The Three Harvard’s of Cake
Part 1: Harvard’s Sugar Cake
The old composition notebook that contains recipes written in the hand of my grandmother and mother, during the 1940’s and 1950’s, and shared throughout my family, contains a recipe called “Harvard’s Sugar Cake”. It is a light and moist yellow cake best served with a huge dollop of fresh whipped cream. My mother’s cousin is Harvard, so I presumed this was his favorite cake. While assembling, Heirloom Goodies, my e-book that contains some of the old recipes, I questioned my cousin, Jane, on the origin of “Harvard’s Cake”. Jane, as a kid, thought the “Harvard” meant beets and amazed at how the cake was yellow and not red. It’s okay, Jane, I used to eat mud pies, real ones with fine sand frosting. In all fairness to Jane, Harvard beets are a sweet and sour side dish and there is a Harvard Beet Cake and it is not yellow. I will share my Harvard Beet Cake recipe in the second post of this series. The third “Harvard” is a spice cake, which I have only found in a vintage copy of The Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook. I will share my version of that cake in the final post of this series unless, of course, someone out there knows another Harvard in the Cake family?
1-1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening*
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream together the sugar and vegetable shortening until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing completely after each.
4. Sift and measure the 2 cups flour, add the baking powder and pinch (1/4 tsp.) salt and
5. Alternate flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour, beating into the
6. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
7. Bake in a 13 X 9 inch rectangular cake pan that has been greased with cooking spray
and lightly floured for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.
Note: What I love about the retro baking recipes is the simplicity of the ingredients. Right now, with what you have in your kitchen pantry, you can whip up this cake. It is delicious not because of exotic ingredients but by using technique and careful measurement to create a classic cake. In baking the difference between light and tough and moist and dry is science and skill.
*For this recipe, I substituted unsalted butter for the vegetable shortening.
*Harvard’s Sugar Cake also makes great cupcakes; a general rule is to decrease the flour by 2 Tbs. for every cup when making cupcakes and increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.