Grapefruit Pudding Cake for Fannie Farmer’s Birthday

Fannie Farmer
(Source)

Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in Massachusetts on March 23, 1857, the oldest of four daughters. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Farmer’s family placed a premium on education and it was expected that she would go to college, rather than marry right after school. Unfortunately, at age 16, Farmer suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and unable to walk. She would eventually regain the use of her legs, but would never have full function again. Instead of going to college, Farmer was looked after by her parents, and spent the time learning to cook.

At age 30, she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School, and spent the next 9 years excelling in the study of “domestic science,” as it was known. After graduating, she took a job as an assistant to the director, and in 1891 she became principal of the School.

What do we owe to this turn-of-the-century domestic scientist? Modern baking in the United States. Prior to Farmer’s work, baking instructions were conversational and inconsistent (when you see old recipes, you might notice that no baking temperatures are given, or “as much as you like” accompanies an important ingredient), but she developed the “level measurement” system that we all take for granted today. Critics said she was taking the art and creativity out of baking. However, standard measurements allowed for adjustments in standard, measured ways, and also allowed for recipes to be transmitted to the next generation, without anything being lost in translation. Recipes improve, multiply, flourish, all because bakers are now able speak the same language–thanks to Fannie Farmer, the so-called “Mother of Level Measurements.”

In 1896, Farmer published a cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, full of recipes that used her level measuring system. Little was expected to come of the book, and at first only 3,000 copies were printed. Instead it became hugely popular, and extremely influential, so much so that it is still in print today, under a new, more accurate name: the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Years later, the book was updated by another amazing woman food writer, Marion Cunningham, who, in 1979, was hired to revise the Fannie Farmer Cookbook  for contemporary audiences.

Initially, my only goal was to bake a dessert from Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book to celebrate her 160th birthday. But skimming through the recipes I found online from the first edition were leaving me less than inspired. There were plenty of cakes, pies, desserts, and puddings. I love all those things, don’t get me wrong, but nothing was jumping off the page.

That’s when I stumbled onto a recipe for Lemon Pudding Cake, a Marion Cunningham recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I have been so into pudding lately, of all sorts. I was not really a fan of snack packs as a child, but I did love the warm chocolate pudding that my mom made me as a child (I wrote about that here). Last fall, I wrote about a cornmeal-based “Indian pudding.” And just earlier this month, I made my friend Sarah’s grandmother’s bread pudding. Definitely a theme. I had lots of grapefruit on hand, but only a few lemons, so that’s what I used. You could also make this recipe with the traditional lemon. The recipe is exactly the same, just do not add salt and sub in 1/3 cup lemon juice for the the grapefruit and lemon juices in the recipe below.

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Grapefruit Pudding Cake
Slightly adapted from Lemon Pudding in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, by Marion Cunningham, 13th Edition

Grapefruit Pudding Cake Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt

Grapefruit Pudding Cake Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter to a large dish. Beat for 30 seconds with a hand mixture until smooth. Gradually add all but 1 tbsp of sugar, mixing between each addition, until everything is incorporated and very smooth.

Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating between each egg yolk addition until fully incorporated.

Add in the milk, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, zest, flour. Beat just until everything looks well incorporated and uniform. The mixture will be foamy.

In a separate bowl, use a hand beater to beat the egg whites until they turn just white and begin to combine. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp sugar. Continue beating for a few seconds until soft peaks form. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold the mixture into the egg yolk batter. Continue to fold until the the mixture is uniform, then stop immediately. Your batter will look lumpy and foamy.

In at least a 2-inch deep baking pan, place your empty 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking pan, around, but not into, the baking dish. Pour enough water so that it fills about halfway up the side of the baking dish.

Pour your cake batter into the baking dish and slide into the oven.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, being sure to not let it get too brown. It should be light and golden. Keep an eye on it, but try not to open the oven door often.

This dish can be served after it has just cooled, or it can be served chilled.

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What you have when you remove it from the oven is a sponge cake floating over a delicious grapefruit custard. This might very well be my dream dessert. In one dish! It’s magic. I can’t wait to try it with another fruit juice, or chocolate. It’s a fantastic recipe to celebrate an amazing lady. Happy birthday, Fannie!

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Pumpkin Indian Pudding

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November 13th was Indian pudding day. Who is coming up with these days, really? Honestly, I had no idea what hasty pudding or Indian pudding were three weeks ago. New Englanders are probably more familiar with this dish than the rest of the country. Being from the Midwest, I had never seen a recipe of this dish, let alone tasted it. I studied up, though, and here’s what I learned. Hasty pudding was first brought to America by the English colonists. The original version was probably more like a “porridge,” made with flour and water, rather than cornmeal and milk. It was likely sparingly sweetened, if at all.

When the colonists arrived in North America, the dish transformed into what became known as Indian pudding or Indian mush, thanks to the substitution of New World ingredients. After the American Indians showed the colonists how to cultivate corn, cornmeal was more plentiful in the colonies than the traditional flour. Because of this “hasty pudding” became “Indian pudding.” And, because of the abundance of milk, it was used instead of water, which thickened the dish to something more like pudding or custard and less like, well, gruel.

As I was looking at several different recipes, I noticed that this dish was often referred to as “porridge” or “mush.” Not the most appetizing description. When I started looking at some of the ingredients, “eggs, milk, molasses, cinnamon,” etc., I thought, well, none of this sounds that bad. And I was right!

In honor of the colonists who changed their old recipe to work in their new land, I decided to put a spin on this traditional dish with another New World ingredient, pumpkin. (No, not pumpkin spice. Just pumpkin.)

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Pumpkin Indian Pudding
Serves 4-6

Pumpkin Indian Pudding Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Pumpkin Indian Pudding Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 1 quart baking dish. Set aside.

To a medium bowl, add the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and milk. Try to get out any large clumps before turning on the heat. Turn on stove and continue to whisk for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture just starts to boil. Turn off the stove and continue to whisk for about a minute. Add in the butter and continue to stir until it’s completely melted.

Add the cornmeal mixture to the pumpkin mixture in the bowl. To make sure the eggs don’t scramble, add a little of the hot mixture in and stir quickly to temper the eggs. Stir together until smooth.

Pour into your baking dish and then place the baking dish on a cookie sheet.

Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This dish does best without the oven door opening and closing. If you’re really itching to check on it, try to do so only once or twice.

Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Even after that, it will still be quite hot. Once removed from the oven, the surface will look a bit dry and may even be cracking a little. That’s perfect. Once you scoop into it, you will notice that it’s actually not dry at all. Also, don’t be surprised if it deflates a little after you take it out of the oven.

I highly suggest adding some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, while it’s still warm.

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The amount of time you need for cooking this does not exactly make this hasty. The original flour-based dish was much hastier. With the addition of the cornmeal, a longer cooking time is needed for the cornmeal to absorb more liquid, which results in a thicker, creamier texture.

The addition of pumpkin makes this the perfect dish for fall and early (*cringe*) winter. As Alex and I were eagerly scooping it into our mouths, we came up with this description: something between pumpkin pie, without the crust, and a gingerbread cookie. Sold yet?

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