All Cakes Considered

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All Cakes Considered

Melissa Gray is an NPR producer and is the author of All Cakes Considered.  She started her book by bringing in a cake each week for her NPR colleagues.  The first cake she brought in was Martha Washington's Great Cake


Martha Washington's Great Cake


10 large eggs

4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsps ground mace

2 1/2 tsps ground nutmeg

1/4 cup wine

1/4 cup French Brandy

1 1/4 lb assorted fruits and nuts


For the frosting

3 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 tsp grated lemon zest

2 Tablespoons orange extract


1) Position a rack so the cake will sit in the middle of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Prepare the pan.


2) Separate the egg whites from the yolks, collecting the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer, and set the yolks aside.


3) Using the whisk attachment on the mixer, whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage.


4) In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter with a handheld mixer.  Slowly fold in a third of the beaten egg whites until incorporated.  Repeat two times, until all the egg whites are incorporated.


5) Slowly fold in the sugar, about 1 cup at a time, until incorporated.


6) Beat the egg yolks lightly (you may use a hand whisk) and fold them in.  Fold in the flour until full incorporated.


7) Fold in the mace, nutmeg, wine and brandy.


8) Fold in the fruits and nuts.


9) Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the cake tests done.  


10) Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a cake rack.


11) When the cake is almost cool, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and make the frosting.


12) Using a hand mixer, beat together the egg whites and 2 tablespoons of the confectioners' sugar.  Continue adding the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition, until you have the incorporated all of the sugar.


13) Add the grated lemon zest and orange extract flavoring.  Beat until the frosting is stiff enough to stay parted when cut through with a knife.


14) Smooth the meringue onto the cake.  Let it dry and harden in the oven for 1 hour.  The frosting will be brittle when cut with a knife.



Music Break: Sand Steppin by Martin Brew