I hope everyone had a nice Father’s Day. I hope that there isn’t one tie or golf club left in any store. That’s what you get dads for Father’s Day, right?
Speaking of fathers, whether or not you readers know, I am a genealogist. I do this work professionally, but that doesn’t mean I ever stop researching my own family. One of my favorite things about researching family history, no matter whose it is, is the little surprises you find along the way. I used to mostly be interested in making my tree as big as possible. However, that meant skipping over a lot of details of my ancestors’ lives.
A few summers ago, I got real heavy into researching newspaper records for stories about my family. I was in it deep. As luck would have it, I turned up an article about a family secret that, as far as I can tell, no living member of my family knew. Ninety-five years ago today, my 16 year-old great grandmother, Edna May, married her 20 year-old boyfriend, Walter. She had not told her family that she was marrying and, before it was announced to her family, she had been reported missing. She had told her adoptive family that she was going to see a friend and, as the papers reported, she left wearing a black dress with a pink sash. The couple ran away to Michigan from Northern Indiana and married in Hillsdale, Michigan. Here is a newspaper headline from the day after they returned.
Edna had a rough life before she ran away to marry. Her parents had divorced when she was very young and she and some of her other siblings had been sent to live in an orphanage. She was taken in by a family in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but, according to her daughter (my grandmother), the family treated her more like a maid than a daughter. I can only imagine that she was running away from her life as much as she was running to marry the boy she loved.
I thought that these two deserved their own wedding cake, one that they probably didn’t have when they showed back up at their parents’ doors, announcing that they had eloped.
The keys to this cake are 1) egg whites for ultimate cake fluffiness and 2) almond extract. Almond flavoring truly makes this a wedding cake. Have you ever had a white wedding cake, where there is something a little extra? A flavor that you can’t pinpoint, but you are increasingly addicted to? It’s probably almond flavoring. I think people may love or hate it.
White Wedding Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large egg whites (room temperature)
12 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature, cubed)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by lining with parchment paper, spraying with cooking spray, and dusting with flour.
In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, egg whites, and both extracts. Beat together until well combined.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and beat on slow-to-medium speed until the mixture resembles very small pebbles.
Add half of the milk mixture to the bowl and continue to beat for about 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes. Add in the remaining milk mixture on medium speed and beat until fully combined, less than a minute. Do not overmix.
Split the mixture between the two greased, floured, cake pans. Smooth the top of the batter flat.
Cook for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through cooking, switch the places of the pans in the oven. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing them from the pan and allowing them to cool completely on a cooling rack. Don’t forget to remove the parchment paper!
Allow the cakes to cool completely, at least 2 hours, before frosting.
1 pint whipping cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter (very soft)
4 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat the unsalted butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract together in a large, deep bowl until thoroughly mixed.
Add half of the whipping cream and beat on high until the cream begins to firm. Add the remaining cream and beat on high until the mixture is firm enough to produce folds.
I was going for a three layer cake, so if you make the recipe above, your cake will be a little shorter.
It’s a little “rustic,” sure. But I’ve had some beautiful cakes that didn’t taste all that great and, let me tell you, this cake tastes heavenly. And this frosting is much lighter and less sweet than regular buttercream, which I find to be a little overwhelming.
So happy 95th anniversary to my great-grandparents! I think their story is such an excellent example of why it’s fun to dig into your family’s history. Researching your family doesn’t mean just finding names and dates of your ancestors. Sometimes you find stories like these that turn those names and dates into real people. With just a little research, you too might be able to unlock some family secrets. And I hope you do!