Today, February 23, is National Banana Bread Day. While banana bread (as we now know it) became a staple among home bakers in the 1930s, banana bread had its start in the late Victorian era where “banana flour” came to the United States from the tropics. Vintage newspaper advertisements show the beginnings of banana bread available in bakeries and homemakers’ awareness of quality nutrition to be found in the imported fruit and “flour.” With or without nuts, banana bread is a hallmark of American quick breads… and our nineteenth century ancestors, complete with baking powder and a wealth of cake-baking knowledge, were prepared for the post-Great Depression’s urge to “use it up.”
The story behind the invention (development?) of Angel Food Cake is a bit shrouded in tales of “Me, First!” Vintage newspaper advertisements show Angel Food Cake for sale in bakeries by 1878, and in cookbooks for home bakers that same year. One of the origin stories made it into a vintage cookbook (“cook book”), along with minor variations on the fluffy, snow-white theme. No matter how the dessert began, the popularity took off among Victorian bakers and remained popular through the Edwardian and Progressive Era. One peek at Pinterest vouches that this brightly white cake is still popular (even when pink).
True-to-history, Victorian (and one Edwardian) Cake Recipes published in era newspapers share not only a love for cake (as today is National Cake Day), but share a slice of life with amateur historians. Basic baking ingredients, methods, a desire to practice economy (“cheap” was a positive and desirable compliment)–all give today’s cake-lover a glimpse into America’s Victorian life.
I’m pleased to share a scene from the middle of The Drifter’s Proposal in its entirety. I refer to this as the “cherry pie” scene.
This article shares the entire opening scene of my new release: The Drifter’s Proposal.