Anne Series · Montgomery

Miss Ellen Pringle’s Pound Cake

Author: Montgomery, L.M.
Book: Anne of Windy Poplars
Difficulty rating: Anna Karenina
Deliciousness rating: Outstanding

Pound Cake 1

“I wish I could get Miss Ellen’s recipe for pound cake,” sighed Aunt Chatty. “She’s promised it to me time and again but it never comes. It’s an old English family recipe. They’re so exclusive about their recipes.” (Montgomery 26)

“Well, we’ve got the recipe for the pound cake anyway. Thirty-six eggs! If you’d dispose of That Cat and let me keep hens we might be able to afford it once a year.” (Montgomery 57-58)

Pound Cake 2
Anne of Windy Poplars isn’t one of my favorites of the series, but I still read my copy to pieces.

Our blog was named in honor of the dish we wanted to make most: Miss Ellen Pringle’s pound cake from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Windy Poplars. The problem: we couldn’t seem to find a recipe anywhere! This was a huge surprise, as both food bloggers and Anne fans are pretty obsessive, and we figured there had to be someone (actually, we expected many) who had tried this already.

What we know about this pound cake from the book:

  • It is very good.
  • It is an old English family recipe.
  • It contains the legendary 36 eggs.
  • Its sweating process, which is described as the cake being wrapped in several thicknesses of brown paper and several more towels and left for three days, is indispensable.
And so began our epic quest to create the famous Pringle pound cake.

RESEARCH RESULTS

Pound cake is traditionally a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Obviously, with 36 eggs going into the batter, the Pringle pound cake does not follow custom.

Dr. Annie Gray (see acknowledgements below) advised us to use the smallest eggs we could find, since they were smaller back in the day. To make a pound cake with 36 eggs, she told us, we could weigh the eggs and add an equal amount of the other three key pound cake ingredients.

We had a good number of flavorings to choose from. Here were the possibilities listed in our historical recipes:

  • Almonds, sweet (Beeton)
  • Brandy (Henderson, Seventy-Five)
  • Caraway seeds, caraway comfits (Glasse, Williams)
  • Cinnamon, powdered (Seventy-Five, Miss Leslie’s)
  • Citron (Beeton, Williams)
  • Currants (Beeton, Glasse, Henderson, Williams)
  • Lemon essence (Seventy-Five)
  • Lemon juice (Miss Leslie’s)
  • Lemon peel, candied and sliced thin (Beeton, Henderson)
  • Lemon peel, shredded (Henderson, Schurr)
  • Orange juice (Miss Leslie’s)
  • Orange peel, candied and sliced thin (Beeton, Henderson)
  • Mace (Beeton, Seventy-Five, Miss Leslie’s, Schurr)
  • Nutmeg (Miss Leslie’s, Soyer)
  • Rose water (Seventy-Five, Miss Leslie’s)
  • Wine (Seventy-Five, Miss Leslie’s)

A noted researcher who goes by the pseudonym Plum Cake delved deeply into the book to accurately date this recipe for us. Anne of Windy Poplars was the fourth book in the series, but the seventh book LMM wrote. Anne of Green Gables takes place around 1880, which sets Anne of Windy Poplars around 1890. Plum Cake found a line: “It has a big, white, wooden woman off the bow of Old Captain Abraham’s famous ship, the Go-and-Ask-Her, in the orchard and billows of southernwood about the front steps, which was brought out from the old country over a hundred years ago by the first emigrating Pringle” (33-34). Therefore, the recipe would theoretically be from pre-1790. It is an 18th century recipe made by late-19th century characters written by an early-20th century writer. Complicated much? Considering all of these factors, we looked at historical recipes from pre-1790 to 1936. (See below for bibliography.)

THE OFFICIAL BAKE: 3/21/2015

Ingredients

  • 18 smallest eggs we could find + 18 yolks (34 oz exactly in our case). Our friend Alli, whose family owns a farm and chickens who lay wee eggs, donated two dozen for our project. The rest we got from Ripe, which also has little local eggs for 70 cents each. Make sure they are room temp!
  • Equal weight of Kerrygold butter, room temp.
  • Equal weight of raw sugar
  • Equal weight flour + 0.5 tbs salt (Because we dropped some of the butter + sugar + eggs on the floor, we took out a bit of flour.) According to Dr. Gray, plain flour would have likely been used over cake flour. The original recipe would have used English flour, which was naturally low in gluten, but Canadian and American flour were stronger. The flour that Anne would have bought would probably have been Canadian plain flour and on the stronger side. Considering the products that were likely to be available in pre-WWI rural Canada, it’s best to use the least processed products we can get for authenticity.
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 tsp of mace
  • 0.5 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup caraway seeds
  • Extra butter for the parchment paper and pan

Supplies Needed

  • Fire bricks
  • Scale
  • 16″ cake pan
  • Giant mixing bowl
  • 4 large mixing bowls for each of the key ingredients
  • Sifter
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cup and spoons
  • Unbleached parchment paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Old towels, cut into strips and soaked in water
  • Safety pins
  • Brown paper (we used cut up lunch bags)
  • Twine
  • 3 flower nails
  • Small clean towels


Directions

1. Leave butter and eggs out of the fridge overnight to make sure they are room temperature. If you forget, you can put them in warm water.

Pound Cake 3
Our little egg on the left; large egg from the supermarket on the right.

2. Crack 18 eggs into a bowl. Separate an additional 18 eggs and add just the yolks to the bowl.
Pound Cake 4

3. Weigh the eggs. In our case, the eggs + egg yolks weighed 34 oz.

Pound Cake 5

4. Measure out equal weight of butter in another bowl.

5. Measure out equal weight of sugar in another bowl.

6. Measure out equal weight of flour in another bowl. Add the salt to the flour.

7. Beat the butter with your hand until paler in color and fluffy. Add sugar until incorporated.

Pound Cake 6
You know what hurts? My inadequate biceps when I have to mix by hand.
Pound Cake 7
It is necessary to alternate mixing in 5-minute turns. Trading off involves an awkward moment where you have to pull the extra butter off of each other’s fingers.
IMG_2060

8. Beat the eggs a little in the bowl and add them little by little until incorporated.

Pound Cake 9

9. Beat with your hand for a full hour. We recommend 5 minute intervals, switching off with a partner. It is a WORKOUT.

Pound Cake 10

10. Add brandy, spices, and caraway seeds.

11. Sift the flour and salt into the batter and fold it in, a little at a time.

Pound Cake 11

12. Line the bottom of the oven with fire bricks and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pound Cake 12
Dr. Gray had advised us to line the bottom of our oven with bricks. I tried Lowe’s, but they didn’t have any that were heat-safe. They sent me instead to a specialty store in La Mesa called The Warm Hearth! Why yes, that is a fireplace display with ornamental glass beads instead of charcoal and ash.
13. Butter the inside of the cake pan liberally.
Pound Cake 13 14. Trace the bottom of the cake pan onto parchment paper and cut it out. Press it into the bottom of the cake pan.
Pound Cake 1415. Butter the parchment paper.

16. Pour the cake batter into the pan. Cut through the batter with the spatula and pick up the pan and drop it a few times to prevent air bubbles.
Pound Cake 15
Pound Cake 16
Pound Cake 17

17. Safety pin wet towel strips on the outside of the cake pan. Try not to have it overlap like we did.

Pound Cake 18

Pound Cake 19
The cake weighed 9.6 lbs!

18. Wrap brown paper around the cake pan and secure with twine.

Pound Cake 20

19. Put flour nails in a triangle in the middle of the cake batter, with the head down, equidistant from the sides and the middle of the cake pan.

Pound Cake 21
20. Bake at 325 for an hour. Lower heat to 275 and bake for 40 minutes. Check with skewer in multiple spots.

Pound Cake 22

21. Cool for just a few minutes. Run a knife along the sides and flip out onto a board (or anything else it’ll fit on that’s strong enough.)
Pound Cake 23

22. Put the cake pan over it for 15 minutes to let it sweat.

Pound Cake 24

Pound Cake 25
Pac-Man!
Pound Cake 26
We are QUITE happy with it!

23. This cake does taste very nice fresh out of the oven — the practice cake did NOT improve with age, but we shall see with this one.

Pound Cake 27
Sarah M. heard there was cake to share and came running over!
24. For the sweating process: wrap in brown parchment paper and string, and then in a towel and let it sit for three days in a cool place.

Miko’s Notes from the Cooking Session

  • If we’d had it, we would have added 2 tsp of mace instead of just 1.
  • We should have left it in the oven a touch longer — one side was a little raw. It needed the same thickness of towel all the way around, and we had used a thinner towel on one side of the pan.
  • We would like to try separating the whites, whipping them, and then folding them in last next time to see if we could get more lift.
  • A pretty delicious pound cake — some of the best we’ve ever had. Much softer and meltier than the practice bake! We have triumphed!
PRACTICE BAKE: 2/7/2015
Pound Cake 28 Pound Cake 30
Pound Cake 31

Ingredients & Supplies

  • 15.7 oz of the 4 core ingredients: 6 eggs and 6 yolks, sugar, butter, flour
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 tbs caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp mace
  • Brown lunch bags
  • Twine
  • Well-buttered 10.5″x3″springform pan
  • 1 flower nail
  • 325 degrees for an hour, lowered to 275 degrees for half an hour. Total baking time of 90 minutes.
Miko’s Notes from the Practice Bake:
  • Neither Jenne nor I have much experience baking pound cakes, so we wanted to do a smaller-scale trial run to figure out their chemistry. Jenne had done the calculations for batter amount ahead of time, but before we ordered a pan, we wanted to see how much pound cake batter would rise.
  • The butter, sugar, and eggs mixture did curdle a bit when we were creaming everything together. We’re not sure of the exact cause. Perhaps we didn’t beat the butter enough first. Maybe we added the sugar too quickly, or it was because the eggs and butter weren’t room temp.
  • You might’ve noticed that we used a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the trial, but for the official bake, we’ll be mixing it by hand!
  • Next time, we would add a ton more caraway seeds!
  • Make sure to drop the pan on the counter a few times before putting it in the oven because we got air pockets.
  • We used makeshift cake strips (old wet towel) and layers of brown lunch bag, secured with safety pins and string. We put a flower nail in the middle of the pan. The cake did seem to bake very evenly.
  • We need a cookie sheet’s worth of bricks to line the bottom of the oven for the final bake.
  • We did wrap a quarter of the cake in brown paper and towels for the “sweating process,” so we shall try the cake again in three days. * It just tasted 3 days older and drier.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We’ve consulted with a number of experts in attempt to solve the pound cake recipe mystery: historians, professors, librarians, bakers, chefs… Everyone was extremely helpful and enthusiastic, and we’re tremendously grateful for their advice and guidance. See below for acknowledgements of their many contributions!

Culinary Historians of Canada & Sylvia Lovegren
The Culinary Historians of Canada were kind enough to include our inquiry in their February newsletter. It was posted to their Facebook page, and one Sylvia Lovegren replied. Sylvia is a culinary historian and food writer; she also wrote Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, which Jenne had read and loved. (And Jenne is as picky a reader as she is an open-minded eater.)

Sylvia referred us to the Queen Cake recipe in The Cook Not Mad (Kingston 1831) and Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook (1906). Sylvia also clarified for us that when an old recipe says to mix with your hand, they literally mean to use your hand as the utensil to mix the batter — a technique we employed for our final bake.

Ivan Day
Mr. Day is a food historian and a noted authority on historic table settings. He has a private working museum of antique kitchen utensils, where he teaches historic cooking courses. He suggested weighing the eggs, leaving out half the whites, and putting in equal weights of the other key ingredients recipe. He also referred our query to his research assistant, Plum Cake.

Dr. Elizabeth Epperly & Terry Kamikawa
Dr. Betsy Epperly is quite possibly the foremost scholar on L.M. Montgomery in the world and the founder of the L.M. Montgomery Institute. She’s written a gajillion books and articles on LMM. She referred us to Terry Kamikawa, owner of the Blue Winds Tea Room on Prince Edward Island, where they serve pudding made from LMM’s own recipe. Which we are definitely visiting before we die. Terry referred us to the Beeton and Flynn recipes for pound cake.

Dr. Annie Gray
Dr. Annie Gray is a food historian and pops up pretty frequently as an expert (in costume!) on The Great British Bake Off, the best show ever. She also has an incredibly charming Twitter (@DrAnnieGray) that makes us want to be her BFF. She was our cheerleader during the early stages of our research and provided us with a great deal of invaluable advice about resources, ingredients, and baking large cakes.

Dr. Nicola Humble
Dr. Nicki Humble is a professor at University of Roehampton and specializes in literature and cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries. She listed women’s writing, children’s literature, and culture and history of food as some of her greatest interests. So of course we had to contact her! Jenne had also read and greatly enjoyed her book: Cake: A Global History.

Katherine Humpus
Katherine Humphus, or Chef Kat, was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She worked at wd-50 and The French Laundry before becoming executive chef at BO-beau kitchen + bar. She recently left the Cohn Restaurant Group to start Kat’s Kitchen Collective, an online cooking class. Katherine recommended splitting the batter into a few pans and baking at 350. When we told her that we were determined to bake it as one cake, she advised us about cake temperatures and baking time.

Plum Cake
Plum Cake works as an assistant researcher for Ivan Day. She tracked down a copy of Anne of Windy Poplars and not only read it — she analyzed it line by line to find all possible clues about the Pringle pound cake. It’s due to her that we have a more accurate estimated date for the original recipe.

Prince Edward Island Public Library & Gary Ramsay
Gary Ramsay is a Reference Librarian at the Confederation Centre Public Library in Charlottetown and winner of the Nora Bateson Award of Excellence in Library Service. And we can see why! As fellow librarians, we do enjoy a beautifully organized response to a reference question. He recommended Aunt Maud’s Recipe Book from the Kitchen of L.M. Montgomery and referred us to the Crawfords in Norval.

Laurie Stein
Laurie is a fellow Oberlin alum and graduated with highest honors for her thesis on…who else? L.M. Montgomery! So of course we asked Laurie for help on this project! She has an M.A. in Historical Administration and she works as a curator for the Lake Bluff Historical Society. She was the one who found a pound cake recipe that actually did call for exactly 36 eggs (the Schurr, btw).

Mireya Vasquez
Mireya works at Whole Foods as a baker and also does some pretty serious baking on her own (she’s done a wedding cake!), and we invited her for drinks one evening to pick her brain about how on earth to bake such a giant cake evenly. She knows her cake, this one. The girl has an 18″ cake pan, for heaven’s sake. (And we will borrow it to make Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake — coming soon!)

IMG_1791
These drinks were delicious at Polite Provisions. Who knew rose flavor could taste good?

Alli Wilson
Alli is an avid cook and an architect, so she was the perfect source for advice about the type of bricks we should add to our oven. They also have chickens on her family farm, and she supplied us with 2 dozen of our little eggs for our final bake!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

We have consulted many sources — both in print and online — to find the perfect Pringle Pound Cake recipe. Here’s our exhaustive list!

IMG_1779
At UCSD’s Geisel Library to look at historical cookbooks in Special Collections, feeling very academic and important.
IMG_1790
Whoa, these cookbooks are 200+ years old and IN OUR HANDS!

Historical Pound Cake Recipes

18th Century Cookbooks and Recipes18th Century Notebook. Larsdatter.com. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.

Acton, Eliza. Modern Cookery for Private Families. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1860. PDF file.

Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book and Household Guide. London: Ward, Lock, and Co., Limited, 1898. PDF file.

Flynn, Katherine C. Lewis. Mrs. Flynn’s Cookbook. 1930. Reprint. Charlottetown: The Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation, 1981.

IMG_1839.JPG
Look! This book actually came from Canada! We might consider Mrs. Flynn’s Cookbook the most authentic to the spirit of the Anne books, since it was written and printed for the benefit of an ORPHANAGE ON PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND. And where, might you ask, did Mrs. Flynn live? Wait for it…SUMMERSIDE. Oh nbd, THAT’S ONLY WHERE ANNE OF WINDY POPLARS TAKES PLACE! “In Summerside hand-dipped chocolates were her fame, and her fruit cakes were the pride of many a church tea,” the foreword says.

Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds any Thing of the Kind Ever Yet Published. London: 1774. PDF file.

Henderson, William Augustus. The Housekeeper’s Instructor. London: J. Stratford, 1805. PDF file.

Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery. Directions for Cookery, In Its Various Branches. Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird, 1851. PDF file.

Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1836.

Schurr, Eugene. The Baker’s Hand Book. Chicago: Eugene Schurr, 1895. PDF file.

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat Housewife. London: J. and J. Pemberton, 1739. PDF file.

Soyer, Alexis. The Modern Housewife. London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1849. PDF file.

Williams, T. The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook. London: 1797. PDF file.

Modern Sources

Crawford, Elaine and Kelly Crawford. Aunt Maud’s Recipe Book: from the kitchen of L.M. Montgomery. Norval: Moulin Publishing Limited/Elaine and Kelly Crawford, 1996.

Gordon, Steve. True Pound CakeOur State North CarolinaOur State magazine, Feb. 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2015. 

Helenna. Large Cakes: Tips on How to Bake a Level, Well-Risen Cake. ClearlyCake, 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Leash, Ashley. Tips for Baking a Perfect Pound CakeSouthern Living magazine. Web. 31 Jan. 2015.

Marissa. Making a Cake Rise EvenlyThreaded Together, 24 Jul. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2015.

MacDonald, Kate. The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook. Illus. Barbara DiLella. Toronto: Seal Books, 1985.

Stewart, Martha. Everything You Need to Know about Pound Cakes. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. 

Cake Baking and Serving Guides. Wilton. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.

So You’re Baking a Wedding Cake. Read This First. We the Eaters, 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.

——-

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Windy Poplars. New York: Harper & Row, 1936.

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9 thoughts on “Miss Ellen Pringle’s Pound Cake

  1. I love this! I'm also obsessed with Anne of Green Gables, and I just did my own recreation of her layer cake (the one she flavored with anodyne liniment) on my blog. Other people have used the recipe from the Anne of Green Gables cookbook, but it just didn't look right and I can never leave well enough alone! https://itsallfrosting.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/readers-digestibles-annes-liniment-layer-cake/

    I was considering making Marilla's yellow plum jam (the “company jam” that Davy eats without permission in Anne of Avonlea) at some point, and Marilla's plum puffs, but I have no idea what the latter would look like!

    Like

    1. Just saw this… no, no actual liniment, but yes, we should totally be friends. Sadly I live in Boston but I do come to San Diego every year or so to visit family! Maybe sometime I’ll be able to have plum puffs!

      By the way, looked at your list of upcoming dishes. It’s eerily similar to my roster of things I’ve made or am planning to make. Hopefully you do better at Pippi’s pineapple pudding than i did– my version wasn’t very pineapple-y.

      Like

  2. I think that a Food and Drink Index for the Anne series is probably going to happen at some point. Keep an eye out! And yes, plum puffs! We'll be making two versions — a more authentic version based on LMM's recipe, and another version that fits our imaginings.

    Like

  3. I am a huge L. M. Montgomery fan! I believe I have read most of what she has written, though I am still trying to get ahold of the Blue Castle. I read the Anne series every spring or if I am feeling like I need a visit with old friends, so of course the first thing I googled when thinking about making my own pound cake was “sweating a pound cake” and here you are! I thoroughly enjoyed this post, it was enlightening, instructive and very entertaining! Thanks for all your hard work!

    Like

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