Little Chocolate Cakes by Hildagonda Duckitt

Hildagonda Duckitt: The Diary of a Cape Housekeeper, is a fascinating book – a picture of life in the Cape, South Africa, at the turn of the 20C. I want to try her Little Chocolate Cakes, but will they ‘work’? I wondered how Shirley O Corriher‘s theories would apply to the recipes.

Little Chocolate Cakes (Mrs Drummond Hay’s recipe)
6 ozs butter
6 ozs fine white sugar
2 well-beaten eggs
8 ozs fine flour
4 ozs grated chocolate
A pinch of baking powder (elsewhere this means a saltspoon)
Vanilla flavouring

Cream the butter then add the remaining ingredients and mix all well together. Butter about a dozen little tins and pour in the mixture. Bake in a quick oven and turn out carefully on a sieve to cool.

‘Flour and eggs contain the proteins that set to hold the cake’, says Shirley, while ‘sugar and fat make the cake tender and moist [by weakening the structure]..’. In ‘regular’ or ‘lean’ cakes the ratios are:

  • sugar = or < flour, i.e. 6 ozs sugar < 8 ozs flour is OK
  • eggs = or > fat, i.e. c.4 ozs eggs < 6 ozs butter is not OK, and I should use 3 large eggs which will be c.6 ozs
  • weight of liquid including eggs = sugar, i.e. > 6 ozs sugar is OK

There are two problems, however:

  • Generally one adds 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup (4 ozs) of flour, which means 1 teaspoons baking powder in this recipe
  • What was the block chocolate which Hilda grated? And could I substitute cocoa powder?

I need to investigate further before I am ready to bake! And I would like to produce the results in the photograph above. It would also be good to identify Mrs Drummond-Hay…

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