June 24, 2014

The Right Way to Cut a Cake

There's been a trend lately where random people on the internet like to tell you've been doing 'X' wrong all of these years and there's some revolutionary trick to it that you've been missing. Some people have dubbed these "life hacks" but I've seen a lot of these and tend to think a better descriptor might be "solutions to problems you didn't even know you had."

 For instance, people on my facebook newsfeed alerted me that I have been cutting cherry tomatoes wrong all of this time. The technique may look fancy, but in reality it would probably take me a lot less time just to cut them by hand, using a smaller knife and it is very unlikely I'd ever use this technique.

But recently I saw a video about Sir Francis Galton's theory on the most efficient way to cut a cake using scientific principles. Apparently this was a personal problem, as he and his niece shared a small cake every few days. It seems like a viable solution in a time before plastic wrap.

Galton is known as one of the fathers of race eugenics but is also responsible for a number of brilliant inventions such as the modern fingerprinting system. He was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin and inspired by his work. I doubt he had any idea that his cake theory would make such a stir 100 years after he published it. 

June 20, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 23

This week has been a little strange for me. We are in between managers at one of my jobs so things have been a little abnormal around here. One fantastic thing is that I had more time off than I normally do. I want to take a moment to thank everyone for all the nice emails I've been receiving due to the Historical Food Fortnightly and other recent posts. It is so fantastic to have such awesome and supportive readers.


My family got a dog named Gibbs. I'm really not used to puppy rambunctiousness.


I have never done a cake like this before but think it turned out nice. I liked their concept.  It was for a bridal shower.


Helped Andy look at cars. He's still trying to replace his car after that accident. We were supposed to take a friend to the airport up there but they ended up taking an earlier flight so we killed some time at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. It's a smaller zoo but has one really neat thing that the zoos around here don't have: American Bison! 

Had a large quantity of of spoiled cream. Turned into nice butter.


Did you all see that national proclamation from the president?  I celebrated the newly formed national day of making by attending "National Day of Making--Afternoon in the Park" with Barrel of Makers.

We drew the scenery, played with some ducks and had a wonderful picnic style dinner.

Another week passed! I can't believe how fast this year has flown. 

June 16, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: 1700s Mushroom Ketchup

1700s Ketchup Recipe. In the 1700s tomatoes were eaten infrequently, ketchup was made from walnuts or mushrooms! Click for the colonial recipe: http://worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com/2014/06/historical-food-fortnightly-1700s.html | World Turn'd Upside Down

I'm very excited for challenge 2 of the Historical Food Fortnightly. It was so much fun seeing all of the delicious dishes from the first challenge. If you haven't seen them, there's an awesome facebook group where all of the photos are posted. 

The Challenge: Soups and Sauces June 15 - June 28
Soups, stews, sauces, gravies! Make a soup or a sauce from a historical recipe.

The Recipe:

Colonial Recipe Mushroom Ketchup

Mushroom ketchup was something I've been wanting to make for a long time. I love the fact that this was a common sauce so different from the ketchup we use today. In the early 1700s, ketchup was introduced to English explorers by the people of Singapore and Malaysia. Originally a sauce for fish, ketchup was made out of walnuts, oysters or mushrooms and was similar to soy sauce. The English expanded the use of the sauce and it became popular for fish and meat dishes. 

The Date/Year and Region: 1796 London

Historic Foodways

How Did You Make It:


- 16 oz Mushrooms, chopped
- Handful of Salt
- 5 Shallots, chopped in large pieces, stuck with cloves
- Small knot of Fresh Ginger, chopped
- 2 Garclic cloves, chopped
- Few pieces of Mace
- Bay Leaf


Clean mushrooms by wiping the tops with a cloth, rinsing them will dilute the ketchup. Place in a stewpan on low heat with the salt until there is a good deal of liquid, be sure to cover the pan. Remove from heat, let cool and strain the mushrooms using a cloth. Squeeze out the remaining juice. Put the juice back on the burner and add the shallots, garlic, mace, bay leaf, ginger  and boil the mixture for a minute and then turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Drain again and bottle.  

Time to Complete: 

About an hour. If I was to do this again I would let the mushrooms steep before cooking for a night or two like some other recipes suggest.  

Total Cost: About $8.00 but would have been much cheaper if I had had time to go to the produce market instead of the grocery store.

How Successful Was It?: This tasted much better than I thought it would. I'm actually confused as to why this went out of style. It's delicious. 

How Accurate Is It?:  Fairly accurate. I ended up just adding all of the ingredients at the beginning and stewed and strained them together. I also covered the pot although the instructions didn't specify so this may be thinner than intended, although when checked with other sources and recipes, it seems that mushroom ketchup was liquidy and mushroom gravy was thicker.

Colonial Recipe Mushroom Ketchup

June 13, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 22

This is a very nature oriented post. I spent a lot of time outside, even though we've had a lot of rain. I suggest everyone get out at least a little bit these next few days. I've been trying to get together all of the stuff I need for the next Historical Food Fortnightly challenge.   


It's my birthday so Andy and I took a walk in the park. We only had a few minutes before it was going to be dark and rainy but the clouds were very beautiful.

Some visiting horses came to the farm to plow the fields as one of our horses is to old to plow and the other is just learning.  This was very cool to see.


Under the crab apple trees. Can't wait to try to make crab apple cider in the fall.


Experimenting with my camera.



These storms are starting to become a regular thing.

June 8, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 21

I hope everyone had a great week. The weather has been amazing. I can't believe that it is June already. 



The baskets at work are being filled with summer produce. 


I got to work today and noticed that I forgot a memory card for my camera, so of course I wanted to take photos of everything.

Lent a hand putting a boom up on Gazela and rearranging a few things. 


The ox acting goofy while penned up. The cow is about to give birth soon.


I have the cutest little bunny living in my back yard.

Took a walk on the grounds of Rockwood Manor and looked at the unique trees.

June 4, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly-Literary Foods: Anne of Green Gables Nut Cake

I am excited to be taking part in the Historical Food Fortnightly! If you haven't heard about it, go over and check it out.

The Challenge: "Literary Foods June 1 - June 14 "Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item."

For this challenge, I decided to make the nut cake with pink icing and walnuts from Anne of Avonlea. It was a hard decision, I was considering making something from Les Miserables or Wuthering Heights as they were both books where food played a major role in the plot.  But I Love the Anne of Green Gables series and wanted to make this cake a few years back but hadn't gotten around to it.

In Anne of Avonlea, Anne accidentally sells the wrong cow for  Mr. Harrison's and offers him a cake she baked to apologize.

"Poor Anne got her hat and her twenty dollars and was passing out when she happened to glance through the open pantry door. On the table reposed a nut cake which she had baked that morning. . .a particularly toothsome concoction iced with pink icing and adorned with walnuts. Anne had intended it for Friday evening, when the youth of Avonlea were to meet at Green Gables to organize the Improvement Society. But what were they compared to the justly offended Mr. Harrison? Anne thought that cake ought to soften the heart of any man, especially one who had to do his own cooking, and she promptly popped it into a box. She would take it to Mr. Harrison as a peace offering."

The Recipe:

The Date/Year and Region: 1902, Northeast US

How Did You Make It: 


- 1/2 Cup Butter
- 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
- 3/4 Cup Milk
- 2 Cups Sifted Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder (Rollings Reliable Recommended)
- 4 Egg Whites, beaten stiff
- 1 Cup Hickory Nuts, ground 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the Baking Powder and the Flour together in a medium sized mixing bowl, add the ground nuts. In a separate bowl, cream the Butter into the Sugar add the Milk. When thoroughly mixed add the Butter mixture into the Flour mixture and add the Egg Whites. Grease and Flour 2 9 inch loaf pans. Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

For the glaze: Mix 1 1/2 Cups of Powdered Sugar with a Tablespoon of Vanilla and enough hot Water to form a stiff paste. Spread on the cake once cooled.

Time to Complete: 1 1/2 Hours with baking time included.

Total Cost:  I already had flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, food coloring, and eggs on hand. I had to buy the walnuts, butter and powdered sugar, which came to about $8.00.

How Successful Was It?: It looked good and tasted better than I thought it would. The cake is dense but the sugar frosting made it very tasty. "Toothsome" was the word for this.

How Accurate Is It?: I did not use hickory nuts as they are impossible to find in stores and the trees here don't have nuts yet. I substituted walnuts instead.  

I had a lot of fun making this and can't wait to see what everyone else is making.  

June 2, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 20

This week was very tiring. The last thing I wanted to do was take photos. Everyone at my one job got sick right in a row and then a few people at my other job did. Not sure if we all had the same thing as the symptoms varied. I've never been sick so frequently as I have been this year. All I know is that I am constantly tired and just want to curl up in bed the second I get home from work. 

I have been told by other bloggers that the blog party is now a year old. So it is. I'm always so excited when I realize just how much happens in one year. I am ecstatic that so many people are still participating and following after all of this time.  


Finally got some blog related historical cooking done.



My life is full of apples, fruit tarts and cakes.


Art day!

 I guess I shouldn't exclude some mundane parts of my life, like cleaning. :)


 Sometimes the bakery looks like a horror movie.


Taught English country dancing up near the wagon barn which is currently full of woodworking tools.


Made a huge cake for a dog's first birthday. There was enough cake here to feed at least 75 people (2 half sheets.) The customer picked it up and said "That's enough to feed 15 people, right?" The cake weighed more than Lucy.

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.