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Updated: Feb 22, 2022

On occasion, I have wondered how those early residents of Nevada City managed baking and canning in their kitchens. I would imagine that baking cakes and pies, or canning pickles and making jams were above and beyond the ordinary work of creating three regular meals a day, and all managed with a wood stove, and without the aid of electrical appliances. Presenting a cake to one’s family and friends represented time spent, and a lot of work. Cooking and baking no doubt, ate up a considerable part of a housewife’s day, unless she had children she could assign certain kitchen responsibilities to.

Gas ovens began to be popular after 1900. They eliminated the need for a heavy cast iron box for wood, and could be built much lighter and more compact. They also gave off less heat and there was no need for a chimney. They were more compact and were able to stand on thin legs, making them visually compatible with sinks and other freestanding furniture in the kitchen, such as; work tables and chairs.

It is important to remember that electricity did not arrive in everybody’s house at the same time, and neither did gas. It was still the 1940s when my Great, great aunt in Nevada City began her mornings by stoking the stove with kindling in order to heat the water that passed through pipes in her home, thus heating the place up. And it was still the 1940s when my great uncle Frank, an appliance salesman, drove throughout the Sierras with kitchen mixers and toasters and such, telling folks to buy or order them now, because electricity is coming.

But wait a minute! I was getting around to talking about cakes when I got sidetracked…. So, we have agreed that baking and canning required a lot of work and time in the past, and such is so today, though a lot easier with our gas or electric ovens and stoves, food processors, microwave ovens, blenders, stand and hand mixers, and a whole array of kitchen do-dahs. Still, making a cake requires the baker to set aside extra time, money and patience to make. This is usually done to please other people. Make them happy! A celebration, even if it is only to accompany a fresh pot of coffee or tea with a friend. It may be said then, that making a cake is an act of love, and hard work is what you do for love. And we love cake!

I will occasionally be sharing cake recipes with you. I made the following recipe last February using oranges from my tree, and fortuitously took a photo of the cake. The cake is dense, moist and not too sweet. It reminds me of marmalade, and would be perfect to serve for brunch, or just have it with a cup of tea in the morning, or vanilla ice cream in the evening. It is a simple and delicious recipe, and I hope you will try it.

Dense Orange Cake

Cooking oil spray 2 ½ cups of flour

1 cup of butter 1/4 tsp. each of salt

1 ¼ cups of granulated sugar 1/4 tsp. of baking soda

3 large eggs ½ tsp. baking powder

1 ½ cups of powdered sugar 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. of orange juice

2 oranges (abt. 1 pd.) trim off the ends, de-seeded, and cut into chunks

* Because I appreciate icing, the next time I follow this recipe, I will double the powdered sugar & orange juice icing portion.

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Spray a 10 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

With mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl, until fluffy. Then beat in the 3 eggs.

Spin orange chunks around in a food processor until mostly smooth, but not pureed. Add your orange mixture to the batter, and beat until blended. Add the dry mixture to the batter, a little at a time and beat in between each addition until smooth. Pour and spread batter into the Bundt pan.

Bake about 55 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick. Cool the Bundt pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then invert the rack onto the rack and let it completely cool.

Whisk together orange juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Drizzle over the cake and then let the glaze set before slicing.

If making extra icing, reserve some of it after the initial pour over the cake, so you can use the extra as a spread over the slices.

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Oh, Sweet Heaven!

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