in the region now known as Holstein, which is where our favorite dairy cow originates. History says the first Holstein in this country was purchased from a ship that landed in Boston in 1852. It had supplied the crew with fresh milk for the voyage from Europe — a three-month trip some of my ancestors survived to come here.
While I work on my ancestry tree, it is the stories that interest me. And if I can’t find any historical rendering of what these emigrants went through arriving on these shores, I imagine a history for them. Because most of my English ancestors were farmers on the early census records, I imagine them trekking from their port of entry in New York all the way to Wisconsin with a couple of Holsteins in tow.
They wouldn’t have made anything fancy like cake on the way here, but once they arrived, I imagine making all those dishes from the homeland. Cake would have been a luxury for sure.
Early Saxons offered small cakes to their gods during February, which they called Solmonath, meaning “cake month.”
So, this week, with a nod to my ancestors, genealogy and the month of Solmonath, I’ve included some easy, make-it-from-scratch cake recipes using milk that comes from those Holsteins.
Hot milk cake
Hot milk cake is an old-fashioned treat that is sweet enough with just a scoop of fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or pair it with the icing of your choice.
This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour collection and originated from Atlanta’s Watershed on Peachtree restaurant.
Use unbleached all-purpose flour.
Makes a 9-by-13-inch cake pan or 12 muffins.
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbsps. butter
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch cake pan.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until they’re light and fluffy, about two minutes at medium-high speed using an electric or stand mixer.
Slowly beat in the canola oil.
Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder, then add to the egg mixture in the bowl. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat again.
In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter and milk just to a boil. Add the vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture until the butter is completely melted.
Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the cake batter, mixing until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly, just until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top feels set. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.
Serve in squares as is or top with icing or sauce. If you use caramel sauce, a sprinkle of flaked sea salt is a wonderful addition.
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a sauce pan. Whisk while you cook over medium heat for seven to eight minutes, add vanilla and cook another minute. Remove from heat and let cool before pouring over cake or ice cream.