Sour Cream Cake – How Did This Food Creep Into our Cooking?

Sour Cream – Stick your finger in a tub of it and take a lick and your first thought would not be “Hey, let’s put this in a cake to cook with it!” I still don’t know the answer as to why we began cooking with this odd ingredient, other than to say our British ancestors used soured cream – i.e. cream that has naturally soured – to bake their scones and other baked goods. So, when immigrants from Central Europe began arriving to America in the 1870s bringing with them their cultured sour cream, which they used in their baked goods, it was only natural that this more robust sour cream began to catch on.

The question arises – would Great Aunt Lillian have had access to sour cream in her market in Kittery, Maine or would she still have been buying from a local person or even making her own soured cream (doubtful since they didn’t have a cow)? I did find a recipe on how to make soured cream for those who are interested (along with buttermilk) to show you just how easy it would have been for a woman with a cow to make her own products at home. But, my guess is that by the 1930′s or early 1940′s, Aunt Lillian would have had access to cultured sour cream.

Aunt Lillian’s cookbook has lots of cake recipes and I’d been wanting to try them. But first I felt I needed the right cake stand and cover to put them in. Like most “modern” women, I didn’t have one. My mom was no great baker, so I didn’t inherit one (she always used mixes and cut them right from the square pan, or – gasp – would by frozen Sarah Lee cakes and plop those down for us to eat). So a few weekends ago Dan and I went antique hunting to get one.

Cake Stands

Cake Stands

The first one we found was the more utilitarian version on the left, glass stand, aluminum top. Right price, but not very pretty. I said, “Dan if we buy this one, I’m sure we will then find lots of those glass stands we are looking for in our price range. It’s Murphey’s Law.”

Yep, sure enough. As soon as we bought the stand at the very next store we found lots of the glass stands and lids in the price range we were looking for. So, we bought this second, more attractive version. Anyone want the first cake stand let me know and I’ll give it to you!

So, armed and ready to make my 1940s era Sour Cream Cake I came home ready to make cake! Here’s the recipe:

1940s Sour Cream Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • salt and flour not too stiff with flour

With those directions I went hunting the internet for information on Sour Cream Cakes. I went to my usual sources for information. The Feeding America website had a somewhat similar recipe from Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, 1870. But the directions were just as vague as Aunt Lillian’s so I couldn’t cook from it. There were quite a few cookie and cake recipes that included sour cream from the second half of the 19th century on this site. I’m not sure, however, if these were for the cream that’s soured at home or the sour cream we use today.

The batter - as Lillian said - not too stiff

The batter - as Lillian said - not too stiff

I hit pay dirt, however, when I found a very cool blog called Heritage Recipes! I actually thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The blog consists of people sending in their vintage recipes from the same time period as Aunt Lillian’s cookbook! Unfortunately, many aren’t dated, but they are a great source for me to mine to help me with my recipes. The Sour Cream recipe I found that was “Shiela’s Mother’s-in-Law’s” was perfect and I used it instead of Aunt Lil’s. It basically was the same recipe with the addition of 1 tsp. of vanilla and a filling between two layers.

Shiela’s mother-in’law’s Sour Cream Cake

  • 1 Cup Sugar Break one egg in a cup and fill with sour cream
  • 1 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda in a little hot water
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

Place the batter into 2 8″ layer pans. Bake at 350 degrees until it’s done (toothpick method is the way I do it)

2 teaspoon Flour
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Milk
1 egg
Butter (the size of a walnut)
Boil until it’s thick and then add 1 teaspoon vanilla and
1/2 Cup nut meats.

The result – divine! Light and airy with somewhat the feel of an angel food cake, but different. The cake disappeared very quickly. Easy to make and a keeper of a recipe!

p.s. sorry, we can’t find the picture of the finished product. We are having a few technical difficulties with the camera…….

Leave A Comment...