Baking Our Way Through American History: Cowboy Cake

All right, we’re stepping into the 1800-1869 timeframe with the Cowboy Cake as we bake our way through American history with the book American Cake by Anne Byrn. This era in cake making featured a continuation of the national pride that was fostered with the American Revolution. It was influenced by increased trade bringing in new ingredients as well as the westward expansion of the country. And – we found an important new ingredients for cake making – first, baking soda in 1830 and then baking powder two decades later! Both a huge improvement over pearlash. The invention of the gas stove also revolutionized cake making, especially for the middle class!

So the first cake in this time period that we made was the Cowboy Cake. This followed in the tradition of “make-do” cakes that were popular during the westward expansion of the country – it was feasible for settlers to make on the go and didn’t require butter, milk or eggs, making it easy for people who may not have access to perishables.

This cake was not my cup of tea… first, I don’t like raisins, a prominent flavor in this cake and I also didn’t find it very sweet. But it is an interesting look into history!

So here’s how the cake came together… First up is boiling the raisins!

Boiling the raisins - Cowboy Cake

Then you add the sugar to the raisin liquid.

Adding Sugar - Cowboy Cake

Next come the spices and shortening (no butter remember!).

Cowboy Cake: Adding shortening and spices

Then you add the flour and add the raisins back in!

Stirring in the Flour - Cowboy Cake

When the batter is assembled, you make a sugar syrup syrup as a topping!

Making a sugar syrup: Cowboy Cake

Cowboy Cake: Pouring the sugar syrup over the batter

Finally, put the lid on the dutch oven and bake!

Cowboy Cake: In the Oven She Goes

And here’s the result….

FInal Cowboy Cake

Like I said – I honestly didn’t really like this cake. Also, it seemed like this cake would actually be pretty difficult to make on the road. I kind of expected it to just be mixing all of the ingredients in the dutch oven and putting it in the oven. That was not the case… but I find this period in history fascinating so I enjoyed learning about it.

We’re really struggling with some of these recipes – not that they’re difficult to make, but they don’t seem to be turning out as well as we expect. Maybe it’s the time in history or maybe it’s the recipes… either way, we’re re-evaluating how many cakes we’re doing so stay tuned for some potential changes!

About Lindsey

Hello! I'm a 30 year old, newly married, lady living outside of one of the best cities in the USA! I work in communications, love to read, recently purchased an RV with my husband (yay for road trips!) and am looking forward to starting a family soon-ish. I love to smile and hope to make other people smile too!

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