Burnt Leather Cake

Ever since I wrapped up my Caker Cooking blog, I’ve been a lost soul. You’ll find me most Saturday nights cradling cans of tomato soup at No Frills. Security has been called on occasion.

During my time writing the blog, many readers sent me recipe books. One of them was a church cookbook from 1922 from my hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. Since none of the recipes were really “caker” (apparently, can openers weren’t invented until the ‘60s), I couldn’t use it. But I always want to try it out. I mean, this book is OLD. I could just imagine people wandering around in capes and top hats, saying things like, “Would thine partake in a duel tonight?” and “Whereforart the mail?”

So, as a little side project, I’ve decided to try out recipes from this cookbook from time to time and post the results on this blog.

First up is Burnt Leather Cake. Doesn’t that sound appetizing? I know times might've been tough for some folks, but was it really so bad that people had to eat shoes and belts? Turns out there’s no leather in this cake. So put away the barbecue and motorcycle jacket for now.

The instructions were vague. It didn’t tell me what temperature to cook the cake at or what kind of pan to use. So I had to do a little guesswork. 

2 eggs, 1 1-2 cups granulated sugar, 1-2 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup cold water, 1 tsp of cream of tartar mixed with flour, 1 tsp of soda dissolved in water, 5 tsp of burnt syrup* 2 1-12 cups flour. *Burnt syrup – Put one cup of sugar in a frying pan and burn it till it is nearly black, add one cup of cold water and stir until dissolved. Put it away for future use. Icing for burnt leather cake: 1 dessert spoonful of burnt syrup, butter the size of a walnut, a little vanilla, a little milk or cream. Beat to right thickness with icing sugar.

See what I mean about the vagueness? It doesn’t even tell you to bake it. Maybe people in the olden days were psychic. I poured the batter into an 8” x 8” pan lined with parchment paper and baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes. 

What it looked like going into the oven.

What it looked like going into the oven.

A word of caution: Burning the sugar is stressful. It took me back to a traumatic evening a few years ago when I attempted to make a croquembouche. Be careful when you add the cold water as it causes the sugar to bubble up. Wear long sleeves. Or better yet, a fire-retardant pantsuit.

The verdict: The depth of the burnt sugar flavour didn’t really come through, although it did taste caramel-y. The cake was a bit dry, but improved after sitting out for a day. If I made it again, I'd add milk instead of water. There was a bit of an aftertaste, which I’m assuming was the cream of tartar. Either that or the white powder I used was something else. I need to start labelling things. All in all, a pretty good cake. And it tasted a lot better than leather.

Unidentified white powder.

Unidentified white powder.

Score: 6.5 whereforarts out of 10

P.S. Pour the leftover burnt sugar syrup over vanilla ice cream and it'll taste like a burnt marshmallow. For real.

Burnt Sugar Syrup. Now that's burnt. 

Burnt Sugar Syrup. Now that's burnt.