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Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

edgar allan poeToday is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday – he was born 202 years ago, and over the past two centuries has become one of the most celebrated literary figures in the world, his words and quotes among the most familiar. Today, one of his most well-known poems, The Raven (published in 1845) has inspired a movie in which John Cusack will play Edgar Allan Poe.

When I think of birthdays, my thoughts turn to cake. I imagine two centuries ago priorities were the same, although cakes and other sugary baked goods were far less commonplace than they are now. One thing I love about food is that it has been hardly changed by technology – ovens and measurements may have been less accurate, but my Grandma, with her wealth of experience and few basic kitchen tools, could turn out as good a pie as any pastry chef I know.

This recipe is apparently over a century old – perhaps the sort of simple butter cake Edgar Allan Poe may have had baked for him for one of his birthdays.

100 Year Old Golden Butter Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
11 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour and milk alternately; the flour in three parts and the milk in two, stirring just until blended. Stir in the butter and pour into two buttered 8″ or 9″ cake pans or an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.

Bake for 30 minutes for round pans, or for 50 to 60 minutes for a tube pan. Cool on a wire rack or invert the tube pan to cool completely.

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