BEATING EGGS PROPERLY, especially when preparing cake batter, took a great deal of energy, time, and forbearance.
Victorian inventors created a new, time-saving, energy-saving device that quickly became a favorite of (most) cooks, everywhere! The Egg Beater–a labor-saving device for the household kitchen.
Were egg-beaters in time for the Angel’s Food Cake Craze?
Angel Food Cake showed up in Victorian American Cook Books as early as 1878, and continued for through the decades.
Predecessors to the FAMOUS Dover Egg Beater, Patent May 31, 1870, had been around for decades! So, yes, absolutely. Egg beaters were around in plenty of time to help home bakers (and bakeries) make Angel Food Cakes.
AN EGG-BEATER TIMELINE
What cost $0.76 in 1858 would cost $21.57 in 2017.
In the same edition of the Reading Times, the Improved Egg Beater advertised:
What cost $0.50 in 1878 would cost $12.90 in 2017.
What cost $3 in 1878 would cost $77.41 in 2017.
What cost $1.25 in 1878 would cost $32.26 in 2017.
(look how much the price plummeted in the past 18 years!)
What cost $0.08 in 1895 would cost $2.39 in 2017.
What cost $0.10 in 1895 would cost $2.99 in 2017.
What cost $1.25 in 1895 would cost $1.49 in 2017.
What cost $0.09 in 1897 would cost $2.69 in 2017.
What cost $0.02 in 1897 would cost $0.60 in 2017.
What cost $0.03 in 1897 would cost $0.90 in 2017.
Rotary Beaters had been invented in time for use in making Angel Food Cakes. Why, do you suppose, do these vintage recipes not mention this new, exciting, household item?
One Answer, from Royal Baker Pastry Cook, published in 1888:
CAKES. –An earthen basin is best for beating eggs or cake mixture. Cake should be beaten with a wooden spoon. It is well in making cake to beat the butter and powdered sugar to a light cream. In common cakes, when only a few eggs are used, beat them until you can take a spoonful up clear from strings. To ascertain whether a cake is baked enough, pass a small knife-blade through it ; if not done enough, some of the unbaked dough will be found sticking to it ; if done, it will come out clean.
Three Views of a 19th Century Red Earthenware Pan Possibly made by Abner S Wight in West Sterling, Massachusetts. Circa 1850. Stands 3 1/2 inches tall, measures 17″ in diameter. Sold for $150.00. Photos courtesy of D.L. Straight Auctioneers – Sturbridge, Mass. [View of the glaze (upper left), view of the base (upper right)] [source: Early American Ceramics, February 2017]
From The Lady’s Receipt-Book:
TO BEAT EGGS.—In making cakes it is of the utmost importance that the eggs should be properly and sufficiently beaten ; otherwise the cakes will most certainly be deficient in the peculiar lightness characterizing those that are made by good confectioners. Home-made cakes, if good in other respects, are too frequently (even when not absolutely heavy or streaked) hard, solid and tough. This often proceeds from too large a portion of flour, and too small an allowance of butter and eggs. The richest cake that can be made (provided it is light and well baked) is less unwholesome than what are called plain cakes, if they are solid or leathery. Cakes cannot be crisp and light without a due proportion of the articles that are to make them so ; and even then, the ingredients must be thoroughly stirred or beaten ; and of course thoroughly baked afterwards.
Persons who do not know the right way, complain much of the fatigue of beating eggs, and therefore leave off too soon. There will be no fatigue, if they are beaten with the proper stroke, and with wooden rods, and in a shallow, flat-bottomed earthen pan. The coldness of a tin pan retards the lightness of the eggs. For the same reason do not use a metal egg-beater. In beating them do not move your elbow, but keep it close to your side. Move only your hand at the wrist, and let the stroke be quick, short, and horizontal; putting the egg-beater always down to the bottom of the pan, which should therefore be shallow. Do not leave off as soon as you have got the eggs into a foam ; they are then only beginning to be light. But persist till after the foaming has cased, and the bubbles have all disappeared. Continue till the surface is smooth as a mirror, and the beaten egg as thick as a rich boiled custard ; for till then it will not be really light. It is seldom necessary to beat the whites and yolks separately, if they are afterwards to be put together. The article will be quite as light, when cooked, if the whites and yolks are beaten together, and there will then be no danger of their going in streaks when baked. The justly celebrated Mrs. Goodfellow, of Philadelphia, always taught her pupils to beat the whites and yolks together, even for sponge-cake ; and lighter than hers no sponge-cake could possibly be.
When white of egg is to be used without any yolk (as for lady-cake, maccaroons [sic], meringues, icing, &c.,) it should be beaten til it stands alone on the rods ; not falling when held up.
Hickory rods for egg-beating are to be had at the wooden-ware shops, or at the turner’s. For stirring butter and sugar together, nothing is equal to a wooden spaddle [sic]. It should be about a foot long, and flattened at the end like that of a mush-stick, only broader. Spoons are very tedious and inconvenient either for beating eggs or stirring butter and sugar, and do not produce proper lightness.
~ The Lady’s Receipt-Book ; A Useful Companion for Large or Small Families, by Miss Leslie. Being a Sequel to her Former work on Domestic Cookery. Published, 1847, in Philadelphia.
There you have it. The answer, apparently, as to why skilled bakers of Angel Food Cakes, whether at home or in a bakery, used wooden switches (literally cut from a tree) to whip the egg whites to (today’s comparative of) stiff peaks is this:
“The Best Bakers Said So. That’s Why.”
Copyright 2018 Kristin Holt LC