The importance of splurging: part two and how to make a cake with your bare hands

This is the second time my husband has requested a strawberry cake. I think it is the long winter that gives him a craving for a summer taste. For his cake, I followed a recipe in a book that my brother and sister-in-law gave me called the Mystery Chef’s Own Cook Book, ©1934.

The author, John MacPherson, had one very good reason for wanting to remain a mystery — his mother. Apparently, she was “horrified” that her son had taken up the hobby of cooking. In fact, she recommended that he “keep it under his hat.” I guess cooking didn’t seem like the thing a man should be doing in the ’30s.

I like two things about this recipe. One, the ingredients were few and simple. Two, he recommends that all the stirring be done with your hands. Not by hand, as in with a wooden spoon, but with your hands. Whether this was a lack of an electric mixer, which were pricey in the 1930s, or his predilection for making a big mess, I couldn’t tell you, but I was intrigued by the idea. I’m no stranger to pushing my sleeves up past my elbows and digging in, so I gave it a try,

Squishing the butter and sugar together was kind of fun. When I added the eggs and milk, it got very sloppy. If you ever decide to go this route, I recommend a few things. First measure all of your ingredients and have them in containers that you can easily pick up with slimy hands. Or have an assistant to dump all the ingredients as you need them. Better yet, find a kid and have them do all of the mixing while you add the ingredients. I think that would be a win-win solution.

I now know that if I find myself with a hot oven, flour, butter, baking soda, eggs, milk, sugar and a bowl, but nary a spoon in site, I can still confidently make a cake. Step aside, I would tell my hapless cohorts; I’ve done this before.

Strawberry Cake

Modified from the Mystery Chef’s Master Butter Cake recipe. If you are too much of a wimp to mix this with your hands, then by all means get the electric mixer out.

Ingredients
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs yolks
1 1/2 cups of sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/2 cup strawberry jam

Method

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans
  • Measure all ingredients and have them ready to use.
  • Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.
  • Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and lemon in color.
  • Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and squeeze the butter with your hands until it is well mixed with the sugar.
  • Add the egg yolks and continue to mix with your hands.
  • Slowly add the flour mix and continue to mix with your hands.
  • Add milk, strawberries and extract and mix some more. It will be a bit runny and you’ll start to question the whole mixing with your hands technique.
  • If you don’t have an assistant, you will have to stop and wash your hands at this point to whip the egg whites. They can’t be whipped before hand. Whip them until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. I found this the hardest part and probably over mixed, which resulted in a cake that didn’t rise as much as I would have liked.
  • Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans. Place pans on the middle rack and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.
  • Spread strawberry jam on one cake layer. Place the other layer on top and frost with strawberry cream-cheese frosting.

Strawberry Cream-Cheese Frosting

I tried mixing this with my hands, but quickly gave up and grabbed my immersion blender.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
8 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons almond extract

Method
Using a hand mixer or immersion blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. If your frosting is runny, either chill until it sets a little or slowly pour it over the cake and allow it to drip down the sides (that is what I did).